The battle for second place began today, during the 2023 Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix. During yesterday's sprint race, Red Bull's Max Verstappen clinched the 2023 F1 drivers' championship title, his third in a row, which means all other drivers must now fight for second. Unfortunately for Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton—one of those drivers in the hunt for second—a crash in the first corner of the opening lap jettisoned his wheel and put him out of the race.
Predictably, the rich got even richer today, as Verstappen won the Qatar GP and padded his championship-clinching lead. However, both McLaren drivers were impressive and finished on the podium. Oscar Piastri, who won Saturday's sprint race, finished second, with Lando Norris finishing third. Norris' third-place finish continues his trend of scoring points without winning, as he's now the highest-scoring F1 driver without a grand prix win.
Hamilton's crash came at the worst time for the seven-time champ, as it squandered an opportunity to make up ground in the drivers' championship. He currently sits in third place, with 194 points on the season. But the second place Sergio Perez finished ninth today, which only gave him two points, bringing his season total up to 223. Had Hamilton finished higher, or even on the podium, he would have tightened that gap.
If there's a silver lining for Mercedes, though, it's that George Russell finished fourth in Qatar, which helped to keep the team's second-place spot in the constructors' championship. Playing for second place isn't fun but it's the most any team can do now that Red Bull and Verstappen locked up both championship titles.
The next race is in two weeks, at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and the fight for second place will continue. McLaren is having a fantastic second half of this season and it will be interesting to see if it can gain some ground on Mercedes and Ferrari.
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