Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton cut his title deficit to Max Verstappen to eight points after clinching victory at 2021 Qatar Grand Prix in dominant style.
Hamilton made a clean start to lead Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly as Verstappen recovered from a five-place grid penalty to second in the opening laps, which he eventually held to the checkered flag behind Hamilton.
A late Virtual Safety Car though enabled Verstappen to make a free pit stop and snatch the point for fastest lap to minimise his title lead loss to six points, meaning that the Dutchman heads into the final two races with an eight point lead over Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso benefitted from the late VSC to finish third for Alpine and claim his first podium since he finished second for Ferrari at 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and Sebastian Vettel completed the top ten.
Mercedes meanwhile lead Red Bull by just five points in the fight for the constructors’ title as Ferrari remain third ahead of McLaren, whilst Alpine moved 25 points clear of AlphaTauri into fifth.
Following post-Qualifying investigations into yellow flag infringements, Bottas and Verstappen received three and five-place grid penalties respectively which dropped them to sixth and seventh.
Gasly, Alonso, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz consequently were promoted up to fill positions 2-5 on the grid, with Gasly, Alonso and Norris all starting on the soft tyre compared to Sainz who started on medium tyres along with pole-sitter, Hamilton.
At lights out, Hamilton on the slower medium tyres but maximised his grip on the cleaner side of main straight as he breezed into the lead unchallenged, as Alonso passed Gasly into Turn Four whilst Verstappen recovered from seventh to fourth and Bottas dropped to 11th.
Verstappen however initially found himself “stuck” behind Gasly until the Frenchman ran wide at end of Lap Three, which enabled Verstappen to clear him for third into Turn One of Lap Four with Alonso conceding position at same corner one lap later.
Once in clean air, Verstappen struggled to match Hamilton’s pace and found himself over eight seconds behind by Lap 18, when he made his first stop but Hamilton pitted a lap later and prevented his title rival undercutting him.
Bottas meanwhile ran long and found himself fifth after Perez pitted at end of Lap 19 and managed to clear Norris then Alonso to put himself third, only for a puncture on Lap 33 to halt his charge towards a podium finish and he eventually retired with damage.
Red Bull and Mercedes consequently reacted between Laps 42 and 43 with Verstappen and Hamilton respectively as the pair scrapped over the point for fastest lap, as the Brit ultimately clung on for victory.
Alonso ran a one-stop strategy as he calmly settled into third behind Verstappen until he stopped at end of Lap 23 for hard tyres, which proved crucial as he benefitted from Perez’s second stop at end of Lap 41 to reclaim third which he held to the flag.
Williams’ George Russell and Nicholas Latifi meanwhile suffered tyre punctures to front left tyre on the hard compound on Laps 50 and 52 with Latifi forced to retire and the VSC was deployed on Lap 55 until the start of the final lap.
Verstappen consequently stole the point for fastest lap after making a stop for soft tyres on the penultimate lap under the VSC, whilst the VSC was lifted before he began his final lap and he posted 1m 23.196 to claim one extra point and maintain an eight point lead over Hamilton.
Formula One now takes a fortnight break ahead of the double-headed finale which kicks off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia across weekend of 3-5 December, before the season climaxes in Abu Dhabi between 10-12 December with a newly reconfigured track layout.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||57||1h 24m 28.471|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||57||+ 25.743|
|3||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||57||+ 59.457|
|4||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||57||+ 62.306|
|5||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||57||+ 80.570|
|6||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||57||+ 81.274|
|7||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||57||+ 81.911|
|8||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||57||+ 83.126|
|9||Lando Norris||McLaren||56||+ 1 Lap|
|10||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||56||+ 1 Lap|
|11||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||56||+ 1 Lap|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||56||+ 1 Lap|
|13||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||56||+ 1 Lap|
|14||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||56||+ 1 Lap|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||56||+ 1 Lap|
|16||Mick Schumacher||Haas||56||+ 1 Lap|
|17||George Russell||Williams||55||+ 2 Laps|
|18||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||55||+ 2 Laps|