Hamilton has dealt another blow to Verstappen in Qatar! And Alonso on the podium after seven years
This is not the first time this year, serious events on the racing day of the Grand Prix began to occur even before the start. The strange decision of the Red Bull not to inform Max Verstappen about the need to slow down next to the stopped car of Pierre Gasly eventually led to a fine and threw the Dutchman from the second starting position. Mercedes also suffered: even if Valtteri Bottas ignored not double yellow flags, but single ones, he also lost three places and started not third, but sixth. But a new intrigue arose: how will Gasli and Alonso, who start second and third, behave, and will Valtteri and Max be able to break through?
Verstappen broke through, but the gap from Hamilton is only eight!
At the start of the race, Bottas, who was one position higher, as if once again decided to step aside and not influence the fight for the title in any way. Valtteri absolutely failed – from sixth to 11th! Verstappen, on the other hand, immediately broke into fourth place, even despite the tough maneuver of Fernando Alonso, who forced Red Bull to the sidelines and immediately brilliantly passed Pierre Gasly. Thus, it was the Spaniard who became the closest pursuer of Lewis Hamilton.
Well, as a pursuer – the seven-time champion immediately began to build up his lead, without waiting for Verstappen to be behind. Max, who complained about a problem with overtaking, rather quickly waited for Gasley’s error at the exit from the final turn, and then Alonso passed without any problems. The Dutchman at that moment was only four seconds behind Hamilton – so we can say that the penalty before the start did not become fatal and did not deprive the Red Bull pilot of all chances of winning.
As for the second numbers of the top teams, Perez quickly began to break through upward, but Bottas had problems: the Finn got stuck behind the Tsunoda-Stroll pair and seemed to just watch their battle as a spectator. This infuriated Toto Wolf, who on the radio called the Finn to be more active. Coincidence or not, but immediately after that, Bottas did pass both Yuki and Lance.
Despite Verstappen’s quick breakthrough, there was no fight for victory. In terms of pure pace, Red Bull was slightly inferior to Mercedes, and after the first pit stops of the leaders – Max and Lewis switched from “medium” to “hard” – the situation has not changed. Yes, at some point the gap narrowed slightly to six and a half seconds, but Hamilton almost instantly added and came off by eight.
To try to change something, “Red Bull” called Max into the pits again – “Mercedes” responded in kind. Towards the very end, Max switched to “soft” for loyalty and left behind the fastest lap, so Lewis won back not seven points, but six. Max has only eight left!
Alonso is still on the podium!
It would seem that everything is stable, but Red Bull decided to take risks and not take risks at the same time – and called for the second pit stop and Perez. From the pits, he returned seventh, once again giving Alonso a dream of the podium. Fernando asked the command to tell Okon to fight like a lion, but the difference in speed was too high: Cheko quickly passed Stroll and Okon and rushed in pursuit of Norris and Alonso. But there was a big question whether he would have time to catch up: Fernando had 15 seconds in reserve, and there was less and less time to the finish line!
Norris helped Peres a little: due to a puncture discovered by the engineers, he had to go to a forced pit stop and lose fifth place, rolling back to the end of the points zone. And it wasn’t just Lando alone that had problems with the tires: the tires on both Williams burst literally around the corner! And if Russell reached the boxes, then Latifi stopped on the track.
As a result, it was Nicholas who helped Alonso: because of the stopped Williams, a virtual safety car was announced, Perez lost time and then simply did not have enough laps to chase Alpin. There is a podium for Fernando! Perez was satisfied with the fourth place ahead of Ocon, Stroll, Sainz, Leclair, Norris and Vettel. Brilliant Grand Prix for Alpine.
Mazepin: a good start, then everything is bad
Nikita Mazepin, who only during the race was able to properly study the new track in Qatar, at first had a good race. At the start, the Russian was the last and the entire first segment walked at the pace of Mick Schumacher – despite the fact that the German chose the “soft” tires for the start, and the Russian – “medium”. But after stopping in the pits, something went wrong – it looks like the Russian got into a wave of blue flags, was forced to skip the entire peloton and, as a result, lost to Schumacher for a whole minute. Alas, in the end, the forced return to the old chassis led to failure.
Maybe Saudi Arabia will be better? If, of course, they manage to finish building the track. According to the plan, the first ever F1 stage in Jeddah should take place from 3 to 5 December.