No rest for F1 champion Max Verstappen after his 14th victory of the season at the Qatar Grand Prix

Max Verstappen became Formula 1 champion again. He doesn’t give up.

Australian McLaren driver Oscar Piastri, (left), Dutch Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen, (center) and British McLaren driver Lando Norris celebrate on the podium after the Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix(AFP)

A day after winning his third sprint championship title, it was clear that the celebrations had not unsettled Verstappen as he raced to his 14th victory of the season in familiar style at the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver started from pole position, avoided Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who collided with him at the first corner, and then overtook the rest of the field en route to his 14th Grand Prix victory in 2023.

Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris finished second and third, completing a double podium for McLaren.

“I think it was my first run that decided me to win the race, and then I was able to just keep my pace and make sure the tires were working in a good window,” Verstappen said. “But today the McLarens were fast again. I had to push for it. It’s definitely a tough race.”

The two Mercedes cars of Russell and Hamilton started behind Verstappen on the grid but collided at the first corner, ending seven-time champion Hamilton’s race. Piastri rushed into second place while Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc in front of him slowed down to avoid a crash.

The second place is a continuation of the impressive streak of Australian debutant Piastri, who two weeks ago during the Japanese Grand Prix stood on the podium for the first time in his career and won Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar.

Piastri told his team it was “probably the hardest race I’ve ever had in my life”, adding thanks to “whoever knocked everyone over in the first corner”, referring to the Mercedes accident.

Norris has been on the podium for four straight races, including the sprint, although a first career victory still eludes the British driver due to Verstappen’s dominance.

Hamilton told his team on the formation lap that he feared he would be a “sitting duck” at the start with the faster cars behind him. His race ended on the first corner.

With Hamilton on the left and Verstappen on the right, Russell had nowhere to go as Hamilton swerved into him and both Mercedes went into the gravel. Russell was able to continue but had to pit due to damage and fell backwards. He fought his way back into the grid and finished fourth, ahead of Ferrari driver Leclerc and Aston Martin’s Alonso.

Hamilton initially blamed Russell for the accident over the radio, but in later comments he accepted responsibility.

Esteban Ocon was seventh for Alpine, the two Alfa Romeos – Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu – eighth and ninth, and Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez – 10th.

For tire safety reasons, drivers were banned from using the same tires for more than 18 laps. This meant at least three pit stops in a 57-lap race, so strategy played a significant role.

Piastri compared the race to “57 laps of qualifying” because frequent stops meant drivers didn’t have to get out and prevent tire wear.

At one point, Verstappen even hit his teammate Perez, who had another disappointing performance after receiving further penalties for leaving the track.

Perez had to start from the pit lane after changing his power unit following a crash during Saturday’s sprint, but was soon racing with Russell. Unlike Russell, Perez has made little progress on the pitch.

Perez won two of the first four races this season, but has not won since. Perez remains second in the standings but has scored just five points in the final three rounds of the championship, including withdrawing from the Japanese Grand Prix and Saturday’s sprint race in Qatar.

Carlos Sainz Jr., the only non-Red Bull driver to win a grand prix this season, did not start the race due to what Ferrari said was a problem with his car’s fuel system. He qualified in 12th place.

American driver Logan Sargeant retired from the race on lap 40 of 57 after feeling unwell and being told over the radio by the Williams team engineer that stopping “wouldn’t be a shame”. Williams said Sargeant suffered “severe dehydration” and raced despite being sick earlier in the week. Williams added that he was examined and cleared by the medical team at the track.


AP Auto Racing:

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