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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Qatar Grand Prix talking points: Verstappen joins the greats, Piastri makes his mark and there's puke in your helmet

It was always going to happen, it was just a matter of when. Max Verstappen is the 2023 Formula One World Champion, and in winning his third consecutive title has joined the all-time greats of the sport.

But that wasn’t the only talking point from the Qatar Grand Prix over the weekend. There was a new winner. There were teammates crashing into each other. There was vomiting. There was a lot happening.

So with that in mind, let’s get to the latest edition of F1 talking points.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Max Verstappen’s in illustrious company

Ayrton Senna. Nelson Piquet. Niki Lauda. Jackie Stewart. Jack Brabham. And now, Max Verstappen.

Ladies and gentleman, presenting your three-time World Champion F1 club.

It was never in doubt that he would join it this year but for Verstappen, it’s icing on the cake on what has become a near perfect season for him. And what esteemed company he sits in.

Of course, for a variety of reasons, those five drivers never added to their tally of championships, and Verstappen most certainly will. He is only one away from joining Alain Prost & Sebastian Vettel as a four-time Champion, two away from joining Juan Manuel Fangio as a five-time champion, and of course four away from joining both Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton as a seven-time champion. Then more history could await him with even more.

Verstappen says he doesn’t care about records. He says he will quit when he’s done to pursue other goals. And if that’s the case, that’s fine. He will still go down in history among legends and as one of the greatest this sport has ever seen.

It’s always great to be able to witness history and greatness, and that’s something we are seeing right now with the Dutchman.

Oscar Piastri is here

It’s always a case of young and upcoming drivers are ‘coming’, well in the case of Oscar Piastri, he has already arrived.

Given the hype on the Melbourne driver’s shoulders at the beginning of the year, many would call this expected. But given how he and the team started this year, it looked a long way away.

However now is the time in which Piastri is showing just why he was such a hot commodity last year, and why McLaren did everything they could to get him on board.

A Sprint Pole, Sprint win and second place in the main race all add to the already growing resume he is building in only his first year in F1. Which, in itself is incredible, as his presence and maturity really makes it feel like he is a seasoned veteran, not someone who only started in the sport 17 rounds ago.

While a proper win this year may not come his way, the seeds are there to show that it’s only a matter of time before Oscar Piastri joins Sir Jack Brabham, Alan Jones, Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo as Formula 1 race winners.

(Photo by Qian Jun/MB Media/Getty Images)

The hardest race in F1 history

Drivers vomiting in their cars, nearly passing out and having to retire due to severe dehydration. The 2023 Qatar Grand Prix will easily go down as the hardest race in the history of the sport.

We’ve seen tough conditions before. Malaysia was famous for its stifling humidity (something which this author experienced watching the race on several occasions) which often caused drivers to lose several kilograms during a race. Singapore too is also a tough one, as have past races in places such as Las Vegas and Dallas.

But Qatar this year was something else.

It was visible to see through several drivers immediately having to lay down after the race, their absolutely drenched faces in post-race interviews or through all the comments made after the race.

Given the 2022 Men’s World Cup was moved to December to the ‘coolest’ part of the year in Qatar for this exact reason, it’s baffling to thing that F1 somehow managed to allow this race to go ahead, particularly when next year the race will move to December to try and curb the issues around the heat.

Somehow F1 dodged a bullet with this race when it came to the safety of the drivers, and hopefully it’ll be a bullet that will never have to be dodged again.

Barcelona 2016 2.0

The incident between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on the opening lap definitely gave some strong vibes of the infamous incident between then Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

Then, both Mercedes cars were battling for the lead of the race on the opening lap and both came together, with many to this day debating at who was to blame for the incident.

But in an incredible turn of events, there was no real infighting. No real negativity. No real levels of blame. In fact it was all fairly straightforward, with Hamilton putting his hand up to accept blame, and even openly going to Russell to shake hands and hug it out.

What a difference seven years makes.

(Photo by Michael Potts/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Perhaps it goes into the common perception that today’s F1 is a friendly, open world where all the drivers get along and accept blame far more quickly than ever before. Perhaps this is the world in which we have to get used to, in which rivalries aren’t as heated as they once were, particularly when it comes to teammates. Perhaps it’s just F1 in 2023.

Is that a good thing? Maybe. But one thing is for sure, there isn’t exactly the heat and spice that there once was in opposing Mercedes garages.

The toll on Stroll

There is no doubting that Lance Stroll isn’t having the best second half of the season.

His recent string of Q1 exits, his failure to remain close to Fernando Alonso, and the overall lack of pace that Aston Martin has struggled with recently all add collective fuel to the fire of his struggles.

But once again, it always seems to be overly exaggerated tenfold when it comes to the criticism labelled against him.

An extra frustrating weekend for him in Qatar saw him visibly vent that anger and frustration after his Q1 exit, throwing his gloves in frustration as he exited the car and seemingly shoving his trainer out of the way as we went into the garage. Added to this was his very short and angry interview afterwards, all of which were received incredibly negatively by all and any F1 fan who will use any excuse to vent on the Canadian.

(Photo by Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

As always, if this was any other driver on the grid, nobody would say a thing. Alonso as an example has spent years being abrasive, angry and visibly showing all of that to the world whenever things are going against him, but he is celebrated. Max Verstappen too consistently showcases an emotional reaction when it comes to frustration on or off the track, but he is another who seems to escape the open criticism that Stroll receives.

Yes, I have been a public fanboy for Stroll over the years, but somebody has to be. He is in a slump right now and is struggling. And that is clearly weighing heavily on his shoulders and is showing that quite publicly, a fact that most people complain modern F1 drivers don’t do anymore.

In a day and age where acceptance is key and praised, how about we accept he is going through some struggles and support him to get better, rather than dumping on a driver who is in a bit of a form slump?

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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