Hamilton wins Qatar Grand Prix to cut Verstappen's F1 championship lead

Mercedes driver trails Red Bull challenger by just eight points with two races remaining

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday and, more importantly, reduced Red Bull challenger Max Verstappen's overall championship lead to eight points.

Verstappen was second, after starting seventh following a five-place grid penalty during Saturday's qualifying, but took a bonus point for the fastest lap.

It was a commanding performance from Hamilton as he held off his Dutch rival under the Losail circuit's lights to leave the battle for the F1 drivers' title finely poised with two races remaining.

There was more good news for F1 enthusiasts, with Fernando Alonso taking third place for Alpine - the former two-time world champion's first podium since 2014.

One week after arguably his toughest win in Brazil, Hamilton enjoyed one of his easiest.

After his eighth world title challenge appeared to be slipping following Verstappen's wins in the USA and Mexico, the Briton has turned things around nicely.

"We needed those points today. I can't wait to watch the race replay to find out what happened behind me," Hamilton said after his 102nd career win.

"I'm really grateful for these points, it's been a hell of a year. Back-to-back wins here, feel good, I feel fit, fitter than I've ever felt. Bring on the next two!"

Verstappen, who was demoted from second to seventh on the grid for a yellow flag infringement in qualifying, was not too disappointed.

"Our starting position was compromised, but luckily we had a really good start," he said.

"Of course, I know it's going to be difficult to the end but it keeps it nice, keeps it exciting. This track was fun to drive as well. I feel good, but it's going to be a tight battle to the end."

Red Bull were, however, mystified by the grid penalty for Verstappen, who lost any chance to challenge Hamilton for the win when he was penalised. Red Bull principal Christian Horner said Verstappen did not see the yellow flag when it was displayed for Pierre Gasly’s punctured wheel in qualifying.

Horner blamed “a rogue marshal that stuck a flag out and he’s not been instructed to by the FIA. They’ve got to get control of their marshals, it’s as simple as that".

“We’re really struggling to understand it,” Horner said. “That’s a crucial blow in this world championship for us, we’re now starting P7, that is massive. There needs to be grown-ups making grown-up decisions.”

Updated: November 21st 2021, 4:01 PM