Max Verstappen became Formula 1 world champion for the third consecutive year in the Qatar Grand Prix sprint, but was denied victory by Oscar Piastri as the rookie claimed his first F1 race win and McLaren's first in two years.
The race featured three safety cars in its short 19-lap duration and was defined by a tyre choice split between drivers on softs that fired up quickly then faded fast, and mediums that were very vulnerable on start and restart laps but had longevity.
While medium-shod polesitter Piastri held the lead at the start, McLaren team-mate Lando Norris and Verstappen - on the same tyres - tumbled back from second and third as the soft-fitted Ferraris and George Russell surged forwards.
A big Turn 1 twitch meant Verstappen was right down to sixth and nearly lost more places, but he quickly passed Norris for fifth behind Piastri, Russell, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc just before Liam Lawson spun into the gravel and triggered safety car number one.
The second one followed soon after thanks to Logan Sargeant beaching his Williams too. But the brief lap of green flag racing was enough for Russell to put Mercedes into the lead with a big dive down Piastri's inside.
The softs began to fade as the race hit half-distance, though, with Piastri easily reclaiming the lead from Russell and Verstappen cruising past the Ferraris in quick succession to move into third.
Moments later, Verstappen's title was sealed when Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was eliminated in a messy three-car tangle with Esteban Ocon's Alpine and Nico Hulkenberg's Haas at the foot of the top 10.
That prompted another long safety car period, during which Russell begged for a pitstop as he declared the softs were finished, and Verstappen was warned of damage on his mediums.
Piastri benefitted from Russell's struggle behind him to make an immediate 2.5-second break at the restart with four laps to go.
Verstappen quickly cleared Russell but with only a 0.3s per lap pace advantage over Piastri he had no time to catch the McLaren and had to settle for becoming champion with second place, 1.9s adrift.
Norris battled back to third as the soft runners' pace fell away. Russell still clung onto fourth, but Sainz and Leclerc ended up crossing the line in sixth and seventh with Lewis Hamilton using mediums to come through from an early 11th place to fifth.
Leclerc didn't stay there though as he received a five-second time penalty after the race for multiple track limits abuse. He dropped from 13th to seventh.
That promoted Alex Albon to seventh and Fernando Alonso to eighth.