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Verstappen takes Qatar pole


Ahead of today's qualifying session the air temperature is 32 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees.

While the timing of the earlier practice session was pretty much unrepresentative of what we would usually expect for the forthcoming qualifying session and tomorrow's Sprint, the lack of grip due to the sand being blown on to the track is expected to be a factor for the remainder of the weekend.

While the low sun which caused a number of drivers, including Verstappen, to run wide is no longer a factor, that loose sand on the track and run-offs is.

Consequently, we are expecting a few surprises over the next hour and as the weekend continues.

Earlier, Verstappen edged out Sainz and Leclerc, while that wily old fox Alonso was continually there or thereabout.

Adding to the conundrum is the fact that Stroll, McLaren and Mercedes, like Alonso, never ran the softs.

The stewards turned a blind eye to track limits earlier, but from here on in you can bet that they will be cracking down, with race director Niels Wittich since making clear that any driver who fails to negotiate the exit of Turn 16 will have their time deleted.

The lights go green and Perez leads the way, followed by Verstappen, Bottas, Lawson, Stroll and Zhou.

In their eagerness to get out the Alpine pair almost collide, with Ocon almost T-boning his teammate.

As one would expect, mediums are the order of the day, though the Mercedes pair are on mediums.

As Perez begins his first flying lap, all 20 drivers are on track.

Perez gets proceedings underway with a 28.495, however Verstappen responds with a 26.884.

Bottas splits the Bulls with a 27.656 as Stroll goes third and Lawson fifth.

Alonso goes top with a 26.715, the Spaniard quickest in the first and final secotrs.

However, Stroll has his time deleted for exceeding the track limits at Turn 5.

Leclerc goes quickest (26.444) only to be leapfrogged by Norris (26.043).

Piastri goes fourth, ahead Gasly, Verstappen and Albon.

As Verstappen voices his frustration at Russell's antics, Norris has his time deleted.

Lawson goes thirteenth, ahead of his AlphaTauri teammate, while Alonso goes top with a 25.685.

A 26.395 sees Ocon go second while Sargeant posts a 26.904 to go eighth.

Leclerc improves with a 26.098 but remains second.

Once again, Albon complains that his seat is hot as Gasly and Leclerc have their times deleted.

With 8 minutes remaining, Hulkenberg and the Mercedes pair - who have now switched to softs - have yet to post a time.

Bottas and Norris trade fastest sectors as conditions improve.

Bottas goes second with a 26.112, but is demoted by Russell (25.908) and then Hamilton (26.093).

Lawson is warned to keep an eye on the track limits, the Kiwi currently down in 18th.

Stroll improves to 15th, while, with 4:44 remaining, Norris has yet to post a time.

"Lots of traffic," complains Hamilton.

A 25.452 sees Leclerc go top as Perez improves to fourth (25.991).

Norris goes quickest with a 25.131 as Alonso looks set to improve again.

Piastri goes fourth and Sargeant ninth as conditions continue to improve.

Alonso improves but remains second.

A 25.007 sees Verstappen go quickest.

Sargeant just about manages to keep his fourth wheel on the black stuff as he holds on to 14th.

As the clock ticks down all bar Norris are on track.

Bottas goes eleventh as Magnussen fails to make the cut, as does Lawson.

Hulkenberg goes ninth, Piastri fourth and Russell fifth.

Ocon goes seventh only to be demoted by his teammate while Albon posts a 26.118 to go fifteenth, thereby demoting his Williams teammate, who complains that Leclerc ruined his final lap.

Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Norris, Alonso, Piastri, Russell, Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon, Sainz and Hulkenberg.

We lose Sargeant, Stroll, Lawson, Magnussen and Zhou.

Hamilton, Tsunoda, Lawson and Piastri will be investigated after the session for failing to maintain the maximum lap time.

Piastri leads the way as Q2 gets underway, the Australian followed by Sainz, Norris, Bottas and Alonso.

Piastri sets the benchmark with a 25.745, while Sainz goes second with a 25.798 and Bottas third (25.854).

A 25.348 sees Leclerc go top but Gasly crosses the line at 25.218 moments later.

Verstappen stops the clock at 24.758 while Tsunoda goes fourth (25.565).

Quickest in S2, Russell goes second overall with a 24.694, 0.206s down on Verstappen, as teammate Hamilton goes third (25.183).

Alonso goes fifth (25.241), ahead of Leclerc, Perez, Tsunoda, Ocon and Albon.

Perez claims that he was impeded by Leclerc, as did Sargeant in Q1.

"It's very important to know what Albon is doing, is he boxing," asks Leclerc who is clearly struggling as the wind ramps up. Teammate Sainz is also struggling, both drivers suffering mid-corner snaps..

With 3:45 remaining, Piastri, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Bottas and Norris comprise the drop zone.

Piastri goes quickest with a 24.724, but is instantly leapfrogged by his McLaren teammate who crosses the line at 24.685.

"What is he doing, he's defending," says Verstappen of a somewhat feisty Sainz.

The Dutchman subsequently posts a 24.483 to go top.

Sainz can only manage ninth (25.328), and is demoted by Bottas and Gasly, the Frenchman going fourth (24.918).

Ocon goes fifth, while a 24.381 sees Hamilton go top, whiles Perez has his time deleted and drops to 13th.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Russell, Gasly, Ocon, Leclerc, Alonso and Bottas.

We lose Tsunoda, Sainz, Perez, Albon and Hulkenberg.

Check out our Friday gallery from Lusail here.


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1. Posted by Burton, 06/10/2023 19:49

"So the remote centre of operations is just a figment of Ben Sulayem's imagination?"

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