World champion Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton made his name in Formula One history as the first winner of the first edition of the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday at Losail International Circuit, the 20th stage of the world championship.
The seven-times world champion raced into the Qatar Grand Prix to add to the pressure on Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen, the drivers’ leader and runner-up on Sunday, with two rounds remaining.
The next race will be held in Saudi Arabia in the first hosting of the first category in the streets of Jeddah, before the curtain falls on the competitions at the renewed Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The Qatar Grand Prix was held a year before the emirate’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, in the presence of a large number of football stars, such as Englishman David Beckham, Italian Andrea Pirlo, French Marcel Desailly, Dutchman Patrick Kluivert and Brazilian Cafu.
Qatar will be absent from the 2022 calendar due to its football association, while it will return from 2023, after it signed a 10-year contract to host the first category.
Al-Sir, starting from the first place, finished the race in front of “Mad Max”, who started seventh, after he was punished by dropping 5 places for not complying with the double yellow flags during the third period of official testing, and succeeded at the end of the race by grabbing the fastest lap point to add to his tally.
Hamilton passed 57 laps in a time of 1:24.28.471 hours, 25.743 seconds ahead of Verstappen, reducing the difference between them again to eight points with two rounds remaining (351.5 to 343.5).
“We needed these points today. I can’t wait to watch the race again on TV to see what happened behind me,” said the 36-year-old, euphoric about his victory.
“I’m so grateful for these points. What a year. Winning two races in a row makes you feel good. I feel physically fitter and better than ever. Let’s go to the next race!” .
On his part, the 24-year-old Verstappen, eager for his first title, spoke of the race, saying: “Our starting order has been adjusted, but fortunately it was good.”
“Of course, we knew it was going to be tough until the end but we’re keeping it exciting. This circuit (Lusail) was fun to drive as well, I feel good and it’s going to be a tough fight until the end.”
Hamilton won his second successive victory after Brazil, and seventh this season and 102 in his career, while the victory was the 123rd for his Mercedes team, which missed the opportunity to further consolidate its lead in the constructors’ standings after the withdrawal of his second Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas on lap 48, knowing that he was punished by dropping three places as well for not Respecting him, he raised the yellow flag, to start sixth, after he scored the third fastest time in the official tests.
The “Silver Arrows” team raised its score to 546.5 points, only 5 points ahead of its direct chaser, Red Bull, while Ferrari occupies third place (297.7).
The two-time world champion in 2005 and 2006 Alpine (former Renault) Spaniard Fernando Alonso reached third in his first ascent to the podium since the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix and the 98th in his career.
The 40-year-old El Matador, who was chosen as the best driver during the race, expressed his happiness with this achievement, saying, “Finally, after seven years of waiting… I have waited a long time.”
With the start of the race, Hamilton maintained his lead, while Verstappen advanced to fourth place and Alonso to second, taking advantage of his start from the clean section of the circuit to beat French Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri), who had started second due to penalties.
As expected, Verstappen did not wait long to get past Gasly, who made a leadership blunder by slipping off the racing track, opening the door for the Dutchman to excel before the first corner and move up to third place on lap four, before the latter pounced on Alonso on the next lap to be behind Hamilton.
Verstappen, who was suffering from the rear wing of his car and its tires, stopped on lap 18, to return to the track in second place in front of Alonso, and Mercedes immediately responded to Red Bull’s strategy and entered Hamilton to supply his car with hard tyres.
At a time when Verstappen seemed to surrender to the advantage of the Briton and his Mercedes, Bottas and Red Bull’s second driver Sergio Perez, who started from 11th place, were advancing in the standings, taking third places for the Finn and fourth for the Mexican.
Mercedes’ hopes of further consolidating its lead in the constructors’ standings suffered a blow after Bottas’ left front tire was punctured on lap 34, forcing him to enter the podiums (equipped with hard tyres) and lose a lot of time and return to the circuit in 14th place outside the points table, before withdrawing Later due to damage to his car.
In the stopping strategy, Verstappen and his colleague Pires entered for the second time on lap 41 after they were equipped with medium tyres, while Hamilton followed suit after two laps. The race continued until the last lap 57, without any change in positions, as Hamilton crossed the finish line in first place.
The top ten were completed by Peres and French Esteban Ocon (Albin), Canadian Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Ferrari Spanish driver Carlos Sainz and his colleague Charles Leclerc of Monaco, British Valentino Norris (McLaren) and German Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin).