Hamilton wins in Qatar as Alonso finishes on the podium

Lewis Hamilton took a commanding victory in Formula 1’s first Qatar Grand Prix while title rival Max Verstappen was able to recover from a grid penalty after ignoring yellow flags in qualifying to take P2.

Yet the best moment in this race is Fernando Alonso finishing an excellent third position for Alpine. The double champion benefitted from grid penalties and late-race drama over punctures to make it through on an one-stop strategy.

At the start, Hamilton immediately moved towards the inside to cover off Pierre Gasly’s run into the first corner, swooping ahead of the AlphaTauri as Fernando Alonso closed up behind him.

By covering off Gasly’s line, Hamilton had an easy time in the long, right-hand Turn 1, with Gasly and Alonso trailing in his wake – while behind Verstappen, who had shot immediately past the slow-starting Valtteri Bottas, the pair starting sixth and seventh thanks to their grid penalties, followed Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz into the first corner.

As that pair went deep, Verstappen got ahead on the inside and had enough momentum to draw alongside Alonso, who swung across unsighted and forced the Red Bull to move half onto the AstroTurf runoff and back off into the long left-hand Turn 2.

But Verstappen managed to stay ahead of Norris and chase on after the leaders, with Alonso, up ahead, then fighting by Gasly into Turn 3.

Hamilton finished the first lap with a margin of 1.8 seconds clear of his former McLaren teammate and he continued to pull clear as Verstappen complained he was “stuck” behind Gasly.

The AlphaTauri driver went wide at the final corner at the end of lap three – possibly in a stage-managed manoeuvre to allow his stablemate by, with Verstappen easily nipping ahead as they ran down the pit straight to start the fourth lap.

At the end of that tour, Verstappen closed on Alonso using DRS and on lap five was easily ahead of the Alpine by the Turn 1 braking zone, already facing a 4.4 seconds deficit to Hamilton.

Formula 1’s leading pair promptly disappeared ahead of Alonso, who was nearly 20 seconds off the lead by the end of the race’s first ten laps, but during this phase Verstappen reported possible front wing damage after a heavy kerb strike during the initial laps after he had reached second.

Red Bull first reported that everything looked out, but Verstappen reporting lift-off oversteer going through Turn 1 was put down to likely front wing endplate damage.

He was initially able to match Hamilton in the mid-one minute, 23 seconds, but as the Mercedes driver increased his pace and reached the high one minute, 27 seconds, the Red Bull driver could not keep up and began to steadily fall further back.

The gap between the leaders was close to ten seconds when Red Bull brought Verstappen in at the end of lap 17 to switch from the mediums he and Hamilton had started on to take the hards – rejoining just in front of the yet-to-stop Alonso.

Mercedes brought Hamilton in the following lap, despite the world champion insisting his tyres were “good” and saying “don’t stop me too early” – the leader also moving to the hards as his team mirrored Verstappen’s strategy.

The earlier stop helped Verstappen shave a chunk from Hamilton’s lead, which stood at 8.3 seconds at the end of the Mercedes driver’s out-lap.

From there, the pair traded fastest laps across the next phase of the race, with Verstappen steadily working the gap between them down to 6.7 seconds just past half-distance, after insisting to Red Bull they should “have a bit of fun” pushing on with second place already secure.

The main focus for the majority of the race had became about who would finish third, with Alonso holding onto the final podium spot throughout the opening stint.

He came in on to switch from softs to hards on lap 23, rejoining just in front of Ricciardo, who was yet to come in, and the charging Sergio Perez, who had already come in to go from mediums to hards as part of his rise from P11 on the grid.

Alonso defied Perez for a few laps – including as they passed the long-running Charles Leclerc, who locked up when Alonso attacked at Turn 1 and went deep after moving to defend late against the Alpine – with the Checo then getting by in a close wheel-to-wheel battle through the opening two corners on lap 29.

But Bottas was also a consideration for Perez as he had heeded Toto Wolff’s rallying call to get stuck in amongst the cars that had passed him on his fall to P11 off the line, with Mercedes then leaving him out on the mediums until five laps past the halfway point.

On lap 33, Bottas suffered a sudden left-front puncture as he approached the Turn 6 hairpin, with the Finn the dropping into the gravel as he struggled to control his W12 in scenes similar to the end of the 2020 British Grand Prix.

He had to do nearly a whole lap with the tyre deflated, dropping behind Perez and Alonso, and raising concerns for the leaders.

