- Max Verstappen took his 30th career pole in Qatar on Friday evening
- The Dutchman could win the Sprint World Championship on Saturday
- George Russell took second place, while Lewis Hamilton started third
Max Verstappen opened what will likely be his title weekend by securing pole position for the Qatar Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old Dutchman was the irresistible force he has been all season under the lights at the Lusail International Circuit as he made himself the favorite to take victory No. 14 in 17 attempts.
But in a strange twist of scheduling, the full-distance race could be irrelevant to Verstappen’s ambitions to become the sport’s 11th triple world, as he is expected to take the honors in today’s 19-lap sprint.
Formula 1 has implemented a new format for the six-sprint weekend this season, with Saturdays being devoted entirely to the shorter things: another qualifying session this afternoon to determine the starting positions for tonight’s sprint.
It’s a strange day with no berths for tomorrow’s main event – or what the main event would be if there wasn’t a good chance that Verstappen would have already blown out his candles by then. He hinted that he would stage a mini celebration as he completed his year-long procession to glory ahead of the Grand Prix itself.
Max Verstappen claimed his 30th career pole position by winning qualifying in Qatar
George Russell finished second in his Mercedes after McLaren’s Lando Norris was relegated to tenth
But as it stands now, there will be no fizz sprayed onto the stage on Saturday. Which could be a little awkward.
If Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, the only remaining mathematical challenger to the inevitable, fails to score six points in the sprint – meaning he must finish third or higher – then it’s all over. Whatever happens, three points for Verstappen today – sixth or better – would be the answer.
The bad news for Perez is that he struggles with pace. The Mexican qualified 13th, with his problems compounded when his best time was scrapped for exceeding track limits at Turn 5.
Verstappen ran off the track close to the death, but was already four tenths ahead of the rest. Mercedes’ George Russell was second fastest after his compatriot Lando Norris of McLaren was demoted to tenth for driving over the white lines.
Norris’ teammate Oscar Piastri was dropped from third to sixth for the same infraction. That cleared the way for Lewis Hamilton, in the other Silver Arrow, to qualify third.
Sergio Perez, the only challenger to Verstappen’s title, qualified in a lowly 13th place