Qatar Grand Prix. How did it turn out?
November 23 2021 , 11:34 pm
By Anastasia Kharitonova
The Middle East is gradually taking over F1. Many are already accustomed to the curious, but not always spectacular GPs in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Now it’s time to put new marks on the world map in the championship calendar. Last year it became known that Saudi Arabia will host the Formula 1 race. Oil company Aramco became the title sponsor of the championship, and holding the Saudi Arabia GP in recent years has always been only a matter of time. Nevertheless, hardly anyone expected another race in the Middle East in this season.
Qatar boldly took advantage of the confusion in the championship calendar and proposed its candidacy to replace the canceled stage in Australia and became the twentieth GP of the current season. The Losail circuit has never hosted royal races. And no one had any idea what to expect from a weekend on a circuit that was originally designed for motorcycle racing. It was impossible for someone to give an advantage from the teams in Doha in advance, as too many factors are responsible for the distribution of forces at Losail. An unknown track, a fresh Mercedes engine and a potential revenge from Verstappen were exactly the inputs that made it possible to count on the Losail’s spectacular Formula 1 debut.
The debut Qatar Grand Prix turned out to be entertaining, but nothing more.
Perhaps the most interesting event was Saturday’s qualification. In the end , an incident happened, which ultimately changed the alignment at the start grid on Sunday race. In last attempt, Pierre Gasly broke his wing on the kerb, causing yellow flags to appear on the track. Verstappen improved his result under the double yellow flags, while Bottas and Sainz did not slow down under the singles. As a result, the drivers received penalties: Max lost five positions at the start, Valtteri – three, and Carlos was forgiven. Thus, thanks to his incident, Gasly started the race from the first row for the first time. Alonso and Norris started from the second.
Hamilton, as expected, did not receive the fight from the Alpha Tauri and Alpin drivers at the start. Lewis, thanks to a playful spurt, left Gasly and Alonso behind and chased his seventh win of the season. Hamilton’s rival for the title, Max Verstappen, also had a great start. Starting seventh, the Dutchman passed the first meters of the distance of Bottas, Sainz and Norris. Alonso emerged victorious in the battle for the second line with Gasly, but already on the fifth lap, both drivers were overtaken by Verstappen. Max quickly eliminated the penalty losses in qualifying and chased the leader of the race.
The drawn-out pit stop played a cruel joke with Bottas: on lap 34, the front left tire on Valtteri’s car broke down and burst. Bottas had to drive half a circle on three wheels before entering the pits. After stopping, the Mercedes driver was in 12th position – the race was completely ruined for him. The Silver Arrows invited Bottas to the retirement pits and stopped Valtteri’s torment on the track. It cost a lot for Mercedes, now in the constructors’ championship the Red Bull has reduced the gap to 5 points.
Lando Norris, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi were also affected by tire explosions at the end of the race. The Canadian was unable to reach the pits, and the race management turned on the virtual peyscar mode. Perhaps this helped to keep Fernando Alonso’s third place.
Nevertheless, the last lap was held under the green flag. Lewis Hamilton brought the matter to victory without any problems, Max Verstappen managed to finish second and take the point for the fastest lap of the race. The gap between the leaders of the season was reduced to eight points, and this is all two stages before the end of the season. The final of the year promises to be extremely nervous.
And Fernando Alonso, for the first time since 2014, took to the podium and became the protagonist of Jeddah. An amazing achievement for Alpin, which allowed the team to break away from Alpha Tauri in the championship.
What is in store for us in two weeks? Jeddah Grand Prix – the new city track located on the waterfront, construction began here last year. Now it is already obvious that the part of the planned infrastructure will not be built on time – however, the footage published by local organizers is intended to show that all the main objects are already ready, therefore there are no obstacles to the race. But new asphalt and a completely new track can bring unexpected surprises.
How are things going in the championship now? With two races to go to the end of the season, Max Verstappen is eight points ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the individual championship. Under certain circumstances, Verstappen will prematurely become world champion after the race in Jeddah if one of the following conditions is met:
- Win in the race and the best lap, and Lewis Hamilton finishes no higher than sixth;
- 2. Win in the race and Lewis Hamilton finishes no higher than seventh;
- Finish second and the best lap, Lewis Hamilton finishes no higher than tenth;
- Finish second and Lewis Hamilton will not score points.
With any other results of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the fight for the championship will continue at the final stage of the season in Abu Dhabi. Let’s hope for intrigue until the last seconds of the season.