Oscar Piastri was caught in a savage reaction to the dramas engulfing Mercedes as the Aussie driver finished second behind Max Verstappen at the Qatar Grand Prix. Verstappen continued on his winning ways after clinching a third-straight F1 world title 24 hours earlier.
The Dutch superstar scored a 14th race victory this season to move within one of his own record for most in one year. Verstappen dominated ahead of the McLaren duo of Piastri (who won Saturday's sprint race) and Lando Norris, in a race where three pit stops were made mandatory because of safety concerns in connection with tyre wear.
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The race started in disastrous fashion for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell making contact on the first lap. The collision ended Hamilton's race, while Russell managed to work his way back up to fourth despite being hampered.
Hamilton was furious at first, but later accepted he was to blame. "I don't think George probably had anywhere to go," the Brit said.
After the race, Piastri was overhead asking Norris: “Was it Lewis and George that crashed?” After being told it was, the Aussie responded: “Ha! Wow. Thank you Mercedes."
Russell said at the time: “F***ing lost for words, honestly. Just seen the replays on the TV screen. I couldn’t do anything. Totally sandwiched.”
Hamilton said: “I’m happy to take full responsibility. I feel sorry for my team. In the heat of the moment … I think George had nowhere to go.”
— Motorsport.com (@Motorsport) October 8, 2023
Oscar Piastri second in 'hardest race of my life'
Piastri and Norris were delighted to make the podium after they were relegated from third and second place on the grid due to track limit violations. They instead started from sixth and 10th, but fought their way onto the podium.
Piastri slumped onto the ground in the driver's room after the "hardest race of my life" after producing a career-best Grand Prix result two weeks after finishing third in Japan. “I am very happy but that was a stressful race. We did a great job,” he said.
Verstappen clinched his third-straight world title with six grands prix remaining when he came second in the sprint on Saturday on the Lusail International Circuit. He showed no signs of slowing down on Sunday as he saluted once again.
The 14th win in 17 races leaves him one shy of the record 15 he achieved last year, and he could draw level in a fortnight at the US Grand Prix in Austin. With 49 career victories he also has a chance to go third all-time if he wins all remaining races this season, moving ahead of Alain Prost (51) and Sebastian Vettel (53).
"I think what made the race was my first stint," he said. "After that I could just manage my pace and make sure the tyres were always in a good window. The McLarens were quick again today. It was definitely a tough race out there."
Meanwhile, Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez got three five-second penalties for exceeding track limits too many times as he finished 10th. He was lapped by Verstappen on another day to forget, while Alpine's Pierre Gasly also got multiple penalties for the same reason.
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz was not able to race owing to a fuel system problem. Nico Hülkenberg then got a 10-second penalty because he illegally took Sainz's original grid spot at the start.
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