Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Losail International Circuit, 2021

Hamilton dominates Qatar Grand Prix to cut Verstappen’s points lead

2021 Qatar Grand Prix summary

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Lewis Hamilton has won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix at Losail International Circuit from Max Verstappen in emphatic style.

The Mercedes driver led from lights to flag across 57 laps of racing, pitting twice during the race en route to his sixth win of the season.

He finished 25.743 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen, following a late Virtual Safety Car period during which his championship rival made a ‘free’ pit stop to fit a fresh set of soft tyres and secure the fastest lap bonus point.

Verstappen still leads the championship with this result, but Hamilton has closed the gap down to just eight points with two races left to run.

Fernando Alonso successfully executed a one-stop strategy to finish third, for his first Formula 1 podium since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso managed 31 laps on a set of hard tyres, as several other drivers who attempted one-stop strategies suffered from tyre failures caused by striking the sharp kerbs at corner exit.

Valtteri Bottas retired after 48 laps. He made a poor start, and suffered a left front tyre failure as he attempted a one-stop strategy.

With Bottas’ retirement, and Sergio Perez scoring a fourth place finish, Red Bull have closed to within five points of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.

The other drivers to suffer punctures after long stints on a single set of tyres included the McLaren-Mercedes of Lando Norris, who held on to a ninth place finish; as well as the two Williams of George Russell in 17th, and Nicholas Latifi, whose stopped car triggered the VSC intervention.

Esteban Ocon finished fifth for his best result since winning the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lance Stroll finished a season-best sixth place, ahead of the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr in seventh and Charles Leclerc in eighth; Sebastian Vettel finished behind Norris in tenth.

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix reaction

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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108 comments on “Hamilton dominates Qatar Grand Prix to cut Verstappen’s points lead”

  1. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    21st November 2021, 15:45

    Did look far too easy for Hamilton this weekend, that said Verstappen made very short work of climbing up to 2nd. Had he started on the front row he would have likely lead at the end of lap 1. Would he have held of Hamilton for the race, unlikely.

    1. @brightlampshade Verstappen started well but also on the clean side, he may well have suffered more at the start and even in the race starting second with Bottas in third.

    2. Yeah, fairly good race from the two again. Don’t think Max had the pace today even if he would have started 2nd.

    3. Not sure, as he would’ve been on the dirty side (though he did have an absolutely crazy start).

    4. Did look far too easy for Hamilton this weekend

      Also, Mercedes saved Lewis’s Interlagos engine for the next 2 races.

  2. … Did Vettel just made a Soft/Medium 1-stop race?

  3. Mercedes, Hamilton AND Bottas will need to make a special effort in the last to races to keep the Constructors…. There is now no room for mistakes.

    1. Oh come on… They lost just 6 points with a DNF. What special effort? Finishing 2 races with both cars?

    2. Yeah, not only does Hamilton need to win the next races, they need Bottas to score points and keep Perez behind really. Nice to have both titles closely fought really, when was the last time we had that?

  4. Amazing speed from Hamilton and Verstappen too relative to the rest. Excellent also from Alonso, a worthy podium when it looked like a tyre-induced upset at the end was possible. Lucky for Max that after a few laps waiting they decided for a VSC just as he set fastest lap, with just a couple of laps to go (so they could have waited maybe?)

    1. He was going to go for red just before the end anyway, so wouldn’t have mattered. Luckily for Lewis it wasn’t a full safety car. Liberty/FIA resisted the temptation.

      1. MotoGP track so gaps to clear cars are too small as expected(same issue at Mugello GP last year).

        1. Think it was mainly the gravel with a flat tyre and wheel rim stuck in it that meant they couldn’t just push it out like normal.

          1. Those gravel traps are also there for MotoGP as they hate tarmac runoffs.

        2. Still no kills? Seriously? Come on, get one!

    2. Thought the same. The car had been on the run off a few laps before the VSC so it’s not sure what the point of it was.
      Awesome from fernando best podium of the season.
      Should be a interesting end to the season if the fia stay out of it.

      1. My actual suspicion was that the VSC was to protect from anymore blowouts, especially Alonso! Not to say I didn’t want to see him in third.

