[F1 Qatar GP: Verstappen grabs 10th pole amid deleted lap times farce
The session at the Losail circuit was dominated by track limits transgressions, plus the drivers struggling for rear grip around the high-speed layout.
Verstappen posted a 1m23.778s on his first run in Q3, which turned out to be the pole time as he lost the rear of his RB19 going through Turn 5 on his second attempt.
Norris had already lost a lap time to track limits in Q1 and this occurred again on his first Q3 flier, where like Verstappen he went too wide at Turn 5.
He initially got to within 0.3s of Verstappen’s leading with his second Q3 attempt, but edging out too wide through the long Turn 10 left proved to be costly for Norris and he was dropped back to 10th.
Norris’s errors promoted Mercedes driver George Russell to second, ahead of Oscar Piastri and Lewis Hamilton, who had been second after the first Q3 runs but abandoned his second go after a wild oversteer moment at Turn 7 sent him off track.
But Piastri’s lap time was also deleted while he was interviewed post-session, moving Hamilton up to third on the grid. Piastri will start sixth.
Fernando Alonso took fifth for Aston Martin ahead of Charles Leclerc, who also abandoned his second Q3 flier after needing two attempts to set a time on the first runs in the final segment as he went off at Turn 4 – a spot of repeated issue for the Ferrari driver throughout qualifying.
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon finished seventh and eighth, ahead of Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas and the demoted Norris.
In Q2, Yuki Tsunoda topped the list of those eliminated, with Carlos Sainz and Sergio the high-profile early fallers ahead of Alex Albon and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg.
Sainz could not gain time switching to new softs late in the middle segment – abandoning his first lap after a moment at Turn 7 and getting involved in an incident with Verstappen where Sainz appeared to repeatedly cut in front of the Red Bull’s line as they prepared for their final Q2 efforts.
This incident will be investigated now qualifying has concluded.
Perez was knocked out after losing his best time – one that only had him on the fringes of the Q2 top 10 anyway – and was deleted for slipping beyond track limits at Turn 5 on his final effort.
In Q1, Albon’s last gasp improvement knocked his Williams team-mate Logan Sargeant out by just 0.092s with the American driver ruing losing time in the high-speed corners in the track’s final sector.
Behind came Lance Stroll in the second Aston, ahead of Liam Lawson, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu.
Hamilton, Tsunoda, Lawson and Piastri also face a post-qualifying investigation for possibly failing to follow the race director’s instructions regarding the maximum lap time aimed to reduce traffic issues in qualifying.