Lewis Hamilton wins inaugural Qatar Grand Prix

Hamilton put in an inch perfect performance on Monday morning (AEDT) in Qatar as he cut Max Verstappen’s world championship lead to eight points with just two races left on the 2021 Grand Prix calendar.

Hamilton started from pole at the Losail International Circuit and was never under any serious threat as he enjoyed a comfortable race that saw him record his seventh win of the campaign.

It was a different story for Verstappen who was forced to start in seventh after a five place grid penalty was passed down on the Dutchman only hours before lights out.

21 November 2021, Qatar, Lusail: Motorsport, Formula 1 World Championship, Qatar Grand Prix: British Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads the field at the start. Photo: Hasan Bratic/dpa (Photo by Hasan Bratic/picture alliance via Getty Images)

However, Red Bull’s star man was able to fight back to earn himself second spot and 19 valuable points as the championship reaches boiling point.

"It was pretty lonely at the front," said Hamilton, who is enjoying the challenge from Verstappen. "I love it. I love the close battle and the pressure and the demands it puts on you and the whole team. I've thoroughly enjoyed it."

Meanwhile, Red Bull boss Christian Horner landed himself with an official warning from race stewards for pre-race comments made about Verstappen’s penalty.

When summoned to the stewards after the race, he said: “We’re really struggling to understand it. It looks like a complete balls-up.

“I think it’s just a rogue marshal that’s stuck a flag out. He has not been instructed to by the FIA. They’ve got to have control of their marshals, it’s as simple as that.”

Verstappen was still upbeat when discussing the final two races despite what was a challenging weekend for him and his team.

“Our starting position was compromised, but luckily we had a really good start,” he said.

“Of course, I know it’s going to be difficult to the end, but it keeps it nice, keeps it exciting. This track was fun to drive as well. I feel good, but it’s going to be a tight battle to the end.”

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 21: Third placed Fernando Alonso of Spain and Alpine F1 Team celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 21, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso had a night to remember after he finished in third and made it onto the podium for the first time since 2014. Pre-race penalties to Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas gave the Spaniard the upper hand as he started in third on the grid.

A clinical drive from Sergio Perez saw him come in fourth after beginning the race in 11th on the grid. Those points could prove to be vital for Red Bull who trail Mercedes by just five points on the Constructors’ Championship after Bottas failed to finish in Qatar.

A memorable weekend for Alpine saw both drivers finish in the top five with Esteban Ocon sneaking in behind Perez, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were in sixth and 10th for Aston Martin, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished in seventh and eighth while Lando Norris salvaged ninth for McLaren.

Daniel Ricciardo came away empty handed after he was forced to settle with 12th place for McLaren.

Driver Standings

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3 Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
4 Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
5 Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
6 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
7 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
8 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
9 Lando Norris (McLaren)
10 Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

See upcoming fixtures on the 2021 Formula One Calendar