Hamilton – Verstappen remote battle
F1 Qatar GP 2021 – race analysis
Hamilton wins alone, Verstappen second in comeback
Lewis Hamilton made it two wins on the bounce in Formula 1’s inaugural Qatar Grand Prix to close in once more on championship leader Max Verstappen, as the season fast approaches its conclusion. Autosport picks out the key talking points as relations between the rival Mercedes and Red Bull squads deteriorated further, drivers complained about unclear rules and an F1 legend ended a seven-year podium wait.
Lewis Hamilton may still be trailing in the 2021 Formula 1 world championship battle, but the Mercedes driver laid down the gauntlet to Max Verstappen and Red Bull with a second dominant victory on the trot in Qatar.
After Verstappen’s victory in Mexico, Hamilton has come alive and with two races to go it’s still all to play for in the drivers’ championship, although a DNF for Valtteri Bottas has helped Red Bull to close in the constructors’ race.
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The gap is down to just eight points, and Red Bull had zero response to Mercedes’ pace in Qatar. Given this was the track Mercedes was most concerned about during the run in, the performance will serve as a giant confidence boost.
Hamilton also appears to be in one of his difficult-to-beat runs, with Wolff pointing to the setback on Saturday at Interlagos as having sparked something inside the seven-time world champion.
“They have woken up the lion on the Saturday at Interlagos. “He’s absolutely on it – brutal, and cold-blooded. This is the best in Lewis, and we’ve seen it in the past.”
Even without the penalty, second was the maximum for Verstappen
Verstappen’s grid penalty for failing to slow for yellow flags may have denied us a possible side-by-side moment with the title contenders into Turn 1. But for outright pace, it did not have a big bearing on the end result.
Much as in Brazil, Red Bull simply didn’t have the pace of Mercedes in Qatar, something all the more concerning given Mercedes did not run the fresh Interlagos engine. Verstappen started well and was within four seconds of Hamilton once he got to P2, but then stood little chance of bridging the gap.
It’s a concerning outlook for Red Bull. The team has taken a step back since Mexico, and can’t pin it solely down to Mercedes’ form. The advantage that made this look like Verstappen’s championship to lose has now left his title seem more in the balance.
Jeddah will be an unknown for all teams, but so was Qatar. Red Bull must ensure it does not face similar struggles throughout that weekend, or it may go to Abu Dhabi needing a result to deny Mercedes the titles.
Alonso’s podium was exactly why he came back to F1
Much has changed since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. Back then, Hamilton was a mere one-time world champion, Verstappen was a Formula 3 racer yet to set foot in a F1 car, and Ferrari’s next big thing was Jules Bianchi.
Fernando Alonso’s seven-year wait for his 98th F1 podium was finally ended in Qatar as the 40-year-old marked his return to F1 with a third place finish. The result was assisted by a puncture for Bottas and the Virtual Safety Car that halted Sergio Perez’s charge, but it still required all of his experience to nurse his tyres and execute the tricky one-stop.
It was fitting that Alonso should at least have one podium to show for an impressive comeback season that arguably reached its peak with his defence against Hamilton in Hungary – that aided team-mate Esteban Ocon’s victory push – and could have yielded a rostrum visit in Sochi had the rain not intensified, after he made his class show in the initially intermediate conditions.
Departing F1 following three years of toil at McLaren in 2018, many wondered whether we’d ever see Alonso in F1 again. In his time away, he succeeded in winning the World Endurance Championship title for Toyota, along with a Le Mans 24 Hours double, although has found the Indianapolis 500 a tougher nut to crack.
This year, he’s appeared a man more at peace with himself than the often agitated figure who frequently proclaimed that drives to 15th in a woefully McLaren-Honda were among his best-ever, knowing a points finish represents a good day at the office for Alpine. But, as has always been the case with the Spaniard, whenever there is the slightest sniff of a result he comes alive and ruthlessly maximises it. Qatar was one such example, and showed exactly what he returned to F1 for.
Alonso without limits: “In 2022 I can fight for the World Championship”
- 1 Alonso without limits: “In 2022 I can fight for the World Championship”
- 2 Race results. F1 Qatar GP 2021.
