A strong performance from Red Bull Racing saw the gap in the constructors’ championship close again in the Qatar Grand Prix, as Max drove a brilliant recovery race.
After an overnight investigation into qualifying, the stewards decided to give Max a five-place grid penalty for failing to respect yellow flags at the end of Q3, despite admitting they were “sympathetic” to the situation after confusion when it came to messages from race control. That dropped him to seventh on the grid, but a similar penalty for Valtteri Bottas - albeit three places - saw Pierre promoted to a spot on the front row.
When the lights went out, Pierre held second into Turn 1 but dropped to third at the second corner, while Max made a stunning start to be fourth through the first corner. Fernando Alonso’s sweep across the track saw Max having to take evasive action and prevented him getting into third, but he passed Pierre at the end of lap three and the Alpine a lap later to quickly run second.
Sergio made a similarly good start to jump from 11th to ninth on the opening lap, while Yuki held eighth before Sergio overtook him into Turn 4. The Mexican driver then continued his progress with a good move around the outside of Carlos Sainz at Turn 1, before using DRS to clear Esteban Ocon for sixth place on the start of lap nine.
At the same time, the Scuderia AlphaTauri pair were starting to struggle on the soft compound tyre, with Yuki losing two positions and making his first pit stop for mediums at the end of lap nine. Pierre followed him in four laps later after losing two further positions himself - including one to Sergio - but it meant both were in traffic on a track where it is hard to overtake.
On lap 16, Sergio overtook Lando Norris for fourth place just before Max came into the pits a lap later for his first stop, switching to medium tyres. Sergio followed him in two laps later, and while Max settled into a comfortable second place his team-mate was continuing to provide plenty of entertainment.
An impressive fight with Charles Leclerc saw Sergio move up to fifth and he then fought again with Fernando Alonso for fourth, getting the move done after going wheel-to-wheel through Turn 1 and Turn 2.
After a puncture for Valtteri Bottas on lap 33, most teams decided against attempting a one-stop strategy, with the AlphaTauri drivers stopping on lap 35 and 36, with Pierre in first before Yuki.
Max and Sergio then both made their second pit stops on lap 41, with Max retaining second place but Sergio dropped to seventh and needed to fight his way through towards the podium positions.
He cleared Lance Stroll for sixth with 11 laps remaining and then went around the outside of Esteban Ocon at Turn 1 for fifth a lap later, before inheriting fourth when Norris stopped. Unfortunately a late Virtual Safety Car prevented any further progress and Sergio fell just short of third place, but still added 12 points to the team’s tally.
Max had delivered the fastest lap just before the VSC period and made a pit stop for softs during the delay, confirming the extra point on his final lap to cap an excellent recovery with 19 points, retaining his lead in the driver’s championship. The 31 points scored by Red Bull Racing also brought the team to within five points of the leaders in the constructors’ standings.
Unfortunately for Pierre he was unable to chase down Sebastian Vettel for the final point and finished 11th, with Yuki 13th as AlphaTauri’s impressive qualifying pace failed to translate into race trim.