With both Hamilton and Verstappen reporting vibrations on their hards approaching the final 15 laps, Red Bull kicked off the second round of stops for the leaders by pitting Verstappen at the end of lap 41 and Hamilton coming in again at the end of the following tour.

As they went back to the mediums, the gap between them 8.4 seconds having been going back towards ten seconds before Verstappen stopped, their focus became about trying to claim the fastest lap bonus point.

In the race for third, Perez had come in on the same lap as Verstappen and had to battle his way past several cars trying to hold on on the one-stopper despite the puncture threat.

This included Alonso, Norris and Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine, who was asked to defend as aggressively against Perez when he rose back up the order as his teammate had late in the Hungarian Grand Prix to save the team’s win against a charging Hamilton.

After passing Lance Stroll a few laps after emerging from his second stop, which he complained about getting on his radio, on lap 47, Perez used DRS to get a run on Ocon down the pit straight.

Ocon defended the inside but Perez rocketed around the outside and although Ocon attacked back into Turn 2 and Turn 4 he was unable to get back ahead.

That set-up a showdown for the final spot on the podium, with Perez still needing to pass Norris and catch Alonso, but a spate of late punctures meant the battle was ultimately neutered.

George Russell’s left front left let go with six laps remaining and on the next lap his teammate Nicholas Latifi had the same tyre on his set of tyres puncture as he ran down the pit straight.

Although Russell had been able to limp back to the pits, Latifi stopped at the Turn 6 hairpin and a short while later – just after Norris had come in with his own suspected puncture – the virtual safety car was activated.

Red Bull pitted Verstappen for a third time and he rejoined so far back from Hamilton that he still had a full final lap to go when the race went green again with the leader well into his final tour.

That meant that even though Verstappen already held the fastest lap after he and Hamilton exchanged it during the early laps on their second set of mediums – Verstappen’s third stint – he used the softs he had been given to seal the fastest lap with a one minute, 23.196 seconds as he took the chequered flag 25.7 seconds behind his title rival.

The VSC prevented Perez from carving into Alonso’s advantage and meant Fernando did not have to abandon his one-stopper.

Alonso therefore held on take the first podium of his Formula 1 comeback by 2.8 seconds in front of Perez, with Ocon and Stroll following them home.

The Ferrari pair were in a ones-stoppers’ DRS train behind Ocon before the VSC and they stayed their even as the race resumed late on to take seventh and eighth as the last lapped runners.

Norris’s late stop meant he dropped to ninth, with Sebastian Vettel taking the final point – his one-stopper combining with the VSC to help him again ground after falling back at the start.

The VSC also thwarted Gasly’s attempts to make his two-stopper work, the AlphaTauri driver one of the first to stop in the first stint and being unable to follow Perez through the one-stoppers.

Russell ended up P17 while Mercedes retired Bottas in the pits just before the late-puncture drama.

So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton with this race victory. The Mercedes driver is not giving up the championship fight against Max Verstappen. Just two races to go. As for Fernando Alonso, super happy to see the double champion back on the podium. The last time Fernando was on the podium was back in 2014. How time flies and welcome back!

Qatar Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24:28.471
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda +25.743s
3 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +59.457s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +62.306s
5 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +80.570s
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +81.274s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +81.911s
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +83.126s
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
14 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Valtteri Bottas Mercedes DNF

3 thoughts to “Hamilton wins in Qatar as Alonso finishes on the podium”

  1. Qatar Grand Prix race review as reported by Formula1.com.

    Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has closed the gap to title rival Max Verstappen following a dominant victory in the inaugural 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.

    After a clinical start from pole position, Hamilton was able to control the pace at the front of the field with in 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.

    Even before the first ever Qatar Grand Prix had got under way, there was drama off-track as Max Verstappen was dropped from P2 to P7 on the grid, and Valtteri Bottas from P3 to P6, for a failure to respect yellow flags in qualifying – a double for Verstappen, a single for Bottas.

    As the five lights went out, Hamilton swept in front of Pierre Gasly, promoted to his first front row start by those penalties, allowing the Mercedes to hold position at the front.

    Bottas, meanwhile, dropped like a stone, sinking from sixth to 11th (Vettel also dropping from P10 to P17) as Verstappen went the other way, benefitting from Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris scrapping into Turn 1 to surge to P4, while it was only a chop from Fernando Alonso into Turn 2 that stopped Verstappen going to P3 – Alonso then passing Gasly to claim P2 in the same manoeuvre.

