Although he slipped down the order, Verstappen charged back towards the front before team-mate Sergio Perez was involved in a multi-car collision which handed the Dutchman the crown.
Perhaps aided by the coming together between the Mercedes drivers, Verstappen eased to a 14th victory of the season. Nevertheless, he was kept honest by the McLarens but ultimately dealt with the threat well to top off a near-perfect championship weekend.
Sergio Perez – 3
Sprint: Qualified: P8, Race: DNF
Grand Prix: Qualified: P13 (Pitlane start), Race: P10
The Qatar Grand Prix effectively summed up the Mexican’s season at Red Bull. Perez frequently fell foul to track limits, having lap times deleted in qualifying and the Sprint Shootout.
He found himself caught up in a three-car pile-up in the Sprint itself. While Perez was not necessarily to blame for the incident, his RB19 sustained heavy damage, resulting in a pit lane start.
Track limits continued to be his downfall in the race, picking up three five-second penalties over the 57-lap race, jeopardising his slow recovery to the points.
While yes, both championships have now officially been wrapped up, Perez’s continued tailspin fails to provide much optimism. Off the pace and frequently running off track, time could very well be running out as Christian Horner summons his driver for crisis talks.
Oscar Piastri – 9.5
Sprint: Qualified: P1, Race: P1
Grand Prix: Qualified: P6, Race: P2
If you weren’t already convinced that Oscar Piastri is the breakthrough star of the season, the rookie’s Qatar Grand Prix weekend should address that.
At a circuit he had never visited, the McLaren driver was in flying form right out of the box. The Australian perfected the Sprint to take a maiden career pole and victory, despite the best efforts of those on the Soft tyre in a race which saw three Safety spells.
Friday’s qualifying session saw Piastri’s only major slip-up of the weekend as he lost his best lap time to a track limits violation. Starting sixth, he profited from the incident involving the Mercedes’ to climb to P2 almost immediately. He then held the position until the flag and kept within touch of Verstappen throughout.
Lando Norris– 7.5
Sprint: Qualified: P2, Race: P3
Grand Prix: Qualified: P10, Race: P3
Given the success of his junior team-mate, there’s no doubt that Norris was left frustrated by his performances in Qatar. Track limits mishaps in the Shootout and qualifying twice cost the Briton pole, but he was still able to recover well and bolster McLaren’s impressive points haul.
Norris closed the gap to Piastri in Sunday’s race, suggesting he had the better underlying pace. Ultimately a successful weekend for Norris, but arguably it’s a case of what could have been if he didn’t lose the qualifying time good enough for second on the grid.
George Russell – 8
Sprint: Qualified: P4, Race: P4
Grand Prix: Qualified: P2, Race: P4
Barring the top three, Russell was consistently the stronger Mercedes in Qatar. He had the better of Hamilton throughout the weekend and even challenged for the Sprint win at points. Unfortunately for Russell and Mercedes, the gamble on the Soft compound would not pay off.
Starting the race P2, all of his hard work almost came undone at Turn 1 when he collided with Hamilton. Even with the contact, Russell recovered impressively from last to claim some important points for the team as it extended its advantage over Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton – 4.5
Sprint: Qualified: P12, Race: P5
Grand Prix: Qualified: P3, Race: DNF
The seven-time champion’s Qatar weekend was a stark contrast to that of his Mercedes team-mate. After a strong qualifying performance on Friday, Hamilton was unable to advance into SQ3 on Saturday but managed to salvage fifth in the Sprint itself.
Mercedes were the clear third fastest car in the desert and the Briton got away blisteringly fast on the Soft compound in the race. However, Hamilton misjudged a sweeping overtake around the outside of Russell at the first corner and put an end to his day.
Hamilton would later accept responsibility for the crash and apologise, but the damage was already done and a good chance of points lost.
Charles Leclerc – 7
Sprint: Qualified: P6, Race: P12
Grand Prix: Qualified: P5, Race: P5
Ferrari was always set to struggle in Qatar and gradually slipped down the pecking order as the weekend progressed. Leclerc struggled to keep a handle over his Ferrari in the Sprint, losing out on points due to a time penalty after straying off-track on multiple occasions.
With Carlos Sainz out of the running before the race had even begun, Leclerc was left as the sole Ferrari.
The Monegasque ran a pretty lonely race as a result, but a P5 finish was really the maximum that could have been achieved in the circumstances. Losing out to the recovering Mercedes of Russell, however, should raise concerns at Maranello.
Carlos Sainz – 6
Sprint: Qualified: P5, Race: P6
Grand Prix: Qualified: P12, Race: DNS
Sainz failed to make the start of the Qatar Grand Prix after Ferrari identified a fuel leak on his SF-23 two hours before the start of the race. Therefore, it’s hard to fairly judge the Spaniard’s performance.
Naturally, the retirement was no fault of his own and despite a poor qualifying showing on Friday, Sainz was keen to recover to the points and contribute to Ferrari’s efforts to close in on Mercedes in the standings. Another missed opportunity which allows Mercedes a bit of breathing room for the time being.
Fernando Alonso – 6.5
Sprint: Qualified: P9, Race: P8
Grand Prix: Qualified: P4, Race: P6
Alonso qualified fantastically on Friday but was unable to carry that momentum into Saturday. His Sprint was compromised by a lap deletion in the Shootout and a gamble on the Softs for the Sprint Race itself, which saw the two-time champion slip down the order.
He drove as high as third on Sunday but a couple of costly excursions contributed to a messy grand prix, including being reprimanded for a dangerous rejoin. Still, Alonso comprehensively outclassed his team-mate and a return to the top six is just reward.
