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Formula 1

Hamilton dominates Qatar GP as Verstappen recovers to second

Lewis Hamilton has won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen coming home a distant second after a grid penalty and Fernando Alonso completing the podium.

Hamilton Qatar
To news overview © Mercedes AMG F1

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has won the Qatar Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit.

The reigning World Champion, who started the race from pole position, went unchallenged at the head of the field as he led from start to finish to claim his 102nd career victory.

The win means he has closed in six points on Max Verstappen in the Drivers' Championship, with the Dutchman coming home in second place and taking the fastest lap bonus point.

Verstappen, in the hour preceding the race, was demoted down to seventh on the grid as a result of a grid penalty for failing to slow sufficiently for double waved yellow flags at the end of qualifying. But Verstappen was up to fourth within moments of the lights going out to start the race, as he cleared Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and McLaren's Lando Norris by the time the field had got through Turn 1.

With Hamilton leading comfortably at the end of Lap 1, it was Alpine's Fernando Alonso and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly behind, but Verstappen quickly picked off the interlopers to climb up to second and set off after Hamilton.

From there, it became a game of cat and mouse between the title rivals, with Verstappen never getting particularly close to Hamilton. By the time the Red Bull driver got into second, the gap was around 4.5 seconds and, despite his best efforts, the gap ebbed and flowed between seven and 10 seconds for the remainder of the race.

Verstappen set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 54/57 on his Mediums, with a late Virtual Safety Car giving him the chance to pit for a fresh set of Softs. This gave him the chance to try improving the fastest lap again but, with the VSC remaining in effect until the start of the final lap, Verstappen finished with the fastest lap to ensure Hamilton could only close up six points in the championship.

Alonso held on for third, with the Spaniard returning to the podium for the first time since 2014, as he successfully finished the race on a one-stop strategy. After a stellar first stint on the Softs, he swapped to the Hards for the second stint and managed to massage the car home just ahead of the two-stopping Sergio Perez, as the Red Bull closed rapidly in the closing stages.

Result Qualification - Qatar

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A thrilling battle for third place had been brewing between Alonso, Perez and Bottas, until a mid-race puncture for the Mercedes driver changed the complexion of the fight. Bottas had stayed out for 33 laps on his first stint on Mediums, with his left-front tyre failing and costing him any chance of a points finish.

With Red Bull committing Perez to a two-stop strategy, it forced the Mexican to chase Alonso down, with the Alpine driver just managing to get his car home in the final podium spot. With several other tyre failures affecting the Williams drivers, and McLaren's Lando Norris, as the tyres aged, Alonso's long second stint resulted in some nerves at Alpine, but he held on to the flag and fend off Perez.

Esteban Ocon finished fifth in the other Alpine, with Aston Martin's Lance Stroll coming home in sixth as they formed a DRS train in the closing stages ahead of the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Norris, who was one of the drivers to suffer a front-left tyre deflation that McLaren successfully managed to replace before the tyre failed, salvaged a ninth-place finish, with Sebastian Vettel claiming the final point for Aston Martin.

Williams' Nicholas Latifi and Bottas were the only two retirements, with Latifi pulling over to stop his car after his front-left tyre failed, causing the late-race Virtual Safety Car, while Bottas was withdrawn from the race with six laps to go.

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F1 2021 Qatar Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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