- 3 Leclerc: “A surprise to see other teams so strong”
- 4 Race start time Hungary GP F1 2022 : race schedule
- 5 F1 2022 France GP | Race results and analysis
- 6 Race start time France GP F1 2022 : race schedule
“In 2022 I am ready to fight for the world title – said the 1981 class, who with the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen in 2022 will be the oldest driver on the starting grid by distance – although it is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming years. For sure all the teams will have the same chances on paper, so it’s up to us to design a car that’s fast enough.”
Like Ferrari, Alpine is also waiting with great trepidation for the 2022 championship in which the single-seaters will be revolutionized as a result of the return of the ground effect. In addition, the Pirelli tyres will also change, be narrower and 18 inches.
Race results. F1 Qatar GP 2021.
Masi explains the chaos generated by the yellow flags
For the second time in the last three rounds of the championship, Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s qualifying was somewhat compromised by an accident caused by an AlphaTauri. Before Pierre Gasly’s k.o. in Qatar at the end of Q3, a similar event had in fact occurred in Mexico with Yuki Tsunoda, which had forced the Dutchman, still leader of the world championship, to slow down. Contrary to what happened in Central America, however, in the first appointment in the Middle East the circumstance was quite different, and even more harmful for Mad Max.
Specifically, in fact, a few seconds after the end of Q3 there was a puncture and damage to the front wing of the French’s car, who then parked his car on the trackside along the starting straight. At first, immediately after the exit from the penultimate corner of the number 10 of the AlphaTauri – where the accident occurred – the drivers on the track received the yellow flag signal, which actually also appeared on the monitors. However, the latter were immediately canceled, and reactivated at a later time after the display of the yellow flag by the route stewards. In this way, in addition to generating a certain confusion on the track, some drivers did not see the danger signal in time, so much so that they could activate the DRS, thanks to the absence of warnings even on their steering wheel.
A situation of chaos that was however ‘fatal’ to both Verstappen and Bottas; while the latter suffered three penalty positions on the grid for not slowing down under the single yellow flag, the Red Bull Dutchman was instead relegated five positions, thanks to the non-observance of the double yellow flag. A decision, taken by the Race Direction just before the start of the GP, which sent the team principal of the Austrian manufacturer Christian Horner into a rage, in turn the author of offensive phrases towards the FIA and the track stewards, to whom the Same British manager subsequently addressed his apologies.
Regarding what happened in qualifying, Race Director Michael Masi explained when it happened with the communications of the stewards, analyzing the episode after the Losail race:
“All the yellow flags are displayed and marked on the trackside – said the Australian – and are under the control of the race officials, as well as in any other sport. However, it is up to the route stewards to determine whether it is a single or double yellow flag case, and they judge it on the basis of what they see in front of them. Warnings can be canceled by the Race Direction but, of course, not instantly. Before this happens, there are actions that take a moment of time. However, the matter is simple: the track stewards reacted instinctively after analyzing what they saw.”
Hamilton: “Today was a lonely race”
“It’s been a very difficult year, so it’s a really good feeling to get two consecutive wins at this point in the season. It was a pretty simple race for me, a bit lonely, but we needed those points and the team did a great job. A special thanks goes to all the guys on the track and in the factory. I’m really grateful for today’s result and it’s incredible to have been able to narrow the gap with Red Bull so much over the last two weeks. We still have our work to do, but the battle so tight excites us. It was a real shame that Valtteri had to retire but the pace of this weekend was solid and this puts us in a good position to face the next two races. We will not give up.”
Back-to-back wins for @LewisHamilton as he takes victory in Qatar 👀🎧
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 21, 2021
Read the interview of Lewis Hamilton here!!!
Bottas: “My car wasn’t like Lewis'”
After taking pole position at the Losail circuit, Lewis Hamilton also won the first edition of the Qatar Grand Prix, further shortening his delay from Max Verstappen in the championship standings two races from the end of the championship. But while the Briton can rejoice in his second consecutive success, the same cannot be said for Mercedes’ second driver, Valtteri Bottas, who was forced to retire.
The Finn, in addition to having suffered a penalty before the start for not having respected the yellow flag regime in qualifying, was unable to convince during the race, which also ended early due to the damage found following a puncture, such as to push the team to recall him to the pits so as not to worsen the situation.
