Max Verstappen shrugged off a five-place grid penalty to claim second place and the point for the fastest lap at the 2021 Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix, limiting the damage to his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton, as the Mercedes driver won F1’s first race at the Losail International Circuit from pole position.
Sergio Pérez, meanwhile, recovered from a Q2 exit in qualifying and an 11th-place start to surge through the pack and claim a hard-won and well-deserved fourth place at the flag.
I’m of course happy with the result today. This weekend has been quite difficult for us as a Team and we are still lacking pace, I tried everything I could after the five-place grid penalty so to finish in second and score the fastest lap is really good.
I had an exciting start and I knew that the first few laps were really important, I had a good launch and I was fairly quickly back into second place, from there I tried to keep the gap small and that worked out quite well. I had fun today, especially when going for the fastest lap. It’s a shame that Checo didn’t make it to the podium today, he scored good points for the Team.
I’m also happy for Fernando, we all know how good he is, there’s no doubt about that. For now, we need to stay focused, there are still two races left to go and a lot of things can happen, anything is possible.
We managed to recover from qualifying and moved through the grid quickly from P11, we were in a very good position to be on the podium but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. It was a very exhausting race, I was flat out the whole time, overtaking and pushing. We were changing our strategy throughout the race; at some stages, we were going for one-stop and at others two, but others’ tyres were exploding so we had to protect ours to prevent getting a puncture and maximise our position in the Constructor’s Championship.
I think we had the podium in our pocket but for the second week running a virtual safety car has potentially cost us. I don’t know if without it we would have definitely caught up with Fernando, but we would have been close. It is a bit of a shame but we managed to minimise the damage from Saturday and Valtteri didn’t score any points which is a big benefit to us. Ultimately, I think from a Team point of view we had to play it safe with the constructors in mind.
Where we have finished today is a good result for the Team and the longer-term picture, we just have to keep pushing hard and improve our performance in the next two races. Now I am looking forward to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi because we are going to give it everything, we have a big chance to come on top of the Constructor’s Championship, there are five points in it, it’s all to play for and that is the target.
Christian Horner – Team Principal
Today was a big day, I think Max’s recovery on the first lap was stunning and his first two corners were sensational. Mercedes had a quicker car with Lewis today, but we were able to come back at them in the second and third stint. Whilst we haven’t got quicker, our straight-line speed was competitive today and the fact that Max was able to get the fastest lap before switching to softs was encouraging.
Checo was unlucky not to finish on the podium today, I think without the VSC he would have been right with Alonso on that last lap, but he had a great drive and earned us some valuable team points. It’s been a long time since Fernando was on the podium so it was also nice to see him up there. We are now just five points behind in the constructors’ championship and eight points in front in the drivers’ championship, so there are two very big races to come and it’s all to play for.
We are going to work hard next week and improve the car as much as we can and see what we can do in Jeddah. I’d like to make it clear that marshals do a wonderful job and our sport could not operate without them volunteering their time, so if any offence was caused I unreservedly apologise, my frustration was with the decision that had been made and not with any individual.