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F1

A champion crowned as rivals fight for pride - What to expect at the Qatar GP

Here's a rundown of what to expect from the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint weekend!

Verstappen Qatar 17
Analysis
To news overview © rn365/michaelpotts

F1 returns to the Lusail International Circuit for the second Qatar Grand Prix as Max Verstappen aims to secure his third title.

The country missed out on the calendar last season as it focused on its hosting duties for the 2022 FIFA World Cup but is back with substantial infrastructural upgrades to better house the F1 circus.

Ahead of what is sure to be an exciting event, here's what to expect from the Qatar Sprint weekend.

A champion to be crowned

Whilst Verstappen's championship glory has been a question of when and not if for a long time given his dominance this season, the Dutchman's crowning is likely to be confirmed this weekend.

There has been no sight of any of his rivals since teammate Sergio Perez triggered a miserable run of form with a crash in Monaco Grand Prix qualifying so given the brilliance of both driver and team, it seems unfortunate that the title could be sealed on Saturday in the Sprint.

With the struggles of Singapore unlikely to trouble the RB19 in Qatar given the flowing circuit layout, it is hard to conceive that Verstappen won't wrap things up this weekend...

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Perez bounce back?

But what of Perez?

The Mexican reverted to disappointment with a scrappy outing at the Japanese Grand Prix that was filled with contact and penalties.

It was a step back towards his pre-summer break form that will be a worry for Red Bull who would have hoped such struggles would have been eradicated before the run-in.

It is imperative Perez rebounds instantly as he aims to take second in the Drivers' championship. A one-two is something Red Bull has never achieved in F1 - and really should be completing given the dominance of the car this term.

But with Lewis Hamilton impressively racking up points in the Mercedes and closing to within 40 points of Perez, no further slip-ups can be afforded.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Battle for P2

Whilst Hamilton is zoning in on the top two, his progress is being somewhat stilted by the strides taken by Ferrari and McLaren in recent times.

Carlos Sainz secured the first non-Red Bull victory of the season in Singapore and the Scuderia looked to have gotten the better of Mercedes at Suzuka even if it failed to finish ahead with both cars.

McLaren has been a revelation since a major upgrade package was added to Lando Norris' car in Austria and Oscar Piastri's at Silverstone and Japan saw the first double podium for the duo - the Australian's first in F1.

The Woking-based outfit looks most likely to take the fight to Red Bull in Lusail given the track characteristics are likely to suit the MCL60, which throws a spanner in the works of the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari for the runner-up spot in the Constructors' standings.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Eyes on Sargeant as pressure ramps up

With 19 of the 20 seats on next year's F1 grid now taken, Logan Sargeant is in the unenviable position of being the last to secure his future.

The American has shown impressive progression with Williams since the start of the season - a point demonstrated by the fact he was on par with Alex Albon throughout the Japanese Grand Prix weekend in underdeveloped machinery before his qualifying crash.

It is these incidents that have cast a doubt over his future, given the impact continuous accidents can have on a team under the ever-tightening budget cap.

For now, Sargeant has the backing of the team led by James Vowles but the patience will continue to wane if crashes continue to happen. A clean weekend in Qatar is needed.

Tyres under the microscope

Tyre wear was a big talking point at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in 2021 with high degradation presenting an intriguing tactical battle across the grid.

There were even tyre failures - including for then-Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas - that changed the course of the race.

It is worth noting that there had been tyre failures earlier in the season, but nevertheless after the wear seen at the Japanese Grand Prix, another strategy-driven race could be on the cards to create extra intrigue.

Add into the mix the limited practice running afforded by the Sprint format and the grid could be scattered across a number of different routes to the line.

This is definitely a race to keep an eye on!

F1 2023 Qatar Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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