Oscar Piastri will start the Sprint race at the Lusail International Circuit from pole position after coming through a testing Shootout Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
The session had been delayed after overnight changes to the track layout, requested by tyre manufacturer Pirelli who were worried about tyre integrity, especially over the kerbs. The track was altered at both turns thirteen and fourteen to prevent drivers from running over the kerbs that were causing damage to the tyres.
An additional ten-minute practice session allowed the drivers to get acclimatised to the new track limits, although track limits would play a big role in the subsequent qualifying session in Qatar.
Max Verstappen, who will start Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix from pole position, was on course to take another first place on Saturday, but the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver lost his best lap time thanks to track limits, and his second attempt was only good enough for third.
The meant it was a McLaren F1 Team battle for pole position, with Lando Norris fastest on the first run in Q3, but it was team-mate Piastri who stole top spot in the closing moments, his 1:24.454 enough. However, a mistake from Norris at the final turn prevented the Briton from reclaiming the position, with the two separated by 0.082 seconds.
George Russell was the best placed of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers in fourth, but team-mate Lewis Hamilton was a surprise elimination in Q2, the seven-time World Champion unable to find the pace to make it through. Hamilton had his best time deleted for track limits, but even if it had counted, it still would not have been fast enough to join Russell inside the top ten.
Scuderia Ferrari drivers will share the third row, Carlos Sainz Jr. ahead of Charles Leclerc, although both had various lap times deleted thanks to the dreaded track limits. Nico Hülkenberg will start an impressive seventh for the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team, while Sergio Pérez was only eighth in the second Red Bull.
Both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon had their sole attempts deleted in Q3, with the Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team and BWT Alpine F1 Team drivers set to share the fifth row of the grid.
Just missing out on Q3 was Pierre Gasly, the Alpine driver starting eleventh ahead of Hamilton, while Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were thirteenth and fifteenth, either side of Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson.
After his frustration showing after Friday’s Qualifying session, Lance Stroll was again unable to advance out of Q1 in the second Aston Martin, the Canadian ending sixteenth ahead of Williams Racing’s Alexander Albon.
Yuki Tsunoda thought he had made it through to Q2 but found himself eliminated after losing his time for another track limit offence, the Japanese driver set to start eighteenth ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Logan Sargeant. All of Sargeant’s lap times were deleted due to track limits.
A number of drivers were referred to the stewards for exceeding the maximum time allowed to travel between safety car lines one and two, including Russell, Hamilton, Gasly, Tsunoda, Stroll and Albon.
But it will be an all-papaya front row for Saturday’s Sprint race, which could see the crowning of a new three-time World Champion, with Verstappen only needing three points to clinch the title, and that is providing that Pérez does not eat into his advantage.