Hamilton narrows championship deficit to Verstappen by winning the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix

Sir Lewis Hamilton took another swing towards Max Verstappen’s championship standings lead after the reigning seven-time Formula One champion notched a dominant win in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix at Losail International Circuit on Sunday, November 21.

Hamilton, who started on pole position for the fourth time in 2021 and the 102nd of his career, was able to launch away from the field at the start and he never relinquished the top spot as he claimed the win by more than 25 seconds over runner-up Verstappen, who kept the seven-time champion within his sights and to maintain the lead in the standings by a narrow margin.

With the victory, Hamilton secured his seventh Grand Prix victory of the season and the 102nd victory of his F1 career as he reduced his deficit to Verstappen in the standings from 14 to eight while continuing his pursuit for a record-setting eighth F1 title. He also became the first competitor to achieve a Grand Prix victory in 30 different F1 circuits.

“It was a good weekend,” Hamilton said. “Super solid. I couldn’t really ask for any more. I would’ve loved to have got that extra point out there for the fastest lap, but obviously, I was against with the VSC, obviously with the tyre punctures and everything like that, it was just too risky. It’s been great this weekend. First stint was really strong, [Verstappen and Red Bull] were still really fast as you could see. They went past people so easily. We’ve been strong, so I’m excited for these next two races. I think we’ve got a good car. If we can get the car in a good place these next two [races, I think we should be real strong.”

Verstappen, who originally qualified on the front row but fell back to seventh as part of a five-place grid penalty for failing to respect double waved yellow flags in qualifying, was able to march his way to the front and settle in second place for the seventh time this season. By pitting in the final laps and notching the fastest time of the event, where he earned an additional point, he maintains the top spot in the standings and maintains his quest for his first F1 title with two races remaining to the schedule.

“It was an exciting start,” Verstappen said. “It got really close with Fernando [Alonso] into Turn 2, but the race, quite quickly, I was back into P2. From there on, as I tried to keep the gap small so that I could not do a pit stop or like an extra pit stop, and it worked out well because we did the fastest lap like that and any weekend where you like pace and still finish second and get that fastest lap point, I think it’s good. Overall, we’re still lacking pace, also in the race, but of course, very happy with this result.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso, who started in third place, made an aggressive one-stop strategy work to his perfection after the two-time F1 champion fended off Sergio “Checo” Perez to finish in third place and claim his first podium result since finishing in second place in the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. With the result, Alonso, who returned to F1 competition this season since retiring in 2018, became the 13th different competitor to achieve an F1 podium in 2021 as he recorded the first podium result for Alpine F1 Team since the team won the Hungarian Grand Prix in August with Esteban Ocon.

“The love keeps going for this track,” Alonso, who was voted Driver of the Day, said. “The car was mega again on the race and we could keep up the pace with Perez and in front of the McLarens, the Ferraris, so I think we were, maybe on pure pace, fourth or fifth, but then obviously, we gambled on the strategy, only one stop. Perez did two [pit stops] and we managed to step on the podium with two great champions, Max and Lewis. That means a lot for me as well. After seven years, waiting for a podium, it was tough sometimes. You go up and down on your career and you need to keep up, never give up and show some determination, some dedication to this sport because you dedicate your life to Formula One, to train and to prepare for the next race. It doesn’t matter if you’re 11th, if you’re 15th or eventually, when you come fight for a podium like today. I love racing and this podium means a lot.”

Perez settled in fourth-place for his 13th top-five result of the season.

Esteban Ocon, teammate to Alonso, finished in fifth place for his first top-five result since claiming his maiden Grand Prix victory at Hungary in August, thus keeping the Alpine F1 Team ahead of AlphaTauri for fifth place in the constructor’s standings. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll finished in sixth place for his best result of the season and for his ninth top-10 points-paying result of the season.

Teammates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc kept Ferrari situated in third place in the constructor’s standings by finishing seventh and eighth followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, the first competitor scored a lap behind the leaders. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10 on the track.

Finishing just outside of the top 10 was AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, who started on the front row for the first time in his career but who failed to make a two-tyre strategy work.

Daniel Ricciardo settled in 12th ahead of rookie Yuki Tsunoda, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, who is down to his final two F1 races this season and with Alfa Romeo.

Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin finished 16th and 18th while William’s George Russell and Nicholas Latifi ended up in 17th and 19th after both suffered late tyre punctures. While Russell was able to return to his pit stall and finish the race two laps behind the leaders, Latifi was unable to do so as he retired on the track in 19th place.

Valtteri Bottas, who received a three-place grid penalty and was relegated to sixth place, was able to methodically work his way towards the front in the first half of the event. His race, however, went away on Lap 33 when he suffered a left-front tyre puncture as he slid off the track  and into the gravel in Turn 7. Despite recovering from the issue, he ended up retiring on Lap 50 and in 20th place, dead last, as he retained third place in the driver’s standings by 13 points over Perez.

Results:

1. Lewis Hamilton, 25 points

2. Max Verstappen, 19 points

3. Fernando Alonso, 15 points

4. Sergio Perez, 12 points

5. Esteban Ocon, 10 points

6. Lance Stroll, eight points

7. Carlos Sainz, six points

8. Charles Leclerc, four points

9. Lando Norris, two points, +1 lap

10. Sebastian Vettel, one point, +1 lap 

11. Pierre Gasly, +1 lap

12. Daniel Ricciardo, +1 lap

13. Yuki Tsunoda, +1 lap

14. Kimi Räikkönen, +1 lap

15. Antonio Giovinazzi, +1 lap

16. Mick Schumacher, +1 lap

17. George Russell, +2 laps

18. Nikita Mazepin, +2 laps

19. Nicholas Latifi – Retired

20. Valtteri Bottas – Retired 

Max Verstappen continues to lead the drivers’ standings by eight points over Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team continues to lead the constructors’ standings by five points over Red Bull Racing Honda.

With two races remaining in the schedule, the 2021 Formula One season will be taking its final off-week period before returning for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at Jeddah Street Circuit on November 5.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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