Hamilton wins in Qatar, leads in Verstappen points
Lucille Lewis Hamilton moved closer to the top of the Formula 1 championship with a dominant victory on Sunday at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix to clinch back-to-back wins and overtake Max Verstappen’s points.
It was the second win in a row for Hamilton, who cut 17 points off Max Verstappen’s lead in the title race in a week. Verstappen is still eight points ahead with two races remaining in one of the most dramatic F1 title battles in at least a decade.
The seven-time champion started from pole position for Mercedes and faced no challenge at the Losail International Circuit as Hamilton won his 102nd race of his career. It was his seventh victory this season.
Verstappen was hit with a penalty before the race even started when he was dropped five points on the starting grid for violating the yellow flag in Saturday’s qualifying. The Dutchman qualified for second but the hosts ordered him back into the grid after Sunday’s hearings for Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz.
The three were accused of not following the yellow flag rules towards the end of the playoffs. Bottas, who qualified for third, was penalized three times from the start. Sainz was not punished.
Red Bull were baffled by a Verstappen penalty, who missed any chance of challenging Hamilton for victory when he was penalized. Red Bull boss Christian Horner said Verstappen did not see the yellow flag when he was shown a Pierre Gasly flat tire late in qualifying.
Horner blamed “the rogue field marshal who raised the flag and was not directed by the FIA. They have to control their guards, it’s that simple.”
“We’re really struggling to understand that,” Horner said. “This is a decisive blow in this world championship for us, we are now starting P7, and this is huge. There have to be adults making the decisions for the adults.”
Despite the penalty, Verstappen only needed five laps to recover and get back to where he was originally scheduled to start. But he finished second, 25 seconds behind Hamilton.
Fernando Alonso of the Alps finished third on the podium for the first time since 2014. He assisted him in the penalty shootout before the race for Verstappen and Bottas, which put the Spaniard third on the podium.
Sergio Perez finished fourth to help Red Bull in their quest to beat Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
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