Winning the Qatar Grand Prix on November 21, Lewis Hamilton is only eight points behind the top of F1 of Max Verstappen. The star of the Mercedes team completed 57 laps on the Losail circuit with a time of 1 hour 24 minutes 28,471 seconds and finished 25 seconds ahead of Dutch opponent Verstappen. The remaining position on the podium belongs to the old general Fernando Alonso, the driver entered the top 3 for the first time in a race in seven years.
Hamilton breathed fire on the nape of the neck Verstappen
Thanks to this victory, Hamilton closed the gap with Verstappen from 14 to eight points when the season was only two stages ahead. With 25 points each for the top of a stage, plus one point if setting the fastest-lap, the two drivers from Mercedes and Red Bull promise to compete fiercely in the remaining two stages – Saudi Arabia Grand Prix on December 5 and Abu Dhabi on 12/12.
The most unfortunate thing for Mercedes is that Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas could not support the home team in the race. Right before the race, the Finnish driver was dropped three places to start by ignoring the yellow flag in the qualifying round. Bottas therefore had to start the race in sixth place, directly ahead of Verstappen – who was also dropped five places by the same error.
However, Bottas was soon overtaken by Verstappen in the first seconds before falling to the middle group. As he gradually regained his position and pursued for third place, the tire burst at the end of the race caused the Finnish driver to return to the pit ahead of schedule and then give up. Mercedes’ plan to use a 1-pit strategy for Bottas was regretfully ruined.
Meanwhile, the penalty could not make it difficult for Verstappen . After passing Bottas. The Dutch driver quickly handled Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris right after Turn 1. In the 5th round, Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso respectively defeated the generals of the RB16B. Right now, the distance between Hamilton and Verstappen is 3.7 seconds.
Red Bull ‘s efforts seem to be in vain when the opponent’s W12 is too powerful. Hamilton continuously set the fastest-lap to get away from the opponent. By lap 15, the distance between the two leading cars was 7 seconds. In round 17, Red Bull called Verstappen to change the tire, Hamilton also returned to the pit in the next round, although the starting tire was still in good condition.
When Hamilton returned to the track after changing the tires, the distance between the two cars had increased to 9 seconds. Unable to keep up with Mercedes’ pace, Red Bull had to call Verstappen to the pit in the final stages to secure an extra point thanks to setting the fastest-lap. The fact that the virtual safety car appeared in round 54 made Mercedes unable to stop in time to stop Verstappen. However, the victory in Qatar continues to help the German team hope to win a double when the season ends.
Besides the attraction of the individual championship race, the collective rankings are also very close. Bottas’ bad luck and fluctuating performance helps Red Bull to catch up with Mercedes on the rankings. The Austrian racing team is now only 6 points behind Mercedes. The gap would have been narrower if Sergio Perez had caught up with Alonso to take third place.
The tire bursts of Bottas and the Williams team – George Russell and Nicholas Latifi – at the end of the race due to continuous wide turns and rubbing against the roadside speedometer caused a virtual safety car state to be established in the laps. last. The Mexican driver did not have enough time to attack Alonso, who used the same one-pit strategy as the drivers with a blown tire and faced the same danger in the final stages.
“It feels great,” Hamilton said after the race, not hiding his satisfaction with the strength of W12. “I’m really pleased with the car. The car is more comfortable than I felt before, so it’s really a positive thing. We don’t have much time to celebrate and rest. We will calm down and keep fighting in the next stages.”
Verstappen calmly accepted defeat in Qatar. The Red Bull driver said: “We’re not going to give up. Obviously we’ve been lacking a bit of pace this week, but every race will be different. Of course I know things are going to get harder towards the end. but that’s great because it keeps things engaging.”
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