Lewis Hamilton dominates Qatar F1 GP to narrow Max Verstappen’s lead

Lewis Hamilton dominates Qatar F1 GP to narrow Max Verstappen’s lead

Twenty races in a grueling Formula 1 season, Lewis Hamilton remains relentless and unwavering in his determination to lead the title fight to the end. With his dominant victory over rival Max Verstappen in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, the world champion ensured that this captivating and finely balanced battle hung in the balance. Hamilton is clearly motivated and rightly so on this proof of the Losail circuit, where his Mercedes team may have delivered the car to make the difference at a crucial time.

Hamilton won with a consummate and controlled run from pole to flag, perfect with a pace Verstappen couldn’t challenge. He reduced the Dutchman’s lead from 14 to eight points, with 52 points available in the last two races, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

A visibly energetic Hamilton, who took back-to-back wins after the last round victory in Brazil, relished the challenge and it was impossible not to feel the momentum changed behind his attempt to win a record-breaking eighth title. “I love it,” he said. “I like the close battle, the pressure and the demands it places on you and the whole team. I really enjoyed it, we will bring our triple A’s for the last two races. I feel good, the car is better than ever, I am looking forward to the battle.

Verstappen’s Red Bull just couldn’t keep pace with the Mercedes but at least stayed close to Hamilton for the entire race as they left the field far in their wake. The Dutchman considered his second place a very good recovery after starting from seventh after receiving a grid penalty shortly before the race for not slowing down due to waving yellow flags in qualifying. Alpine’s Fernando Alonso notched a superb third, his first podium in 104 races, the last in Hungary in 2014.

Mercedes and Hamilton delivered to Losail with the flawless execution they know will be needed to win the title but, most importantly, with a frightening pace. Their car, team principal Toto Wolff confirmed when asked, was better now than it had been all season with its driver in menacing form following his reinstatement from penalties in Brazil.

“Yes, definitely,” he said. “The car is quick in a straight line and good on the corners. Lewis is totally in the zone, the lion woke up in Interlagos. Saudi Arabia should be a good lead for us. If everyone finishes the race, [the battle] will go to Abu Dhabi. Notably, both are night races in conditions very similar to those in Qatar where Mercedes eagerly found the right place for the car.

Verstappen admitted there was nothing he could do. “We just didn’t have the pace to match them,” he said. “But there are two races left and a lot can happen. After the race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who had endured a grueling weekend, found no respite when summoned by stewards for potentially discrediting the sport after his critical comments regarding the preparation of the Verstappen penalty.

He received a warning, but Red Bull’s deficit compared to Mercedes will be of more concern. After Verstappen’s victory in Mexico, Horner had said they would have to throw out the form in anticipation of who might have the advantage in these final encounters. Yet with Hamilton’s back-to-back wins, that form appears to have shifted ominously in favor of Mercedes at a pivotal moment.

Lewis Hamilton is serene ahead as he wins the Qatar Grand Prix. Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters

Hamilton was four tenths ahead in qualifying and had a definite advantage in the pace of the race. Red Bull is still questioning the legality of Mercedes’ rear wing and the straight-line speed it gives their car and, after a weekend dominated by heated politics between the teams, this off-track battle is likely to take place in the flight attendant’s room only to intensify.

In Qatar, where the higher downforce version of the wing is preferred, Red Bull believed no advantage was gained, but they could still protest in the next round. Mercedes remains convinced of its legality and regardless, having finished first here, will be confident for the decisive races.

It was Hamilton’s race from the start, especially after Verstappen’s penalty kept him from fighting for the lead from the first corner. Hamilton did what was necessary with a strong start, maintaining his lead in the first corner while Verstappen also started like a ball.

He went from seventh to fourth coming out of the first corner. Behind Alonso and Pierre Gasly, he had passed them both on lap five to take second place, but from there the first two positions were established.

They duly traded the lap time slugfest that has become familiar this season as they traded the fastest laps, but Hamilton kept the lead to five seconds as he left the field.

On lap 13, however, Hamilton began to show the pace he had shown in qualifying, putting more than six seconds on his rival as the two maintained a fierce pace, already 30 seconds behind Alonso in the third.

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They clashed at both pit stops and Verstappen admitted he couldn’t challenge. “Let’s have a little fun, we’re going to be second anyway,” he said and the team duly gave him the green light to hammer his tires, but he still couldn’t make an impression on the tires. seven seconds ahead.

Verstappen made a late save to secure the fastest lap for the extra point but, with a 10-second lead in the final third, the world champion had done enough to seal a comfortable victory. It was somewhat commonplace in Hamilton’s 102-win pantheon, but inevitably significant for the championship.

Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez was fourth and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon fifth. Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were sixth and 10th for Aston Martin, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc seventh and eighth for Ferrari and Lando Norris ninth for McLaren.


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