The 2023 F1 Qatar GP will be the first opportunity for Max Verstappen to seal the deal and win his third world title. The Red Bull driver has been on a dominant run this season, already winning 13 races.
This weekend will also mark his return to Qatar, a venue that debuted in 2021 amidst a heated championship battle between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
The track is essentially a MotoGP one that has been homologated for F1 racing and it did produce decent racing last time around as well. There have been reports of Qatar GP being officially moved to a different track in the near future (the one that is yet to be constructed but would be more of an F1 spec track).
For now, though, this is the track that we have in front of us and it should offer decent action with that massive start-finish straight.
So what can we expect from the 2023 F1 Qatar GP? Let's take a look.
2023 F1 Qatar GP: Preview
#1 Max Verstappen's third world title
Max Verstappen can more or less seal his third world championship this weekend and it would hardly come as a surprise to anyone. The Red Bull driver has been dominant in more ways than one. He is on course to beat most of the single-season records this year and him winning the title with a decent number of races left should not come as a surprise.
Having said that, this title puts Verstappen in a rare company of elite drivers. The Dutchman will now be the second most accomplished driver on the grid behind only Lewis Hamilton and in terms of building a legacy, that is a huge statement.
#2 The battle for P2 in the championship
The battle for the runner-up position seems to be intensifying with Ferrari's sudden rejuvenated form. The Italian team has secured multiple pole positions and even won a race since the summer break and seems to have the upper hand on Mercedes. The points gap has been decreasing and it stands at only 20 at the moment.
Ferrari was second behind Red Bull last season in the championship and if Mercedes loses again, questions will be raised over the short-term prospects of the team.
#3 Mercedes intra-team battle
Mercedes' intra-team battle is intensifying in a manner that many would have expected. If you put a young charger against an aging but still capable legend, this is bound to happen.
George Russell was not too happy with how things panned out in Japan and Lewis Hamilton's subtle dig that he's too far ahead on points would have stung as well.
Will we see things ramping up this weekend? Will we see George fight back or will Lewis take over? It will be worth keeping an eye on at the 2023 F1 Qatar GP.
Oscar Piastri getting the jump over Lando Norris in qualifying might not seem too significant to the outside viewer as the gap was not too big, but it was certainly important inside the team. It gave Norris the message that he needs to look behind him as well and Piastri is certainly finding his groove.
Piastri also got the monkey off his back in Japan and got his first podium as well. The Australian's form in his very first season has got everyone excited in the paddock. But Norris might not share the excitement.
Out of form
In terms of perception, Lance Stroll has hit a new low in his F1 career. With Aston Martin's form dwindling the driver has seemed more and more out of sorts and many have questioned his position within the team.
The driver will be looking at the 2023 F1 Qatar GP to finally start scoring a few points with the car, just like Fernando Alonso does every weekend.
2023 F1 Qatar GP: Predictions
Who will win the race?
The long straights and ample overtaking opportunities mean it's hard to look beyond Max Verstappen winning the 2023 F1 Qatar GP.
The track surface was quite smooth the last time we had a race here in 2021 and even the MotoGP bikes have not had too many complaints about the track.
In all likelihood, we're looking at a Verstappen win in both the sprint and the main race.
The surprise of the weekend (Team)
There is a possibility that Ferrari will spring a surprise or two this weekend. The smooth track surface means there won't be tire wear concerns for anyone. At the same time that long straight is going to work like a charm for the Italian team.
If Red Bull is not completely hooked up, we might be looking at Ferrari picking up another pole position this weekend.
The surprise of the weekend (Driver)
Congruent to the theme set earlier with the surprise team of the weekend, keep an eye on Charles Leclerc. The weekend in Japan showed that Leclerc was starting to find his feet with the car. The track layout for the 2023 F1 Qatar GP should aid Ferrari and that should give Charles an opportunity.
While challenging for a win is maybe asking too much from Leclerc, a pole position could be on the cars this weekend.
Disappointment of the weekend (Team)
The long straight is going to hurt the three front-running Mercedes-powered cars. All three of Mercedes, Aston Martin, and McLaren have suffered on the straights. While we could see both McLaren and Mercedes recovered a chunk of the lap times in the rest of the lap, Aston Martin might struggle.
The 2023 F1 Qatar GP might be the weekend where Aston Martin loses out to Alpine in the race.
Disappointment of the weekend (Driver)
Lance Stroll's lack of form has become a talking point lately and with Aston Martin now at risk of dropping to P5 in the championship, there are calls for contribution from the Canadian.
The 2023 F1 Qatar GP might be a race where Aston Martin struggles and if that is the case, Lance Stroll might just be in for another pointless weekend.