        1. Or just temporarily as the Marshalls came on track to remove the car

          1. Mayrton that makes absolutely NO sense . Latifis car was stationary for 3 laps before VSC was deployed. the race would’ve been over in another 7 minutes so why not just leave the car in place?
            Also the car was miles off track off the racing line, Latifi was out of the car, car was in a safe position so a VSC was completely unnecessary.
            Playing devils advocate If FIA takes safety seriously why didn’t they just call a VSC instantly as Merc could’ve pitted Lewis and have green lap running for fastest lap.
            Was the reason for delaying VSC done tactically to deny merc a cheap pit stop?

            maybe someone at race control wanted to either protect max +1 fastest lap point, protect Pirelli as their cheese tyres was exploding or alonsos podium or even all three so the marshalls was “instructed ” to remove to car as that would be an automatic vsc trigger and perfect cover to neutralize to race. It might seem nit picky but i am getting sick of the nascar style stewarding lately and just want some consistency.

            Who knows what the reason was but what is certain is that the VSC was totally avoidable and destroyed the end of the race similar to Bahrain 2019

          2. Don’t let the conspiracies get to you.

    3. @david-br
      Verstappen had already the fastest lap when the Williams was punctured. Even if they have issued the VSC immediately,
      Hamilton wasn’t going to stop for the fastest lap and hand the win for Verstappen. He wasn’t too far ahead and Bottas’s car was already retired. On the other hand Verstappen had only to wait for Hamilton to pass the pit entry in the last lap to pit for fresh tyres.

      1. @tifoso1989 Yes, but I’m working on the assumption Lewis was going for a fastest lap that lap, but I’ve no actual idea as I wasn’t following his sector times. Obviously Verstappen still had the advantage in second to pit for one final go.

        1. @david-br

          Obviously Verstappen still had the advantage in second to pit for one final go.

          Exactly, all the ping pongs between him and Hamilton for the fastest lap were useless because it was only going to be sorted in the final lap with Verstappen having the advantage to have the final pit stop.

          1. @tifoso1989 But still better to force MV into having to make that stop, I mean, however good Red Bull are at them! Still it’s par for the course, it always looked like a 6-pointer for Lewis even a third into the race.

    4. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      22nd November 2021, 4:49

      @david-br the timing of that vsc was unbelievable – it was clear it was going to stay until Lewis couldn’t fight for fastest lap. They must have considered a safety car so that Max can plow straight into Lewis.

  5. Didn’t see Max’s rear wing flutter. How was that “fixed”.

    1. I think they went to previous spec of the actuator

  6. That fastest lap point for Max could be huge. If they each win one race, Hamilton now needs fastest lap in both.

      1. Yep. Haha. Thought he was 1 point behind now.

    1. It depends on where they finish in the “other” race they don’t win.

      Verstappen needs a win and a 4th for the championship. Hamilton needs 2 wins.

    2. ? Doesn’t that just mean a straightforward Max championship win still? Maybe I’m not following…

    3. No it isn’t. It’s not a wild assumption to think that these will be the Top 2 in the last two races and if that’s the case it makes absolutely no difference.

      If Lewis wins both, there’s noting Max can do (and of course vice versa) and more or less Lewis has to win both.

      Yes. The FLP will be relevant if both end up 2nd and 3rd in both races – but is that really going to happen for both?

      Only other scenario is Lewis 2nd and Max 3rd. Gap is then 5 points and so the FLP for the final two races could widen to 7, if Lewis got them both. However, Max would still win the Championship due to most poles.

      I just think the FLP is getting a little bit overplayed.

  7. Lol at everyone thinking this was gonna be a Monaco of a race. was clear as day that sweeping corners with multiple lines allow for closer following as seen at mugello last year. Faster / more open corners = less concertina effect = cars closer at the start of drs zone = easier overtake or side by side. Point and shoot / slow corners = more concertina effect = further away at start of drs zone = no side by side.

    1. Forgot to mention ‘for a given time difference’ in both last points. So even though time difference is the same, distance to car ahead or behind will change depending on how fast the cars are moving

    2. Which is why the Catalunya chicane needs to go.

    3. Yes the multiple lines through the first couple of corners delivered really well!

  8. Nice weekend overall.

    I really liked Losail, it provided an extremely tricky track to drive for the drivers in qualy conditions & it was pretty nice on Sunday as well. Overtaking was possible, despite fears for the opposite. It was a really safe place to race as well,so overall it passed it’s “crash test”.

    Great weekend for Alonso and Alpine, Fernando definitely deserved to get a podium in here. His early stint on softs was amazing.

    On the other hand, a horrible weekend for Alpha Tauri. They really didn’t have any pace on race trim, in whatever tyre they tried. They managed to go from the front row (helped by some circumstances) to outside the points,with Bottas DNFing as well….

    Mercedes really screwed Bottas once again but i guess this won’t change at any point….

    1. Losail could have been a pretty good track without DRS; the straight is very long and with DRS most passes were childlishly easy

      1. I personally liked the DRS zone in here, I didn’t find it that powerful overall.

        I think a majority of fans(me included) feared that the last corner would create a lot of dirty air in race trim when following closely, but thankfully this wasn’t the case.
        In fact, we saw a lot of different lines in there, which helped cars with extra grip and eventually it aided overtaking.

  9. Lol, Horner been summoned to the stewards, perhaps they’ve had enough of he’s jibber jabber :)

    1. video just in of Horner at the stewards

      https://youtu.be/y36iYBbLr6w

      1. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣👍 made me chuckle.

      2. LOL … you had me there.

    2. Karen finally gets to see the manager.

  10. Bottas: starting ahead of Max in a quicker car…
    Yet another illustration how average he is.
    In Russia similar: starting 5 places ahead of Max and behind Max before the first series of pitstops.

    Would be great to have such a guy as a team mate for 5 seasons.

    1. So true. For years in the most crazy dominant car but such an average driver. No wonder Hamilton finds him the best team he ever had.

    2. As if Perez is some world beater. And that ex team mate Gasly started P2 and where did he end up. Max also always had easy team mates except Sainz.
      Still on his day Bottas is a very fast driver much better than the over rated Perez.

      1. But Max didn’t win the WDC 5 years.
        Lewis had the best car and near to none competition from his team mates.

      2. Max doesn’t care who RB puts next to him unlike Hamilton. Princes Hamilton is pretty protected by Toto. What else is expected. They’re married.

        1. Yea, it doesn’t matter whether its rookies that can’t cut the mustard, or someone on the scrapheap as no other team wanted him, Marko makes sure Max gets the teammate he deserves.

          1. Max had Ricciardo. He was a lot better than anyone else at RB as a teammate. But he fled. You can protect princes all you want. It’s a fact Bottas was his slave. Unlike Rosberg.

    3. I use Bottas to judge how overpowered Mercedes is. Even being this mediocre, Bottas average finish in WDC is between 2nd/3rd. This year he will possibly finish 3rd. And he is not the third best driver on the grid.

    4. lexusreliability?
      21st November 2021, 21:56

      @trib4udi

      I’m sure Gasly, Albon etc were stunning drivers. More so than Bottas? The only descent team mate Max ever had was Ricciardo, who put some manners on him twice.

  11. All setup for Max wiping both of them out on the first corner of Abu Dhabi to win championship.

  12. The fastest lap was key. That means that even if Hamilton takes fastest lap and a win in the next race all Verstappen needs to do to lead at the start of the last race is to finish second in Saudi Arabia. Should both fail to finish in Abu Dhabi he would win the title.

    1. That assumes that both cars failing to finish at Abu Dhabi actually occurs – let’s be real here, they’ve had no engine failures and unlikely to do so.

      Of course Max could take Lewis out at Abu Dhabi – but again, unlikely

      The reality is, that it will now probably make no difference

    2. Well spotted. #33 is 8 points ahead. With a victory and flap by #44 and #33 second, its a tie in points (#33 ahead on countback). A double DNF in Abu Dhabi would clinch it. Whatever means it takes, #44 has earned them a thousand times over.

      1. lexusreliability?
        21st November 2021, 16:19

        Difficult day at the office for Max and his fans huh? It’s slipping away :)

    3. lexusreliability?
      21st November 2021, 16:18

      I think the writing is now on the wall for Red Bull and Verstappen. Unless Max crashes his way to the titl- Hamilton/Merc have Max/Verstappen beaten. Might have taken most of the season for Merc to get their stuff together but they have now.

    4. If Hamilton wins and takes fastest lap in SA they will have equal points going to AD. Whoever finishes ahead is WDC.

      1. Assuming Max finishes 2nd

    5. yeah, where’s your wing man when you need him. That fastest lap should have been Bottas’ with nothing to loose.

  13. Mercedes play too safe and i fear that is not how you win the championship. For the first pitstop they brought Lewis in too quickly after Max, even though his pace was strong and he opposed the decision. Had he been on some 6 to 7 laps younger tire that would help at the end with fastest lap. Then for his last pitstop with some 15 odd laps remaining they could have gone to the soft tyre to try and get the fastest lap.
    The grid penalty of Max saved them otherwise with brave strategies and a good start, Redbull might have nicked the win here.
    Mercedes needs to pick up their strategy game.

