F1 defending champion, Lewis Hamilton on Sunday won the Qatar Grand Prix comfortably to close the gap to Max Verstappen in their fight for the world championship.
Hamilton beat Verstappen, who fought to second after a five-place grid penalty and took the point for fastest lap, cutting his lead to eight points with two races to go in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi next month.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso took a superb third, his first podium since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. He won the third spot after trying to hold off a late charge from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, but a late virtual safety car put the place beyond doubt.
Earlier, Perez had been poised for a close fight for third with the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas until the Finn suffered a puncture just after half distance.
The win for the British came after another weekend of controversy and ill-temper between the two title-contending teams. This as one of Hamilton’s easiest wins of the season, and the seven-time champion appeared to have the pace to have triumphed whether Verstappen had been penalised or not.
The Dutchman was found to have not seen a double waved yellow flag at the end of qualifying, and although Red Bull pleaded mitigating factors – that the cockpit and trackside light-warning system had been turned off – officials said they had no choice but to punish him.
The penalty dropped Verstappen to sixth on the grid, but he was fourth by the end of the first lap and second after five.
By that point, the Red Bull was only 3.7 seconds behind Hamilton but the Mercedes driver continued to stretch ahead until his lead was 8.2secs by the time Verstappen made his first pit stop on lap 17.
Hamilton followed him in the next time around to secure his position and the pattern of the race was set.
They stopped a lap apart again on laps 41 and 42 and the only matter still in dispute was the point for fastest lap.
Verstappen already had it before making a late pit stop for soft tyres to make absolutely sure.
Hamilton’s teammate, Bottas also had a grid penalty – his just three places because it was only a single yellow flag he ignored – but while Verstappen made progress on lap one, Bottas went backwards and was down in 11th at the end of it.
He made little progress in the opening laps before being given a hurry-up from team boss Toto Wolff, who told him he “must” pass the cars in front.
The race between him and Perez was on target to climax in the closing laps, the Mexican making his first stop early and Bottas trying to run long to have a tyre advantage in the closing laps.
But the puncture on lap 31 ended his hopes and in the end the Finn did not even finish the race, Mercedes having to retire the car with 10 laps to go.
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