    Hamilton was moving clear at the front – but crucially for Verstappen if he was to keep his race hopes alive, the Dutchman was quickly through on Gasly and Alonso to hold P2 by Lap 5 of 57, with only his title rival around four seconds up the road from him.

    Verstappen was moving forward, and so was Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull, Perez climbing from his P11 to P6 by Lap 9. Bottas was moving less quickly, with Toto Wolff moved to radio the Finn on Lap 8 to give him the hurry-up – Bottas quickly responding by passing Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll to move to P9 by Lap 10.

    Out in front, Hamilton and Verstappen quickly settled into a race of their own, Hamilton able to slowly open the gap to his rival to 7s by Lap 15 – with Verstappen a further 22s clear of Alonso, with Norris ahead of Perez after Gasly pitted for a first time on Lap 13.

    Lap 17 caught Mercedes’ eye, as Verstappen brought his Red Bull RB16B in for a stop, taking on hards and holding onto P2 as he emerged just in front on Alonso. Hamilton radioed to Mercedes to tell them his tyres were still okay, but they brought him in a lap later anyway to cover off Verstappen.

    Hamilton wasn’t best pleased, telling the team it was “definitely way too early to stop” but was brusquely told that with the pace advantage he was enjoying – sufficient for Hamilton to be 10s clear of Verstappen when he emerged from his stop – it had been worth mirroring Red Bull.

    With the halfway point reached by Lap 29 of 57, the order was: Hamilton, 7s up from Verstappen, with Bottas third but yet to stop, ahead of Perez, Alonso, Gasly, Norris, Ocon, Stroll and Sainz – Perez getting past Alonso after a titanic scrap on Lap 29 through the first sequence of corners.

    Bottas was dramatically forced into his first stop on Lap 33 when he appeared to suffer a puncture, Bottas sliding into the gravel at Turn 7, before recovering to the pits for hards, emerging P14 as Perez was promoted into P3 behind Hamilton and Verstappen.

    The big question now was whether Hamilton or Verstappen would feel compelled to stop again in light of Bottas’ issues – Verstappen in a comfortable position in P2, 50s ahead of third-placed team mate Perez by Lap 40.

    Verstappen answered the question on Lap 41 when he stopped for mediums, Hamilton unsurprisingly responding a lap later for the same tyres, as the pair of them maintained status quo at the front.

    Perez stopped on Lap 41 too, emerging P7 as Alonso was promoted into the podium positions – with Alonso telling his team to ask fifth-placed Ocon to “defend like a lion” (a reference to Ocon’s comments about Alonso’s defence that enabled his Hungary win) to keep Perez behind.

    Ocon listened, too, but despite some energetic sparring on Lap 47, Perez was through on the Alpine driver and up to P5 – although the Mexican questioned Red Bull’s decision to sacrifice track position by two-stopping him.

    Bottas’ tyre issues were seemingly mirrored by the Williams drivers of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi on Laps 50 and 52, with both drivers suffering left-front tyre problems – while Bottas was retired from the race on Lap 50, bringing to an end a miserable evening under the floodlights for the Finn.

    Latifi retired on Lap 55, with a Virtual Safety Car called out, Verstappen taking the opportunity to dive into the pits for softs. Perhaps Red Bull were hoping the move would spook Mercedes – but there was no such luck, as Hamilton duly swept across the line to secure back-to-back wins after Interlagos. He had been, quite simply, untouchable all evening.

    Verstappen’s stop at least allowed him to put on soft tyres, Verstappen claiming the fastest lap bonus point along with his 18 points for P2, his lead reduced from 14 points to eight points over Hamilton, with two races to go.

    If Verstappen felt a little jaded, Alonso felt pure joy, as he benefitted from the VSC to hold onto P3. “Finally we got it,” said Alonso after the race. “I’m so happy for the team.” Perez took P4 and will likely have some questions over Red Bull’s two-stop move for him, while Ocon took fifth, to move Alpine a decisive 25 points clear of AlphaTauri in their fight for fifth in the constructors’.

    A stealthy performance from Stroll was enough to give the Aston Martin driver P6, ahead of the Ferrari pair of Sainz and Leclerc, with Norris ending up P9 – McLaren having suspected a puncture a few laps from the end and stopping the Briton, as Vettel recovered from his poor start to claim the final point.