    1. I don’t think there was a single moment that win looked in doubt. Max in 2nd, would still have been say 3s in front of Max – still too far behind for the undercut.

      Hamilton appeared to have plenty of power in reserve and this was with the old engine.

      Mercedes strategy was perfect. No need to take risks when not needed. Something, that Max should have learned at Silverstone!!

      1. Mercedes strategy was steered by following Redbull. They got the fastest car by far and still did not dared to take initiative.
        With a car that fast they could allow that.
        The sacrificed bottas, again.

        1. Not sure how you work that one out Erijke, bottas would have had a podium comfortably, bar the tyre failure. (I suppose you foresaw that) Alonso was 22sec behind him and would have been on older tyres. Pitstop loss 24sec. Would also have prevented Max putting at the end for Flap.
          An excellent comeback drive, but lost in you.

    2. i disagree on all points. there was nothing to be gained by not responding to Max’s first pit stop. who’s to say if the undercut was worth 3 seconds a lap here? why take that risk?

      then on his last pit stop, again they had nothing to win (Verstappen or Perez were going to get FLAP regardless given the massive gaps to the rest of the field even without the safety car) and everything to lose considering people got punctures because of the kerbs (and probably the more wear you have on your tyres the more likely you are to get a puncture).

      i think it was a 100% correct strategy and they would (and should) have done the same every time

      1. I am not saying the strategy was wrong. It was just too safe, too predictable. The last pit stop of both Redbull and Lewis came around the same time so had Lewis gone on to a brand new set of softs, he may very well have the fastest lap. Needed more bravery. Risks of puncture was there for all, even for Max when he went for the fastest lap multiple times in the last 10 laps.

        1. I’d agree if say getting the fastest lap point meant that Lewis couldn’t win the WDC by winning the last two.

          But given, it’s in Mercedes hands, who let’s be honest seem to have around an extra 0.3s with their new engine (and that’s been conservative).

          Very little to gain gambling for FLP – it would only be useful if they both races end up with Lewis 2nd and Max 3rd (as then Lewis can only match Max on points and would lose the WDC on races won) Extremely unlikely to occur.

        2. No choice, SC could have given Max the win, why risk it?

    3. I see your point. But in retrospect, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway with Verstappen on Softs at the end.

    4. It’s all irrelevant. Max and Lewis will most likely finish 1-2 in both remaining races. Lewis needs to win them both, Max just needs to win one. Fastest laps won’t matter, and today’s didn’t affect that either.

    5. Bottas’s tyre failure allowed Max to pit and have a shot at the Flap on softs. Without it, he would have been 3rd and inside Max’s pit window, so obviously red bull wouldn’t have given up second place to do a third stop.

  14. Congratulations to cars a second a lap quicker than everything else being a second a lap quicker than everything else.

    Most overrated driver ever

    1. Who, Max?

      1. Bottas. How is he finishing 3rd in the championhp this year?

        1. Because Perez is in the other Red Bull?

    2. If there’s anything this season has shown, it’s that both Hamilton and Verstappen are way ahead of the pack. Today was phenomenal from both. Max was having a better season than LH but in Brazil and at Qatar, Hamilton has been producing some of his finest ever driving. Appreciate it while you can.

      1. Positive, fair comments are so rare.

        Thank you for this!

      2. Agreed that Max and Lewis are the class of the field, and dominating their teammates.

        But let’s not pretend that Lewis has suddenly raised his game. Mercedes have just thrown away a few sandbags. With a car this dominant, Lewis can win without pressure. It always looks easy when there is no pressure.

    3. Sadly very true.

      Stunning effort for Max to STILL be leading the championship against the Merc rocket.

      1. Indeed, a statement of pure quality to survive that power and ridiculous straight line so2.

          1. Another disingenious comment. The speed trap means next to nothing in F1, and everybody who knows the F1 101 gets it. Why, according to it, Nikita Mazepin should be winning everything this season, he has the fastest car, ain’t it so?

    4. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
      22nd November 2021, 0:09

      oh you mean the team that got fastest lap the past 2 races?

      1. Disingenious comment. Everybody knows the FLAP is a totally artificial situation. Fully charge batteries (and lose 1-2 secs) then pit for the softest compound (and lose 20+ secs) and give it all for a lap, while the truly fastest car ahead is managing well worn (and likely harder, i.e. slower) tyres.

        Of course yo know it, unless you are a total ignoramus, so whom are you trying to mislead?

