Berlin – With his new demonstrative rainbow helmet, Lewis Hamilton won the Formula 1 premiere in the controversial emirate of Qatar and, thanks to another show of force, continued his race to catch up in the world championship fight. The seven-time world champion drove a safe start-to-finish victory in his Mercedes on Sunday in front of Fifa boss Gianni Infantino exactly one year before the start of the World Cup. At the Losail International Circuit, Hamilton relegated Max Verstappen, who had been penalized before the start, to second place in the Red Bull with a lead of over eight seconds. “Fantastic job, guys, fantastic,” praised Hamilton over the radio. “We can do it.”
Max Verstappen with fastest race lap
Thanks to an ultimately strong race performance and the fastest lap, Verstappen at least defended his championship lead. Before the next much discussed race in two weeks in Saudi Arabia and the final on December 12th in Abu Dhabi, the lead shrank to just eight points. Third place in the 102nd Grand Prix victory after the 102nd Grand Prix pole in Hamilton sensationally went to the two-time world champion Fernando Alonso at the age of 40 in the Alpine. Sebastian Vettel took a point in the Aston Martin in tenth. Mick Schumacher was 16 at the Haas.
Verstappen operated maximum damage limitation against Hamilton, who had regained strength in time for the decisive World Cup phase, after the mood at the former industry leader had already been mighty in the basement. First Sergio Perez missed the top ten in the qualification in the second car and was missing as a tactical assistant in the fight against the Silver Arrows in fourth place.
And then, almost two hours before the start of the race, Verstappen also received a five-position penalty for disregarding – albeit incorrectly – double-waved yellow flags in the knockout stages. Starting position seven instead of two right next to Pole Hamilton. “It couldn’t have been worse,” raged Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “It’s incredible. We have a billion-dollar sport ”and the International Automobile Federation has no control over the stewards. One of the marshals had waved twice independently. Still, Verstappen would have had to see and pay attention to it.
So it was not Verstappen but Pierre Gasly who was on the Red Bull (Alpha Tauri) sister team next to Hamilton. Behind Alonso and Lando Norris in the McLaren, because Bottas also had to go back, but only three places because of the disregard for simply waved yellow flags. And all three behind Hamilton had the faster, softer tires on it. Maximum risk of overtaking at the start.
But Hamilton confidently maintained his pole, while Alonso pushed past Gasly and fought hard against rocket starter Verstappen. The Dutchman rushed past Bottas, who initially fell back to eleventh place, and continued to push, he grabbed Gasly and then Alonso. Damage limitation optimized after less than a tenth of the race, the gap to Hamilton: four seconds. He should hold that too, the Briton received a radio message from the Mercedes command post.
Lewis Hamilton dominates the race
And so little happened at first. How striking the dominance of Hamilton was a week after his famous victory in Sao Paulo was shown by the time table: Before the first pit stop, Alonso was in third place more than half a minute behind. And so the superstar, who wants to support the LGBTQIA + community on the Arabian Peninsula with his new helmet design, was able to react relaxed to Verstappen’s tire change. He himself didn’t want to and quarreled, but the box brought him in. It didn’t change the order.
The risks of a one-stop strategy were shown by Bottas, who bobbed through the gravel with a flat left front wheel and hit the sparks back over the track towards the pit and was ultimately eliminated. During the second tire change, Verstappen came in first, and Hamilton was able to react. Now it was exciting to see who would secure the one point for the fastest race lap.