Hamilton dominates Qatar Grand Prix; inches closer to Verstappen in title race
Sean Clark recaps Lewis Hamilton's dominant win in the debut weekend of the Qatar Grand Prix.
Throughout his dominant 2020 championship campaign, Lewis Hamilton oftentimes completely dominated weekends, winning pole position and taking the victory by a comfortable margin in the race.
During the 2021 Formula 1 season, Max Verstappen has achieved these kind of weekends while Hamilton has had to grind out tough victories during a heated title race.
For the debut of the Qatar Grand Prix, Hamilton turned the clock back a year over the weekend, winning pole and led wire-to-wire during the race for his seventh win of the 2021 season.
Losail International Circuit was the host of the first-ever Qatar Grand Prix. Before the race began, both Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas suffered five and three-place grid penalties for ignoring yellow flags during Q3.
The main drama of the race was tire wear as teams had to analyze whether a one or two-stop strategy will result in a higher finish for their respective drivers.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen used a two-stop strategy to prevent a costly tire puncture. They ran clean races as the two title contenders pulled away from the field.
Hamilton has visited 35 different circuits throughout his career. His victory at Qatar marks the 12th time he has won during his first race at a circuit.
Verstappen pitted a third time, locking down the fastest lap of the race to minimize the damage from Hamilton’s dominant victory.
For the title race, Hamilton cut the deficit to eight points behind Verstappen. If Hamilton wins the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with the fastest lap of the race and Verstappen finishes second, the two will head into the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi level on points.
Fernando Alonso started in third place after the grid penalties from Verstappen and Bottas. He stayed in the top five while Alpine committed to the one-stop strategy.
The two-time Formula 1 champion was conserving his tires late in the race as Sergio Perez, who started 11th after missing Q3, was chasing him with fresher tires.
A late Virtual Safety Car for Nicolas Latifi allowed Alonso more time to hold off Perez, snatching his first podium since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. His teammate, Esteban Ocon, finished fifth. The two results allowed Alpine to take the lead for P5 in the constructor’s championship after coming into the race level with AlphaTauri.
Lance Stroll stretched out his tires to earn a sixth-place finish, his best result of the 2021 season. Fellow Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel came home to take 10th place.
Ferrari achieved a seventh and eighth-place result from Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc respectively.
Pierre Gasly committed to the two-stop strategy, but could not get back into the points after his second stop.
Four tire punctures occurred late in the race. Bottas was the first to suffer a puncture, forcing Mercedes to retire the car a few laps later due to excessive damage. It was Bottas’ fourth DNF of the 2021 season.
Lando Norris’ puncture dropped him from a top-five finish to P9.
Both Williams Racing drivers, Latifi and George Russell, also had to drag their cars to pit road after punctures.
The 2021 Formula 1 season reaches its penultimate race in two weeks for the debut of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Dec. 5.