Lance Stroll – 3.5
Sprint: Qualified: P16, Race: P15
Grand Prix: Qualified: P17, Race: P11
Stroll’s frustration over the course of the Qatar weekend has already been well-documented. The Canadian was seen allegedly shoving his trainer immediately after a fourth consecutive Q1 exit before delivering a curt eight-worded interview with the media.
Stroll is admittedly “in a rut”, and his consistent departure from the racing surface on Sunday did nothing to strengthen his claim to the Aston Martin seat.
Any chance of points were lost through time penalties but it would be amiss to exclude Stroll’s own battle within the cockpit. The Canadian claimed to be “fading in and out” of consciousness with 20 laps to go and was seen stumbling from his car to an ambulance immediately after the race.
Yet, the growing deficit to Alonso is unsustainable for both Aston Martin and Stroll as McLaren rapidly draws closer.
Esteban Ocon – 8
Sprint: Qualified: P10, Race: DNF
Grand Prix: Qualified: P8, Race: P7
Ocon showed lots of promise in Qatar but was unfortunate to find himself in the multi-car incident in the Sprint. Battling away with Nico Hulkenberg, Ocon was unaware of Perez trying to pick up the scraps around the outside.
The Frenchman was hard hit by the extreme conditions and ended up vomiting in the car for two laps early on in the race. Ocon persevered and charged to a P7 finish made even more impressive and respectable given the circumstances.
Pierre Gasly – 5
Sprint: Qualified: P11, Race: P9
Grand Prix: Qualified: P7, Race: P12
The stronger Alpine in both qualifying sessions, Gasly was unable to convert his strong one-lap pace into points. After narrowly missing out in the Sprint, Gasly lost out to Ocon in Sunday’s race start.
Gasly struggled with track limits over the course of the grand prix and, despite Ocon’s own struggles, was unable to match his team-mate’s performance.
Valtteri Bottas – 8.5
Sprint: Qualified: P13, Race: P10
Grand Prix: Qualified: P9, Race: P8
Perhaps the Finn’s best race weekend performance all season. The 2023 campaign has been an uphill struggle for Alfa Romeo, but Bottas was quick to get up to speed in Qatar.
The former Mercedes man didn’t put a foot wrong in racing conditions and converted a smart strategy to match his best result of the year.
Guanyu Zhou– 6
Sprint: Qualified: P15, Race: P14
Grand Prix: Qualified: P20, Race: P9
Zhou was another driver who made a maiden appearance at the Lusail circuit this weekend. He took some time to get up to speed, as shown by a P20 qualifying showing, but even that derived as a result of traffic on his final run.
Zhou didn’t make much of an impact on Saturday but was able to put in a solid recovery on Sunday, earning points through penalties for Gasly, Stroll and Perez.
Alex Albon – 6.5
Sprint: Qualified: P17, Race: P7
Grand Prix: Qualified: P14, Race: P13
Williams were another team whose machinery was unsuited to the Qatar Grand Prix circuit. Yet Albon managed to extract the maximum from the FW45.
Albon climbed 10 places during the Sprint to bring home a couple of points for Williams but was powerless to challenge championship rivals Alfa Romeo on Sunday.
The Anglo-Thai driver struggled with overheating tyres and picked up a track limits penalty before then being taken to the medical centre for checks after a physically intense race.
Logan Sargeant – 4
Sprint: Qualified: P20, Race: DNF
Grand Prix: Qualified: P16, Race: DNF
Sargeant hasn’t been able to find himself a break in recent weeks, and the Qatar GP was no different as the pressure on his seat only increases.
The American was slowest of all in the Sprint Shootout and retired from the Sprint itself after spinning out on his own accord.
In all fairness to Sargeant, he was unfortunate to miss out on Q2 – an appearance which would likely provide the confidence boost he requires.
After keeping pace with the field, he would start to trail off mid-race as he fell ill. Williams cited “intense dehydration” as the cause of his retirement from the race.
Kevin Magnussen – 5
Sprint: Qualified: P19, Race: P13
Grand Prix: Qualified: P19, Race: P14
Magnussen was clearly on the back foot from the offset, qualifying 19th for both race encounters. The Dane said he only struck a rhythm in the race and simply never caught up.
A general lack of pace in the Haas didn’t help, but he kept out of trouble on Sunday. Big upgrades are due for the team’s home race and both drivers will be hoping for a change in fortunes.
Nico Hulkenberg – 5.5
Sprint: Qualified: P7, Race: DNF
Grand Prix: Qualified: P15, Race: P16
Hulkenberg may have stolen a point or two in the Sprint had he not found himself eliminated by a tangle with Perez and Ocon. The German was blameless in the incident, but his weekend would not improve much beyond that coming together.
With Sainz sitting out the race, Hulkenberg received a 10-second time penalty when he drove into the wrong grid slot before lights out. He wouldn’t be able to recover, crossing the line 16th.
Yuki Tsunoda – 5.5
Sprint: Qualified: P18, Race: P11
Grand Prix: Qualified: P11, Race: P15
AlphaTauri never really found their footing in Qatar which meant a rather anonymous weekend for Tsunoda. Eliminated in SQ1, Tsunoda came within seconds of a good points haul from the Sprint. He fell backwards from his P11 starting slot in the main race as the true pace of the car started to show.
Liam Lawson – 4
Sprint: Qualified: P14, Race: DNF
Grand Prix: Qualified: P18, Race: P17
With Daniel Ricciardo set to return at the United States Grand Prix in two weeks ‘time, Qatar was not the ending to his tenure as stand-in as Lawson would’ve wanted.
Lawson did well to out-qualify Tsunoda in the Sprint, only to spin out of the race early. On Sunday he would rue a wasted weekend finishing a lap down.
However, with just one practice session under his belt, it would be harsh to critique the inexperienced Kiwi further for an otherwise quiet weekend.