Lewis Hamilton clinched a comfortable win at the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix to seal his seventh win of the season. Max Verstappen finished in second position to limit the damage and keep the lead in the drivers’ championship.
Fernando Alonso with a well-crafted race secured a podium position. The Spaniard was back on the podium for the first time since 2014.
The race at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar started at five pm local time under the lights with air temperatures at 26 degree C and track temperatures at 31 degree C.
There was breaking news before the race started that Verstappen was given a five-place grid penalty for not slowing down under double-waved yellow flags in qualification. Valtteri Bottas was given a three-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags.
This mixed up the starting grid with Hamilton and Pierre Gasly on the front row. Alonso and Lando Norris were on the second row.
Carlos Sainz and Bottas started on the third row. The drivers’ championship leader Verstappen started in seventh position with Yuki Tsunoda on the fourth row.
Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel completed the top ten positions on the grid. Hamilton started on the medium compound tyres with Gasly, Alonso and Norris on the soft compound tyres.
Hamilton had a good start to lead Gasly and Alonso into Turn 1. Verstappen had a great start to gain three places and was in fourth position as he went into Turn 1.
Bottas had a poor start and dropped to eleventh position. Vettel lost seven places and fell to seventeenth position.
Verstappen quickly dispatched Gasly and Alonso and was in second position behind Hamilton. By the end of lap 10, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen was 5.507 seconds.
The order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Gasly, Norris, Sergio Pérez, Ocon, Sainz, Bottas, Stroll, and Leclerc.
Tsunoda started the pit stops on lap 10 and rejoined in last position. On lap 18, Verstappen pitted and rejoined in second position.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team immediately pitted Hamilton and he rejoined in the race lead with a gap of 10.293 seconds to Verstappen.
Pérez made rapid progress as he got into fourth position and Bottas was in sixth position.
On lap 20, Pérez pitted and rejoined in twelfth position. Bottas had a long first stint and stayed in third position as the drivers around him pitted.
By lap 30, Pérez overtook a feisty Alonso for fourth position. On lap 31, Hamilton had to get past a lot of backmarkers and Verstappen cut the lead to 6.35 seconds.
On lap 34, Bottas suffered a puncture and suffered front-wing damage. After a pit stop for a change of tyres and front-wing, the Finn rejoined in fourteenth position. The very long first stint was disastrous for Bottas.
On lap 37, Gasly pitted for a second time and rejoined in eleventh position. On lap 42, Verstappen pitted and rejoined in second position.
Pérez pitted and rejoined in seventh position. Hamilton also pitted and rejoined in first position, over nine seconds ahead of Verstappen.
On lap 46, Pérez was in sixth position as he got past Lance Stroll. With ten laps to go, Pérez got past Ocon for fifth position.
On lap 50, Norris pitted and rejoined in eleventh position. Bottas retired from the race to end a miserable day for him.
Both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi suffered tyre failures as the kerbs of the Losail circuit took their toll on the tyres and caused front-wing damage. All the drivers who had pitted only once were under pressure.
With four laps to go, a DRS-train of Ocon, Stroll, Sainz and Leclerc had developed from fifth position.
On lap 55, the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed to clear Latifi’s car. Verstappen pitted under the VSC for the soft compound tyres and rejoined in second position.
Hamilton clinched a comfortable win to take his seventh win of the season. Verstappen finished second and took the point for the fastest lap for good measure. Hamilton cut the lead in the drivers’ championship to eight points.
Alonso who had pitted only once was helped by the VSC to keep his third position. This was the Spaniard’s first podium since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2014.
It was a good recovery drive for Pérez as he finished in fourth position. With Bottas’s DNF, Red Bull Racing cut the 11 point lead of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship to five points.
Ocon completed a good day for the Alpine F1 Team as he finished in fifth position. Stroll made a one-stop strategy work to finish in sixth position.
The two Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Sainz and Leclerc finished in seventh and eighth positions. Norris and Vettel completed the top ten positions.
So the inaugural race at Qatar is done and dusted. Verstappen goes to another brand new race in Saudi Arabia with an eight point lead in the drivers’ championship.
The intense championship battles will resume in two weeks time at another brand new race at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Dec 03 -05 2021).
2021 Qatar Grand Prix Race Results:
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:24:28.471||57||25|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||+25.743s||57||19|
|3||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Alpine F1 Team||+59.457s||57||15|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Red Bull Racing||+62.306s||57||12|
|5||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||+80.570s||57||10|
|6||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||+81.274s||57||8|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||+81.911s||57||6|
|8||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||+83.126s||57||4|
|9||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||+1 lap||56||2|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||+1 lap||56||1|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||+1 lap||56||0|
|12||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||+1 lap||56||0|
|13||22||Yuki Tsunoda||JAP||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||+1 lap||56||0|
|14||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||+1 lap||56||0|
|15||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||+1 lap||56||0|
|16||47||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||+1 lap||56||0|
|17||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||+2 laps||55||0|
|18||9||Nikita Mazepin||RAF||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||+2 laps||55||0|
|NC||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||DNF||50||0|
|NC||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||DNF||48||0|