Isola: “We will investigate to understand what happened”
“The left front was the most affected – he analyzed – but not for an excess of energy or similar things. The first elements I can share that all the tires were quite worn, close to 100%. We have cuts on the tyres that we need to understand if they were caused before or after the pressure loss. We are waiting for telemetry data from the teams, which will be a really important element to understand if the pressure loss was sudden and when it occurred. All the drivers were able to get back to the pits, so they lost pressure but in a time that was enough to control the car and return to the pits. It’s no secret that many teams have also had damage to the chassis, the bottom of the car, the wings, and when a tyre is worn out, it is less protected by curbs and high-energy impacts.
We will do an investigation and try to understand what happened – he admitted – clearly with a worn rubber and less protected from impact we continue to punish the tire. And then, was it a cut? Yesterday we saw what happened with the front wing, we had several cars damaged by other elements such as floor, wings, chassis. We do not want to exclude anything. Any small datrite, any curb can cause a small puncture, and by losing the air then the tire, when it is broken, is not able to sustain the high level of energy that these cars are putting on the tires.”
Verstappen: “Mercedes legal? Hard to know”
In recent weeks, the political and regulatory battle between Mercedes and Red Bull Honda has further intensified, which have literally taken the Federation in the middle between ventilated complaints, requests for clarification and use of the right of revision and more or less veiled allusions in the press. The issue of rear wings has become central to the debate, with Red Bull operating before the race in Brazil for safety reasons and Hamilton’s Mercedes disqualified for an irregularity in measurements at the end of Interlagos qualifying. As required by current regulations, the Englishman was forced to leave last, despite Toto Wolff denying any intent in the incident, attributing the discrepancy to two badly screwed bolts. Seven days later in Qatar, Red Bull again intervened on Verstappen’s car – this time after the PL3 – to fix the ‘ballerina’ wing and the Mercedes was put in the crosshairs by rivals, who asked the Federation for more in-depth checks on the flexibility of the piece.
The FIA men have made new ‘experimental’ measurements, but ensure that no car will be disqualified if found not to correspond to the flexibility tests. At the press conference Max Verstappen was asked if he was 100% convinced of the legality of the Mercedes car: “It’s hard to know completely, of course. But it’s not just about what’s happening now, but also what’s already been done and how it’s been raced in previous races. We have the images and we can highlight certain things, but we hope to have a good fight between now and the end of the season.”
Marko: “FIA hides incompetence by blaming drivers”
The biggest controversy came for the management of the same yellow flags by the race stewards. On the track there were in fact contradictory signs: a single marshall that was waving the flags on the left of the main straight, a bright green LED on the right, as well as an extremely short exposure of the same danger flags. Helmut Marko, gray eminence of Red Bull, interviewed by DAZN on the starting grid of Losail, did not hide his resentment precisely for this lack of professionalism, according to him, shown by the Federation itself.
“It is ridiculous – thundered the Austrian executive – it is known that the FIA fails to organize a proper coordination system [of the commissioners] and they are hiding their incompetence by blaming the driver. Unbelievable.”
Leclerc: “A surprise to see other teams so strong”
Not the most memorable of weekends for Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque has confirmed the trend of this season finale, which sees him from some races a bit ‘in decline. Eighth place in Qatar for the Ferrari driver, who finished just behind teammate Carlos Sainz. Of course, the chassis problems he encountered on Saturday did not help: problems that prevented him from entering Q3 in qualifying and, consequently, kept him behind in the race. But perhaps there was room to get something more than the four points, in fact Leclerc is surprised by both his result and the performance of Alpine, AlphaTauri (in qualifying) and even Aston Martin, the latter capable of bringing two cars to points.
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“In the first stint I had to adapt a bit with the frame, but I was happy. I had to change all the settings of the car on the steering wheel a bit, but once I found the right place in the car I was fine,” he told Sky Sport F1. “The gap to Mercedes and Red Bull was what we were waiting for. The surprise was to see some team in the middle of the group going so strong. I’m referring to AlphaTauri and Alpine, they were a nasty surprise. We have to understand why they went very strong this weekend.”