Oscar Piastri shocks as he takes the top spot in Qatar Grand Prix Sprint Shootout

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Oscar Piastri claims Sprint Pole with clean lap in track limits affected Sprint Shootout in Qatar, as teammate Norris and championship Leader Verstappen fall foul of errors.

Oscar Piastri heads out on track for Qatar Sprint Shootout
Photo: @McLarenF1 on twitter

Following a ten minute practice familiarisation session at the Lusail Circuit to allow the drivers to acclimatise to tweaked track limits rules following Friday’s running, Sprint Shootout for this afternoon’s Sprint went green at 16.20 local time.

The familiarisation session was added due to the change in track limits introduced by the FIA as a safety precaution as concerns were raised about the integrity of the Pirelli tyres. On inspection of tyres used on Friday, Pirelli noted separation between the sidewall and top compound of the tyres, presenting a safety concern in the event of failure.


First to hit the track for the short 12 minute session was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, followed by his teammate Charles Leclerc as the teams scrambled to get on track for their limited running. Opening the times with a 1:29.047, quickly beaten however by his teammate with a 1:26.955.

Ferrari were quickly beaten away from the top spots as the times began to trickle in, with both McLarens, split by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, taking the top three spots. First to reach the 1:25 mark was championship leader Max Verstappen, opening his session with a 1:25.510 to take the top spot halfway through the session.

Falling foul of the updated track limits were Logan Sargeant, Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly, who all saw their lap times deleted with under 5 minutes remaining in the session. In the closing minutes of the session, the times jumped around rapidly as driver’s all remained on track as conditions improved, but lap time deletions seemed to come nearly as fast.

Many driver’s, most notably the Ferrari’s, seemed to struggle with wind interference in turn 5, seeing further deletions still. With just one second remaining on the clock, Mercedes’ George Russell jumped to the top of the time sheets, beating Verstappen by 0.097s, as the championship leader waited in his pit box for the next session, confident in his opening time.

Eliminated from SS1 were Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, both Williams’ drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri as well as Kevin Magnussen for Haas. Yuki Tsunoda was very vocal on the radio as he expressed his anger in having his lap deleted as a result of a track limits breach.

SQ1 Classification
Photo: @f1 on twitter

With just ten minutes on the clock for the second session, drivers began to queue at the end of the pitlane to get on track as soon as possible. Nine of the fifteen remaining drivers quickly hit the track, with George Russell leading the pack.

As the opening times rolled in it was Lando Norris leading the way from Max Verstappen with a 1:24.947, as Lewis Hamilton had his lap deleted at the changed turn 13, putting the Mercedes man on the back foot. Once again struggling, Charles Leclerc once again saw his lap deleted at turn 5.

Further down the grid, Carlos Sainz only managed P10 before seeing his own lap deleted, while Leclerc put his Ferrari as high as P4 on his first clean lap. With two minutes remaining on the clock, the pressure was on for Sainz as well as Gasly, Lawson and both Alfa Romeo drivers who together occupied the bottom five places.

With everyone, aside from Verstappen and Norris in the top two, on track as the chequered flag flew, the times came thick and fast. Another track limits deletion saw Hamilton drop out of the top ten, joined by Gasly, Lawson, Bottas and Zhou as the drivers eliminated from SS1.

A fast final lap from Russell pipped Max Verstappen, putting him in P2 behind Norris’ McLaren, right at the death of the session. Russell as well as Gasly were noted however, for failing to follow the Race directors directions regarding maximum lap time.

SQ2 Classification
Photo: @f1 on twitter

With the final session beginning, the battle for the top spot in this afternoon’s Sprint commenced, with Norris and Verstappen having established themselves as favourites. Verstappen, clearly eager to claim the top spot, queued at the end of the pit lane in order to get out on track ahead of his rivals for the final 8 minute session.

An opening time of 1:24.543 Put Verstappen’s Red Bull on the top spot early in the session. A track limits infringement saw Verstappen falling victim to yet another time deletion however, leaving Carlos Sainz at the top. A 1:25.383 from Perez soon saw him fall to P2 and slowest of the times set.

McLaren then hit the track, with Norris jumping to P1 with a 1:24.536, 0.039s faster than teammate Piastri with only 2 minutes remaining on the clock. With only four competitive times on the board, the pressure was on in an intense closing session.

A poor middle session from Sergio Perez saw him unable to pressure the McLaren due, with a deletion seeing him lose even that time. George Russell was next to put in a competitive time, good enough for P3 as the drivers scrambled to set a time.

As the times flew in at the end of the session, Piastri put in a shocking 1:24.454 to pip his teammate who failed to improve with an error on his final lap, and claim Sprint Pole. With only one lap on the board, Verstappen slotted in behind the McLaren duo to start this afternoon’s Sprint in P3.

Sprint Shootout final classification
Photo: @f1 on twitter