    After starting second, Gasly finished a galling P11, having opted for a two-stop, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo – a third point-less race in a row for the Australian – as Yuki Tsunoda took 13th. Kimi Raikkonen was P14 for Alfa Romeo, having enjoyed a beautiful battle with Latifi, with his team mate Antonio Giovinazzi P15, ahead of Mick Schumacher, Russell and Nikita Mazepin.

    So, yet another twist in this fascinating title fight. Is Hamilton now in the driving seat for title number eight? Or can Verstappen fight back in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi? It’s going to be fascinating to find out.

  2. Alpine driver Fernando Alonso commented that this Qatar Grand Prix podium return felt “unbelievable” . Motorsport.com has the full story.

    Fernando Alonso said his return to the Formula 1 podium at the Qatar Grand Prix felt “unbelievable”.

    The Alpine driver pulled off a one-stop strategy from the second row on the grid at Losail to grab third place behind Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

    It was the best result of his comeback season so far and his first podium finish since he came home second for Ferrari at the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.

    Speaking about his feelings after the race, Alonso said: “Yeah, unbelievable. Seven years and finally we got it. We were close a couple of races but not enough. Sochi was the last possibility and here today [we did it].”

    Following grid penalties for Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, Alonso started from third on the soft tyre, and revealed afterwards that he had actually been targetting snatching the lead from pole man Hamilton.

    “Honestly, I thought about leading after lap one,” he said. “I thought with the red tyre, I could have a go on Lewis, but I couldn’t.

    “Then with Checo it was very close at the end. But I’m so happy for the team. Also Esteban P5, so a good Sunday.”

    While a number of other cars hit trouble with tyre failures on aged tyres, Alonso said that Alpine had set out from the beginning on stretching things out to minimise the number of stops.

    And although there were some nerves on the pitwall, as the team urged Alonso to look after his rubber in the closing stages, the Spaniard held on well.

    “We planned a one stop from the beginning, but we never knew how bad was the wear and the degradation,” he said.

    “It is a new race for everybody. But yeah, I think it was quite well executed the race. The pitstop was fantastic. The team was great. The reliability of the car is superb, and you know they deserve it.”

    Alonso’s third place and teammate Ocon’s fifth has helped Alpine open up a 25-point margin over main rival AlphaTauri in the constructors’ championship with two races remaining.

    The two teams are locking in a tight fight for fifth place overall, with Alpine admitting that spot is a key target for the squad under its new identity this year.

  3. Toto Wolff believes the adversity Lewis Hamilton faced at Interlagos brought out his “superhero powers”, leading to back-to-back wins to shift momentum in the Formula 1 title fight.

    Hamilton led from lights-to-flag in Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix to cut Red Bull rival Max Verstappen’s championship lead down to eight points with two races remaining this season.

    It marked Hamilton’s second straight win following his victory at Interlagos last Sunday, which came after he started the sprint race in last place following his exclusion from qualifying when his car failed a post-session technical check.

    It came amid growing tensions between Mercedes and Red Bull over the past two weekends, with Red Bull boss Christian Horner declaring there was “no relationship” between the title-fighting squads.

    Asked by Motorsport.com if the intensity of the title fight was bringing out the best in Hamilton right now, Wolff said: “They have woken up the lion on the Saturday at Interlagos.

    “He’s absolutely on it – brutal, and cold-blooded. This is the best in Lewis, and we’ve seen it in the past. He’s right there.”

    Wolff expanded on the Brazil qualifying exclusion as sparking something that brought out the best in Hamilton, noting his ability to fight against adversity.

    “I think when adversity happens, then it takes him to a place where he’s able to mobilise superhero powers,” Wolff said.

    “And it was the adversity that triggered that at Interlagos.”

    Hamilton lost the lead of the championship in Turkey, and saw the gap grow to 19 points after Verstappen took consecutive wins in the United States and Mexico.

    But Wolff vowed that he had never stopped believing that the titles remained within Mercedes’ reach.

    “We had such a strong Turkey, and then obviously fell back below expectations in Austin and in Mexico,” Wolff said.

    “But anyone in the team refuses to give up, and I’m grateful how the championship has swung.

    “If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that we are right in the fight in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, I would have taken it.

    “So I hope it’s going to go all the way to the end. Whoever will win merits the win.”

    Source: Motorsport.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *