The Qatar Grand Prix didn’t start well for Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz. All three picked up grid penalties after ignoring yellow flags during qualifying and were demoted down the grid for the race. Verstappen thus started the race in 7th after qualifying 2nd. In a tough championship battle, it was the wrong moment for Verstappen to pick up a penalty. Nevertheless, when it came to the race, it didn’t take long for Verstappen to storm back into 2nd. Ahead of him, Hamilton cruised away into the lead and steadily built up a comfortable buffer zone.
Bottas, who was demoted from 3rd to 6th, dropped down to 10th on the opening lap. He slowly recovered to 3rd. Bottas opted for a one-stop tyre strategy, but on lap 34 he suffered a tyre puncture, ran wide into a gravel trap and limped back to the pits for a tyre and replacement front wing. The Mercedes driver fell down the order to 13th and never recovered.
Bottas was forced to retire by lap 51 after sustaining floor damage during his return to the pits with the damaged tyre. At the front Lewis Hamilton was never really in trouble, he could afford to push when required. And when he didn’t he had enough pace in reserve to build up a marginal buffer to Verstappen on a lap by lap basis. A virtual safety car was deployed on lap 55, which was the most interesting part of the race for Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso benefitted from the virtual safety car, he finished third in his Alpine despite 1-stoppers suffering high tyre wear and ultimately tyre failures. With two races to go, Hamilton is chipping away at Verstappen’s championship lead. Eight points now separate the top two title protagonists. It seems Hamilton and Mercedes has the edge right now, but it will continue to be a tight battle until the final race.
2021 Qatar Grand Prix Results: Top 10
1.) Lewis Hamilton Leader
2.) Max Verstappen (+25.743)
3.) Fernando Alonso (+59.457)
4.) Sergio Perez (+62.306 2)
5.) Esteban Ocon (+80.570)
6.) Lance Stroll (+81.274)
7.) Carlos Sainz (+81.911)
8.) Charles Leclerc (+83.126)
9.) Lando Norris 1L
10.) Sebastian Vettel