  15. Wins this year besides the top two:
    – Checo: 1
    – McLaren: 1
    – Alpine: 1
    – Noob team: 0

    I can’t stop mocking, can I?

    1. Forgetting Bottas’ Turkish win much?

  16. Pretty much Hamilton and Verstappen nullifying FIA two weeks in a row.

    Drama incoming.

    That being said Lewis looks mighty comfortable, Max has no answer to his speed.

    Bottas and Perez are in a different class, if anything Red Bull looks way more comfortable in WCC race.

  17. Stunning race from this generations current GOAT Fernando Alonso. Imagine how fast he would have been in the Merc rocketship!?!

    The championship would have been wrapped up races ago!

    1. Yes we’ve been there already in 2007. Max would already be WDC that’s true. :)

    2. lexusreliability?
      21st November 2021, 21:58

      @nandy

      Well we already know he wasn’t as fast as Hamilton at Mclaren, outqualified and oputclassified by a rookie and all.

    3. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
      22nd November 2021, 0:08

      Alonso’s greatest weakness (or is it misfortune) is that he moved teams at inopportune times. Could’ve been WDC in 2008, could’ve been WDC in 2017/8 too I would argue or at least in contention like Vettel was, but outwore his welcome too often.

  18. Hearing Alonso saying with the right tires he would’ve had a go at Hamilton at the start almost made me tear up. He still has it and is so confident in his ability to drive an F1 car at the front. You know it by his interviews and by the way he fights a faster car compared to most other drivers. Beautiful race craft. On another note this track doesn’t belong on the calendar, mostly boring except for DRS and Fernando. The penalties spiced it up too.

  19. I’m a Lewis fan, he is fast on 1 lap and great at race pace. Max is the same love or hate him he is the real deal(admittedly he has his faults)Today Lewis and Max was miles ahead of the rest of the field. When Lewis retires after next year who is going to challenge Max?

    1. By then George Russell will have proven himself as the new wonderkin.

      The real qestion is whether any of the up coming drivers are prepared to drive as hard nosed as Verstappen, or will they just rollover whenever he appears in their mirrors? This season Hamilton showed he can give as good as he gets, but i have to wonder if Verstappen’s intimidatory style of driving will have to the others capitulating, leaving him as champion by default.

      1. Josh that is this a joke? Alonso is a delusional past his prime driver who had near ZERO chance challenging Lewis unless he drove into the back of him into T1 but congrats for his fluke podium after the top drivers had grid penalties, Bottas who would’ve been 3rd had to dnf due to damage thanks to trash cheese Pirelli tyres and late VSC saved his tyres exploding.

        Ajaxn
        George Russell is clearly faster than Bottas so that will help in both championships next year assuming merc and rb are still dominate and another team does not pull a 2009 brawn.

        1. God herself would have zero chances challenging lew in an Alpine. Put Alonso in a Merc and see him trounce lew race after race.

        2. the top drivers had grid penalties

          I agree with you here, when you imply that lew is not a top driver (he got no grid penalty). Yep, just average.

    2. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
      22nd November 2021, 0:05

      You don’t really know until a driver is pushed to that point. Rosberg and Hamilton were quite friendly in Bahrain 2014 but the former felt he had to change his psychological outlook in order to finally beat his teammate in 2016.

      Norris and Verstappen are very friendly right now but if Mclaren are able to produce a championship winning car, who knows how Lando will react? In that same token, same with Lando vs Sainz, the old chums.

  20. There will be 1 point or less between the two at the end of the season and probably in Max’s favour. I have a funny feeling ;-)

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      22nd November 2021, 4:31

      @daviddjwest I hope you’re wrong…

    2. A final tie in points with Max winning on countback would be fun, specially if caused by a very touch-and-go steward decision, with all the fanchildren foaming at the mouth for months, haha.

  21. Still waiting for a ham retirement to give karma back for Silverstone….

    1. You mean like at Monza? That’s what you get when you don’t leave a space…

  22. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    22nd November 2021, 4:47

    Lewis needs to win both remaining races or Max has to suffer some sort of issue – that’s 4 victories in a row. The championship has been decidedly more difficult for Lewis this season. From the fights with Norris, Leclerc, Alonso, Verstappen, to heroics on track he’s really had to put himself in contention.

    Verstappen doesn’t need to overtake anyone. Bottas can’t really stop a Red Bull for a split second and yet somehow is still managing to outperform Perez. Gasly can’t keep the car on track or take 1 point from Red Bull. Alonso defended against Verstappen by driving straight :-)

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