Lewis Hamilton wins, Max Verstappen smiles. The twentieth chapter of a high-adrenaline season confirmed the impressions that emerged clearly at the end of yesterday’s qualifying, namely that in Losail the Mercedes in Hamilton’s hands had an edge.
Lewis’ seventh win of the season was a solitary breakaway that started at the start and facilitated by the five-place penalty given to Max Verstappen two hours before the start. The only risk Hamilton could run today was on the three hundred meters separating the starting line from the first corner, but shooting alongside Pierre Gasly in place of Red Bull number 33 took some anxiety away from the world champion.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
Once in the lead for Lewis, a long distance confrontation began with Verstappen, able in five laps to recover from the seventh position occupied at the start behind his direct opponent. The two stars of the world championship in this season finale seem to be racing even more in a category of their own, as the numbers confirm: on lap 15 Fernando Alonso, brilliant third, was already thirty seconds behind Hamilton and 23 behind Verstappen.
There was no story for the victory, but the confrontation between Lewis and Max continued throughout the second part of the race on an apparently secondary front but which in reality for the purposes of the general classification is in fact crucial: the point of the most rapid.
Verstappen got it, and that changed the outlook for the Red Bull weekend a bit. Max leaves Qatar eight points clear of Lewis, and even if Hamilton manages to win both the victory and the fastest lap in Jeddah, with second position Verstappen would arrive in Abu Dhabi for the grand final on equal points with his opponent (350.5) but in fact in advantage thanks to a greater number of successes.
This would be a considerable bonus, which would guarantee him the title in the event of a possible ‘zero to zero’, a scenario not to be excluded. Toto Wolff called the lost point “a bit annoying”, understanding the importance it could have.
Max Verstappen sparks with the Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Red Bull leaves Losail with optimism
Christian Horner had a very tense weekend, which ended with a tug of the ears from the sports commissioners’ college, who summoned him for having made inelegant declarations against the course commissioner ‘guilty’ of having waved the yellow flag yesterday at the end of the qualifications. Once the tension subsided, the Red Bull team principal brought the situation into focus and the smile returned.
Verstappen in two weeks in Jeddah will have a first match-point (if he comes second with Lewis out of the points or first with Hamilton not in the top five) and above all he is sure in any case to get to play it in the weekend in Abu Dhabi. In addition, the six points Red Bull snatched from Mercedes in Qatar (thanks also to Perez’s fourth place comeback and Bottas ‘setback) reduced the gap in the Constructors’ classification to five points.
However, Hamilton is back from two peremptory successes, the ‘5’ engine used in Brazil will return to Jeddah, and above all he seems to be in a great condition, as Wolff pointed out: “Saturday at Interlagos they teased the Lion, and he confirmed how brutal it is and always able to move in cold blood. This is the best Lewis, we have seen him in the past and he is still here ”.
However, Red Bull does not feel inferior, as Horner pointed out: “This weekend there was only one point on the circuit where they (Mercedes) confirmed their fastest: Turn 6, two tenths every lap, and to think that it’s a pretty simple curve. So we have a bit of homework to do to figure out why we wasted our time at that point. But we are competitive again in terms of speed on the straight, and this is excellent news in view of the next two races ”.
Pretactic? This season has taught us that it is better not to exclude anything. Mercedes feels favored on the layout of Jeddah (“we’ll bring out the artillery”, Wolff commented on this), but in this chess match Red Bull seems to have the attitude of someone who has already foreseen everything.
“In the end, whoever wins will be able to say that they did it with merit – concluded Wolff – if it is not us it will cost us a sleepless night or two, annoying yes, but we can bear it, it is not the end of the world. Even if we don’t win, we will come back strong, rest assured ”.
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