The Qatar Grand Prix was filled with drama. Max Verstappen won his third championship title, Oscar Piastri won his first ever Formula 1 race, while several drivers made complaints about the heat.
Verstappen won his 14th race of the season at the Qatar Grand Prix, to conclude a successful weekend having won the Driver’s Championship the day before. The McLarens took the remaining podium positions to move into fifth place in the Constructor’s Championship, closing the gap on Aston Martin.
Scorching temperatures dominated the weekend, with several drivers struggling to cope, forcing the governing body to look at alterations for the race moving forwards.
The race weekend got underway with Friday qualifying, as Max Verstappen took yet another pole position. The two McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri missed out on top grid places, as they were penalised for exceeding track limits. This gave Mercedes’ George Russell a front-row start ahead of Piastri.
Saturday was sprint day, which resulted in a much better day for McLaren, with both drivers finishing the shootout P1 and P2, while Verstappen started behind them in third.
The sprint race itself was quite dramatic with three safety cars and five cars retiring. Lando Norris lost four places on the opening lap, while contact between Sergio Pérez, Nico Hülkenberg, and Esteban Ocon saw all three retire.
The race ended with Russell struggling on soft tyres, allowing Piastri to take back the lead and letting Norris climb up into a podium position.
Rookie Oscar Piastri reached the chequered flag first, closely followed by Verstappen, before Norris claimed the final podium spot. There were celebrations all round as Piastri won his first ever F1 race and Verstappen won his third World Championship, after Pérez crashed out.
Prior to Sunday’s race, news emerged that Carlos Sainz would not be able to race due to a fuel issue.
Ferrari drivers failed to score points in the sprint, delivering a blow in the battle with Mercedes for second in the Constructor Standings.
In the full distance race, the two Mercedes collided on the opening lap forcing Lewis Hamilton to retire. Several drivers including: Pérez, Alex Albon, Lance Stroll, and Pierre Gasly were penalised for exceeding track limits meaning 1200 laps were deleted across the whole weekend.
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA president, suggested Qatar and Austria (another track where penalties for exceeding track limits are common) might be removed from the F1 calendar entirely, but whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen.
Issues surrounding driver safety dominated in Qatar, as drivers suffered from extreme heat and intense dehydration with Valtteri Bottas describing the race as “torture”.
Logan Sargeant mentioned to his race engineer he was feeling very ill, but wanted to try and finish the race, however, he was later forced to retire due to dehydration.
Similarly, Esteban Ocon threw up in his helmet, and Russell and Yuki Tsunoda were seen opening their visors to let in some air, only for sand to fly into their eyes.
Dangerously, Lance Stroll mentioned how he was very dizzy and in danger of losing consciousness, almost passing out on his way to the ambulance, after getting out of his car.
Alex Albon also struggled getting out of his car, needing assistance from the Williams team and immediately getting medical attention for heat exposure – he has since been cleared.
Many F1 fans and officials are calling for a change, however, there are still nine more years remaining in Qatar’s 10-year contract.
However, next year’s Qatar Grand Prix will be held six weeks later in December, so hopefully should be a little cooler and less dangerous for the drivers who often touch speeds of almost 200mph. A loss of consciousness would have devasting consequences.
With Verstappen and Red Bull having secured their championships, the focus for the rest of the season will be on who takes the remaining podium positions.