The debut Qatar Grand Prix on November 21 turned out to be quite predictable. The driver of “Mercedes” Lewis Hamilton confidently won in qualifying and in the race. Two stages before the end of the season, championship leader Max Verstappen’s lead over the seven-time Formula One world champion was reduced to eight points, but Red Bull leader finished second and minimized losses. However, the main character of the race was Fernando Alonso, who returned to the podium seven years later.
Penalties before the race
Three trainings within the framework of the debut Qatar Grand Prix allowed the drivers and teams to study in detail the Losail track, which was new for Formula 1. In the first practice, the fastest was Max Verstappen, and in the other two – Valtteri Bottas. But in qualifying on Saturday, November 20, both of them were unable to keep up with Lewis Hamilton. The Briton was almost half a second ahead of the Dutchman and took pole position for the race. The top three in the session was closed by Bottas.
As a result of this qualification, the order behind the leaders on Sunday turned out to be not entirely usual. Pierre Gasly became the best of the rest, showing the fourth result. The fifth qualification was finished by the driver of the Alpin team Fernando Alonso, who was ahead of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were among the worst in the third segment of the session. Sergio Perez, Charles Leclair and Daniel Riccardo did not make it to the top ten.
At the end of the qualification, an incident occurred, due to which the alignment at the start of the race changed dramatically. In his last attempt, Pierre Gasly broke his wing on the curb, causing yellow flags to appear on the track. Verstappen improved his result under the double yellow flags, while Bottas and Sainz did not slow down under the singles. Thus, the riders received fines. Max lost five positions at the start, while Valtteri lost three. Carlos was forgiven by the judges. And it turned out that thanks to an incident that happened to him, Gasley first started the race from the first row. Alonso and Norris started from the second.
For Russian rider Nikita Mazepin, the weekend in Doha started off badly. Due to technical problems, the Haas pilot missed the second and third training sessions on the new track. The last position and a loss of almost two and a half seconds to his teammate Mick Schumacher on Saturday is a natural result in the most difficult conditions.
Qatar Race: First Half
Lewis Hamilton, as expected, did not receive hard resistance from the Alpha Tauri and Alpin riders at the start. Thanks to a quick breakthrough, the Briton left Gasley and Alonso behind and chased his seventh victory of the season. Hamilton’s rival for the title, Max Verstappen, also had a great start. Starting seventh, the Dutchman passed the first meters of the distance of Bottas, Sainz and Norris. Alonso emerged victorious in the battle for the second line with Gasly, but already on the fifth lap, both pilots were overtaken by Verstappen. Max quickly eliminated the penalty losses in qualifying and rushed after the leader of the race.
Bottas failed the same breakthrough as the Dutchman. Valtteri failed at the start and after the first round was out of the point ten. The head of the Mercedes, Toto Wolff, drove the Finn forward on the radio, and the pilot of the Silver Arrows gradually moved upward in the peloton. In parallel, Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez delighted with overtaking in the first laps. The Mexican broke into the top four relatively quickly and tried to help his partner outplay Hamilton tactically. Nevertheless, in the rear-view mirrors Perez saw the approaching Bottas, so Sergio had to defend his position in the race.
Hamilton widened his lead over Verstappen, while Alonso was still in the top three. Gasly, however, could not keep the pace of leadership: the Frenchman let Norris and Perez pass, and then one of the first went to the pits for new tires.
Leclair and Riccardo were unable to make an important start for their teams – and both were unable to keep up with their teammates in the first half of the race.
Verstappen was the first of the leaders to decide on a pit stop. The Dutchman went hard, and Hamilton repeated Max’s actions on the next lap. Nevertheless, after stopping in the pits, the gap (seven seconds) between the leaders remained. The second racers “Red Bull” and “Mercedes” demonstrated a different strategy: Perez followed Hamilton after the “hard”, and Bottas delayed his pit stop as long as possible.
By the middle of the distance, Lewis was still consistently ahead of Max by seven seconds, Valtteri, who was still waiting for a stop in the pits, was in the top three, and Perez, on fresh tires, passed his rivals and chased Bottas. Alonso was ahead of Gasly in the fight for the fifth line. Norris, Ocon, Lance Stroll and Sines rounded out the top ten.
Qatar race: second half
The drawn-out pit stop played a cruel joke with Bottas: on lap 34, the front left tire on Valtteri’s car broke down and burst. Finn had to drive half a circle on three wheels before entering the pits. After stopping, the Mercedes pilot was in 12th position – the race was completely ruined for him. The Silver Arrows invited Bottas to the retirement pits and stopped Valtteri’s torment on the track.
Bottas’s puncture became a sign for some that one pit stop for the entire distance would not be enough. A few laps after the incident with Valtteri, the leaders drove in for a fresh “medium”. Max again changed tires first, and Lewis responded in kind after a few seconds. After the pit stops, the gap between the leaders has not changed. At the same time, Perez stopped in the pits. The Mexican left seventh, but the pilots rushing ahead were not going to change the tires.
Alonso called on his team-mate Ocon to defend against Perez as hard as possible, as Fernando had the opportunity to finish on the podium for the first time in a long time. The Frenchman did everything he could, but Sergio was stronger than Esteban. The Mexican did not need to overtake Norris: Lando broke down and went to the second pit stop. Fewer and fewer laps remained before the finish line, and the gap between Perez and Alonso in the battle for the third line was shrinking.
In the last laps, the tires of some of the riders began to explode. The punctures hit the cars of Williams pilots George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. The Canadian was unable to get to the pits, and the race management turned on the virtual peyscar mode. Nevertheless, the last lap was held under the green flag.
Return of Alonso
Lewis Hamilton brought the matter to victory without any problems, but Max Verstappen managed to finish second and take the point for the fastest lap of the race. The gap between the leaders of the season was reduced to eight points, and this is two stages before the end of the season. The final of the year promises to be extremely nervous.
Perez was unable to catch up with Alonso, and Fernando took the podium for the first time since 2014. This is an amazing achievement for Alpin, which allowed the team to break away from Alpha Tauri in the championship. Esteban Ocon also finished in the top five. Stroll, Sainz and Leclair finished behind this group. Because of the suspicion of a puncture, Norris was invited to McLaren, which made the Briton only ninth. Vettel closed the top ten. And Gasley, having made two pit stops, flew out of the points zone after starting from the first row.
Nikita Mazepin, after problems on Friday and Saturday, as expected, closed the race protocol.
#Qatari #Lines #Lewis #Hamilton #won #Doha #Grand #Prix