F1 Qatar GP: Piastri on sprint shootout pole as track limits wreak havoc

Lando Norris seemed to be on course to beat his team-mate before blowing his final lap with an error at the final corner.

The session was dominated again by the focus being on track limits following the issues in Friday’s grand prix qualifying and changes to the Losail track following Pirelli discovering repeated high-speed kerb impacts were damaging its tyres.

In Q3, where all drivers ran soft tyres having progressed on hards in Q1 and mediums in Q2, Verstappen lost his first flier for going too wide out of Turn 5, which was a place where wind was causing issues for the drivers.

That 1m24.453s lap, completed when the Red Bull driver’s soft tyres were at their freshest, still would not have been good enough to get ahead of the McLaren drivers when they completed their opening efforts later in the final segment.

Unlike at other sprint qualifying events this year, the smooth new track surface here meant the drivers were able to push on for multiple laps throughout the segment, with the cars also fuelled to run throughout in anticipation of possible extra runs being needed in case of times being lost due to track limits.

Piastri’s opening time was shaded by Norris’s 1m24.536s, which Verstappen failed to pip on his second attempt meant he would end up behind the McLaren pair.

On their final runs, Piastri stole ahead with a 1m24.454s and the focus switched to Norris behind, as he had led his team-mate in the opening two sectors.

But when Norris ran very wide out of the final turn he abandoned his lap, which meant Piastri went one better than the second place he took in Spa sprint shootout qualifying earlier this year.

Behind the top three came George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, with all bar Russell boosted by Fernando Alonso losing his final Q3 time for a track limits off at Turn 13 and dropping him from fifth to ninth.

Esteban Ocon rounded out the Q3 top 10 for Alpine.

In Q2, Hulkenberg’s last-gasp improvement with the then-quickest time in the middle sector knocked out Pierre Gasly.

Behind, Lewis Hamilton was the shock faller, losing two laps to track limits violations – including his final effort, which would not have been fast enough to progress in any case – as he ended up 12th ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Liam Lawson and Zhou Guanyu.

In Q1, Lance Stroll was eliminated in 16th, as several drivers had their final times deleted, including Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda, while behind this pair Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant also lost their final laps and ended up 19th and 20th.

Sargeant ended up without a representative time on the board at the foot of the pack in the second Williams after his initial efforts were also excluded for track limits violations at Turn 13, with a similar situation also impacting Zhou in Q2.

The session was preceded by a 10-minute effective warm-up session so the drivers could sample the new track limits at Turns 13 and 14 – painted kerbing lines onto the asphalt that reduce the track width by 80cm for the length of the kerbs at those points.

Verstappen topped the running, with a best time of 1m27.085s, which he concluded with another verbal joust with his engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, who had wanted the Dutchman to finish a lap after he had gone so wide out of Turn 5 that he found one of the few gravel traps at this venue.

Russell, Hamilton, Gasly, Lawson, Tsunoda, Stroll and Albon face a post-session investigation for failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding the maximum lap time rule introduced for qualifying sessions in a bid to improve traffic issues.

Similar investigations at Monza and after yesterday’s grand prix qualifying session resulted in no further action as the drivers involved were found to have gone slowly to avoid impeding others.

Russell and Gasly were pinged over this issue twice – each with incidents in Q1 and Q2.

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This news article came from: https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/f1-qatar-gp-piastri-on-sprint-shootout-pole-as-track-limits-wreak-havoc/10529895/?fbclid=IwAR1NYM2YO9zfwrBSf_CR13TVvSzDV67KssX_qb0JJtPOQ4qcSOIsruyfEP0_aem_AWbIo6lNQoBm7-DpCznlsvCk10X0MU185mK7t-Bn5eYitdptMVUdvBdSV2jmJ6JBM-o

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