Race Report: Hamilton wins Qatar GP

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The Qatar Grand Prix was a new race for everyone and like many of the past “new” races, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton seem to always do well. Saturday’s qualifying was the first sign of just how much more pace Mercedes has found over the last two races and that was compounded on Sunday with a dominant win from Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen was engaged in damage limitation by finishing second and stealing fastest lap which means there are just 8 points separating him from Hamilton in the Driver’s Championship.

Sergio Perez ran out of laps to mount a podium finish as he was stuck behind a Virtual Safety Car and this allowed Alpine’s Fernando Alonso to return to the podium in 3rd. It is his first podium since Hungary in 2014…104 race ago!

Win

A big win for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. I am not sure where all of the pace has come from but after just 17 laps, Lewis was a half a minute ahead of everyone but Verstappen. By the end, he had approximately a minute in hand against all but Max. That bodes well for Lewis and the team as they head into the final two races of the season.

It’s not what Red Bull wanted but it’s still a win for the team and Max Verstappen due to a 5-place grid penalty for Max and he had a fantastic opening few laps to recover up to 2nd and then secured fastest lap.

A big win for Alpine and Fernando Alonso who, via penalties, found themselves starting from 3rd. A 1-stop strategy executed perfectly by Fernando, while other 1-stoppers fell afoul of front left tire punctures, meant the Spaniard celebrated his first podium since 2014.

You also can’t overlook Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in 5th making it a fantastic weekend for the team as their car responded to this track and they had good pace all weekend long. A big points haul against Alpha Tauri in the constructor’s championship.

A win for Lance Stroll who struggled most of the weekend but ended up in 6th while his teammate, Sebastian Vettel struggled in 10th.

In the battle between Ferrari and McLaren, both teams struggled in Qatar so the 7th place finish, ahead of both McLaren’s, for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and a 8th place for Charles Leclerc was important.

Fail

A fail for Alpha Tauri who had Pierre Gasly starting second. A 2-stopper fell victim of a the 1-stopping teams ahead of them and this left Pierre back in 11th and out of the points with his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda in 13th.

A fail for Valtteri Bottas who suffered a puncture on his front left running long on his first stint left him out of the race with a DNF

Also a fail for both Williams cars who suffered puncture running 1-stoppers as well but that wasn’t all as Lando Norris also had a puncture.

WTH

Not quite sure what happened with the Pirelli’s as several drivers suffered puncture when they attempted a 1-stop strategy. The tires seemed to give up around lap 31-33 which was unfortunate.

Also not quite sure I followed Red Bull’s strategy with Sergio Perez who was putting in a master class of passing as he recovered from a poor qualifying session. The chose to 2-stop him and left a lot of ground for him to make up to the podium and with the VSC session late int eh race, he ran out of laps and ended up off the podium.

Pirelli Key Moments:

  • Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix from pole, with two stints on the P Zero Yellow medium C2 tyre and one stint on the P Zero White hard C1. He started on the medium before switching to the hard and then finishing the race on the medium again: predicted beforehand as the fastest strategy.
  • He finished ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was following a similar strategy before making a third stop for P Zero Red soft C3 tyres under a virtual safety car to claim an extra point for fastest lap on the very last lap.
  • Both drivers finished more than 30 seconds ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who started on the soft from third on the grid and then finished on the hard to complete the podium with just one stop. As a result, the top three drivers on the podium adopted three different strategies.
  • There was a mix of drivers starting on the soft and the medium tyre, with a mixture of one, two and three stoppers as well. The race started in ambient temperatures of around 27 degrees centigrade and track temperatures of around 30 degrees, with conditions remaining quite stable for the whole race.
  • Four drivers (Valtteri Bottas, George Russell, Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi) experienced puntures on their front-left tyres, which could be the result of very high wear combined with high-speed impacts against kerbs that are very aggressive at Losail.

Qatar GP Results:

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes57571h24m28.471s1m25.084s225
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda570+25.743s1m23.196s319
3Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault570+59.457s1m26.682s115
4Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda570+1m02.306s1m25.613s212
5Esteban OconAlpine-Renault570+1m20.57s1m27.061s110
6Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes570+1m21.274s1m27.356s18
7Carlos Sainz Jr.Ferrari570+1m21.911s1m26.57s16
8Charles LeclercFerrari570+1m23.126s1m26.555s14
9Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes560+1 lap1m25.746s22
10Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes560+1 lap1m26.434s11
11Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda560+1 lap1m27.019s20
12Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes560+1 lap1m27.198s10
13Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda560+1 lap1m27.043s20
14Kimi RäikkönenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari560+1 lap1m26.358s20
15Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari560+1 lap1m27.823s20
16Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari560+1 lap1m28.412s10
17George RussellWilliams-Mercedes540+3 laps1m25.768s20
18Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari540+3 laps1m27.34s10
Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes500DNF1m28.732s10
Valtteri BottasMercedes480DNF1m27.246s20
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Fred

It was a parade at least as far as Hamilton was concerned. Plenty of action behind him. Glad I woke up in time.