For newly-crowned World Champion Max Verstappen, the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix seemed more like 57 celebratory laps rather than a race, with the Dutchman leading home both McLaren’s by almost five full seconds.
Further back it was another torrid day for Sergio Perez, who could only finish tenth, which meant he only extended his lead in second place of the Driver’s Championship by a single point over Lewis Hamilton who crashed out on the opening lap.
“We had a really good race today. I think what really made it for me was the first stint where we were strong and good on the tyres. I had a slow stop at the end so the McLarens were quite close at the chequered flag but they have been quick all weekend. Of course, with the mandatory three stops, we weren’t able to get the best out of our car as we are good on tyres, but we won and that’s the main thing. My hunger for winning hasn’t stopped since winning the Championship, I want to keep going and maximising the performance of the car each weekend.”
“It was a difficult afternoon, starting on the hard tyre really complicated things for us, especially with the early Safety Car. It meant we couldn’t warm up the tyres and then we ended up losing positions and couldn’t make progress quickly enough, and as much as we should have. By the time I got the temperature in the tyres we had to pit, due to the mandatory pit stops. We lost our car yesterday due to the incident in the Sprint and we had a completely new car for today. It was therefore very difficult to draw conclusions with the car we had, we had to revert on the specifications. I really suffered with the new track limits, they were brought in very last minute, which I don’t think is right but it is the same for everyone and I should have done a better job. It was hard for me to judge them inside the car because I think, a little like in Austria, I am sitting a bit too low and that made things harder, I should have maybe altered that when the changes were implemented. Overall, we have plenty to look at and I will be in the factory this week working hard with my Team.”
“For Max it was an incredible win. It’s been a very tough race, both physically and mentally, for all the drivers. In a race that was very prescriptive and sub optimal to the fastest race, Max drove well and very controlled, trying to manage the tyres. Having an enforced three stop was not the fastest way to run that race so it was a case of making sure we covered off the Safety Car possibilities and managed the deg but the strategy team did their work, got their sums right and helped deliver the victory. For Checo it was another tough race. The 15 seconds of penalties really impacted his overall performance and meant a missed opportunity to capitalise on points with Lewis out of the race. Checo just needs to get that form back that he had at the beginning of the season and we know he can do it. He knows he can do it. He has our full support. We head West now and to the Americas where Checo drives well so we look forward to some stronger performances in the quest for second place.”