Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has closed the gap to title rival Max Verstappen following a dominant victory in the inaugural 2021 Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit, with Verstappen recovering from a grid drop that saw him start P7 to finish second, as Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took the final podium position.
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After a clinical start from pole position, Hamilton was able to control the pace at the front of the field with an indomitable lights-to-flag win, his second in a row after Brazil. But while Hamilton was impressive, so too was Verstappen, who was dropped from P2 to seventh on the grid for failing to respect double waved yellow flags in qualifying.
Verstappen shrugged off the disappointment, though, jumping to P4 at the start before quickly making his way up to second, before following Hamilton home to limit the damage to his title lead, which now stands at eight points as Verstappen claimed the fastest lap bonus point.
Meanwhile, there was joy down at Alpine as Alonso returned to the podium for the first time since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix, the Spaniard having executed an aggressive drive to survive late-race pressure from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez to take third.
Perez’s fourth place was a decent recovery considering he’d started P11, while he finished ahead of the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, with Lance Stroll taking P6 for Aston Martin.
The Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were P7 and P8. Lando Norris took P9 after a late stop for the McLaren driver, as Sebastian Vettel took the final points-paying position for P10 – with Pierre Gasly failing to make a two-stop strategy work, dropping from P2 on the grid to P11, allowing Alpine to move clear of AlphaTauri in P5 in the standings.
Meanwhile, it was a day to forget for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who took his own grid drop, dropping from P3 to P6, before falling to 11th at the start and then suffering mid-race tyre issues – as did Williams’ George Russell and Nicholas Latifi – before Mercedes retired him.
So, with just two races to go now, it’s Hamilton within touching distance of Verstappen in the drivers’ fight. Roll on Saudi Arabia.
Mario Isola – Head of F1 and car racing at Pirelli commented:
With Losail being a new and relatively unknown track, featuring some high energy corners, the teams headed into the 2021 Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix lacking all the information they would ideally want, with only one representative practice session. However, it became clear during the race that a one-stopper was very marginal in terms of tyre wear, requiring a high degree of management.
Some drivers encountered tyre problems towards the finish: this was probably due to a combination of very high wear as a result of long stints, and impacts at high speed against some aggressive kerbs, but we’ll obviously find out specifically what happened with a full laboratory analysis back at base in Milan.
By contrast, Hamilton and Verstappen were able to push to the limit with the strategy that they had selected, finishing more than half a minute ahead of Alonso in third, who made a one-stopper work for him.
2021 Formula 1 Qatar GP Race Results
|1.||44||Lewis Hamilton||Great Britain||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||1:24:28.471||25||343.5|
|2.||33||Max Verstappen||Netherlands||Red Bull Racing||+25.743s||19||351.5|
|3.||14||Fernando Alonso||Spain||Alpine F1 Team||+59.457s||15||77|
|4.||11||Sergio Perez||Mexico||Red Bull Racing Honda||+62.306s||12||190|
|5.||31||Esteban Ocon||France||Alpine F1 Team||+80.570s||10||60|
|6.||18||Lance Stroll||Canada||Aston Martin F1 Team||+81.274s||8||34|
|7.||55||Carlos Sainz||Spain||Scuderia Ferrari||+81.911s||6||145.5|
|8.||16||Charles Leclerc||Monaco||Scuderia Ferrari||+83.126s||4||152|
|9.||4||Lando Norris||Great Britain||Mclaren Racing||+1 lap||2||153|
|10.||5||Sebastian Vettel||Germany||Aston Martin F1 Team||+1 lap||1||43|
|11.||10||Pierre Gasly||France||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap||0||92|
|12.||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Australia||McLaren Racing||+1 lap||0||105|
|13.||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Japan||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+1 lap||0||20|
|14.||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Finland||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+1 lap||0||10|
|16.||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Italy||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+1 lap||0||1|
|16.||47||Mick Schumacher||Germany||Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||0||0|
|17.||63||George Russell||Great Britain||Williams Racing||+2 laps||0||16|
|18.||9||Nikita Mazepin||Russia||Haas F1 Team||+2 laps||0||0|
|19.||6||Nicholas Latifi||Canada||Williams Racing||DNF||0||7|
|20.||77||Valtteri Bottas||Finland||Mercedes-AMG Petronas||DNF||203|
2021 Constructor Standings
|1.||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||546.5|
|2.||Red Bull Racing||541.5|
|5.||Alpine F1 Team||137|
|7.||Aston Martin F1 Team||77|
|9.||Alfa Romeo Racing||11|
|10.||Haas F1 Team||0|