Hamilton cuts F1 Championship deficit to eight points with win in Qatar GP

21-11-2021 15:29 | Updated: 21-11-2021 15:49
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Hamilton cuts F1 Championship deficit to eight points with win in Qatar GP

Lewis Hamilton has won the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix and cuts his deficit to eight points in the World Championship fight with Max Verstappen. The Dutchman bounced back emphatically from a five-place grid penalty but the Mercedes car was too strong underneath the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit. Fernando Alonso rounded out the podium and survived a long-stint one-stop strategy when other drivers experienced tyre failures. 

In perhaps one of the most one-dimensional races of the season, Hamilton stormed from pole position to the race victory with only a minor headache regarding Pirelli tyre duration. The two rivals for the title were almost in their own Formula and stayed ahead of the rest of the field after their first pitstop. The most entertaining battle of the day came with the bonus point for the fastest lap. The Dutchman ended up winning that battle with a late virtual safety car spoiling any last lap push from Hamilton. 

Valtteri Bottas' recovered from a bad start but suffered from a puncture on lap 34. He had yet to pit and seemed likely that Mercedes had pushed the medium tyres a couple of laps too far. This created some question marks for both Hamilton and Verstappen, but they pitted within the next ten laps. Bottas retired from the race on lap 51. Lando Norris, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi experienced tyre failures. 

Alpine had one of their strongest races of the season. Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso benefitted from grid penalties and started on the second row of the grid. The 40-year-old recorded the 98th podium of his career, and his first since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix when he was still a Ferrari driver. 

In the battle for third in the constructors, Lando Norris was on for the bulk of the points but had a front-left failure. This meant that Ferrari again beat the Woking-based team and are firm favourites for P3. 

Grid penalties 

Verstappen qualified in P2, but a five-place pushed him down to P7. He found Bottas next to him who had a three-place penalty. This left Hamilton alongside Pierre Gasy on the front-row of the grid. Fernando Alonso, on the soft tyres and clean side of the grid, started from third. 

Hamilton covered any overtake at the first corner. Verstappen also had a flying start and gained three places in the opening sector. The dirty side of the track didn't favour Gasly, who was caught by Alonso. The seven-time World Champion opened up a 1.8-second gap after just one lap. By lap five, Verstappen made it to P2. Whilst the Dutchman made a good start, Bottas dropped down to P11. 

On lap eight, Verstappen identified a little bit of damage to his front wing from running over the kerbs. Hamilton extended his lead to almost five seconds. Despite the Red Bull looking strong, Hamilton extended his lead to 6.6 seconds on lap 14 as the first pit stops took place for those on the soft tyres. The two front runners were already within a pitstop of third place. 

Into the pits

On lap 18, Red Bull Racing performed a strong pitstop by putting him on the hard tyres. Mercedes responded with the same compound choice as Verstappen. The Brit had a comfortable 10-second advantage. Hamilton insisted on the team radio that they pitted too early. On lap 26, Bottas made it up to the podium places but still had to pit. Verstappen gained on Hamilton with purple lap times but eventually, the gap stayed at seven seconds. 

Bottas' long stint was ruined on lap 34 when he picked up a puncture. With the deflated tyre, Bottas' front wing was also damaged. Mercedes managed the stop in 11 seconds but the 33 laps he had done was perhaps a warning to other teams not to push the tyres too far. He came out in 14th place. 

With some stress around tyre duration, Verstappen pitted on lap 42. Mercedes once again mirrored Verstappen to maintain his lead and avoid the undercut. 

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