Lewis Hamilton wins Qatar Grand Prix for the first time
Lucille Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are a bit closer to regaining control of the Formula 1 championship race by quickly discovering the newest circuit in the calendar.
Hamilton overcame agonizing stomach aches on Saturday to defeat rival Max Verstappen for pole position in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, the host of this week’s dramatic title battle in Formula One.
Verstappen qualified second for Red Bull, and Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was third. But both drivers, along with seventh-placed Carlos Sainz, went into Sunday under investigation for violating yellow flag rules in qualifying. All of them were called to a pre-race meeting with the hosts.
Verstappen already avoided a penalty once this weekend when Mercedes’ bid to punish Verstappen was retroactively denied for keeping Hamilton off course last week in Brazil. Verstappen has a 14-point lead over the seven-time champion with three races remaining.
Although their teams are at war, Hamilton and Verstappen are on friendly terms with each other and have been following Saturday’s qualifying despite the row over racing rules. The hosts tried to define the rules in an extended driver’s briefing on Friday with mixed results.
“Everyone is different. I think everyone has their own way of racing, defending and overtaking.” “I think (the meeting) was about sharing your opinions and explaining the FIA’s thought process behind it. I think we’ve come a long way and it was a very long briefing. It was, in the end, very clear.”
The Mercedes drivers had a very different takeaway from the meeting.
“No, it’s not clear,” Hamilton said. “Every driver I think except Max has been asking for clarification. It’s still not clear what the limits of the track are. We’re just asking for consistency. If it’s the same for the last race, it should be the same for all of us in those particular scenarios and then not It’s okay.”
Bottas said drivers have requested consistent enforcement of the rule.
“I don’t think we really get an explanation for what we can actually do or not,” Bottas said. “At least we know what Lewis and Max ended up with in Brazil, that’s fine. So it’s good to know.”
Now three drivers face potential penalties ahead of Sunday’s race for their interpretation of yellow flags. The flags were raised near the end of qualifying due to a punctured tire by Pierre Gasly.
He said Hamilton was slowed down by stomach aches when he first made it to the paddock and was fourth in both Friday’s practices. He stayed late with the team working on changes as Mercedes jumped ahead of Red Bull in learning the latest Formula 1 circuits in the Middle East.
Hamilton was the fastest in all three qualifying sessions, was the first driver to run a final qualifying round and was the only driver to record a lap in the 1min 20sec range. He was faster than Verstappen by about half a second.
“That last lap was beautiful, it was a really nice lap,” Hamilton said. “This track is great to drive, it’s incredibly fast. It felt good.”
Red Bull did not have the same speed and Sergio Perez failed to even advance to the final set. Perez qualified 11.
“It was more difficult for us in qualifying,” Verstappen said. “We’re struggling a little bit more than usual. We’ve never raced here before, so there are a lot of unknowns.”
The race is the first in a 10-year deal between Formula 1 and Qatar.
Hamilton, last week’s winner in Brazil, has been front and center in Qatar and has been upfront on many issues. Hamilton The rainbow sports helmet was debuted in recognition of the LGBTQ+ community. He shared a picture of her on his social media channels with the caption “We stand together” and said he expects to wear the helmet at upcoming races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton spoke again on Friday about human rights issues in the region and acknowledged that Formula One is wrapping up its season in places “considered to be the worst in this part of the world” in terms of human rights abuses. Campaign groups have highlighted discriminatory laws against women and LGBT people in the Gulf state, which will also host the World Cup next year.
Hamilton said after qualifying that he had not received any negative feedback about the helmet.
“It is important for me to represent this community. I know there are many situations that are not ideal and that need to be highlighted,” Hamilton said.
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