Formula 1 2021 Qatar Grand Prix – Lewis wins Losail inaugural race and slashes Verstappen’s lead

Grand Prix

Dec 01st, 2021

Formula 1 2021 Qatar Grand Prix – Lewis wins Losail inaugural race and slashes Verstappen’s lead

The Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix 2021 was held at the Losail International Circuit in Al Daayen, Qatar. It was the second night race of the season after the opening race in Bahrain. 

The Formula One Management (FOM) struck a deal earlier in the year to have a race in Qatar in 2021, with a further 10-year contract for the F1 season from 2023 onwards. 

The race will be run at the Losail International circuit, which has been holding MotoGP events for a long time. The track favours two wheels, so to accommodate the F1 race, it received some modifications and upgrades. The Losail track is a fun-filled circuit to drive with a mix of fast corners and consecutive direction changes, followed by a long home straight. 

Lewis and Mercedes needed to outscore Red Bull to ensure that the championship goes down to the last race in Abu Dhabi. Lewis was in top form and secured the pole position on Saturday and converted that into a win on Sunday. Max Verstappen was second, with Fernando Alonso completing the podium. 

Pre-Race Preparations Thursday for the F1 Qatar Grand Prix

Rain is never a threat in this part of the world, and it was the exact scenario for the opening race at the Losail International Circuit – warm and dry with strong winds that brought sand to the circuit. Pirelli brought three of the hardest compounds to comply with the fast-flowing nature of the circuit. C1 (white) was the hard tyre, C2 (yellow) was medium, and C3 (red) was the soft tyre.

Practice & Qualifying Sessions

Friday Practice:

Max Verstappen was the fastest driver at the end of the FP1 session, followed by Gasly and Bottas from Mercedes. In the second practice on Friday, Bottas was fastest from Gasly and Verstappen. Gasly was the only one to finish in P2 during both sessions. 

Lewis didn't feature in the top 3 but looked reasonably quick on short and long runs. Mercedes seemed to have a bit of an edge over Red Bull on both low and high fuel runs, and Lewis looked much faster than Bottas. 

Norris finished a strong P5 at the end of FP2 and looked like a better car than rival Ferrari. Stroll was the 6th quickest ahead of the Alpha Tauri of Tsunoda, with Perez, Vettel, and Sainz completing the top 10. 

Saturday Practice:

Mercedes continued their fine form and finished the third practice session in the top 2 positions, with Bottas being the faster Silver Arrow. Max Verstappen was in third place, about half a second behind the lead Mercedes. 

Gasly showed impressive pace and was the lead midfield driver in 4th place. Perez was 5th ahead of Sainz 6th, Alonso and Ocon 7th, Leclerc 9th, and Tsunoda, completing the top ten fastest drivers.

Qualifying:

At the end of the first qualifying round, Lewis led Max by less than a tenth. 

At the other end of the grid, five drivers failed to reach Q2, but there was no shock or surprise driver in there. The five drivers who failed to reach the next round were Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Schumacher, and Mazepin.

There was a mix of tyre choices at the start of Q2. Alpine, Alpha Tauri, and Aston Martin went for soft tyres, while the rest opted for more durable medium tyres. 

It wasn't a straightforward session as some big names failed to progress for the final round. Leclerc, Ricciardo and Perez were the three big casualties, along with Russell and Lance Stroll.

Lewis delivered the lap when it mattered by going fastest at the end of the first round and decided to go very early for his second run. 

That crucial decision paid at the end when he delivered a new track record lap time, giving him pole position by nearly four and a half tenths from Verstappen. Many drivers could not improve due to a tyre blow up on Gasly's Alpha Tauri. Bottas qualified 3rd ahead of Gasly, Alonso, Norris, Sainz, Tsunoda, Ocon, and Vettel.

Sunday Race: Lewis wins, Max get fastest lap point, Alonzo does a podium

Verstappen was handed a 5-place grid drop for failing to slow under double yellow flags for the Gasly incident, while Bottas was given a 3-place grid drop for a single waved-yellow-flag infringement. It didn't impact Verstappen that much, but Bottas had a bad start and dropped to P11 at the start of the race. 

Lewis made a good start and comfortably led into the first corner. Alonso overtook Gasly at the start and was P2 behind Hamilton. Verstappen made light work of grid penalty and was back into P2 by the end of lap 5.

By the end of lap 15, it became crystal clear that Mercedes had a decent pace advantage over the Red Bull of Verstappen, as Lewis pulled out a gap of 7 sec to Max. This pace advantage didn't leave Red Bull with many strategic options. 

Red Bull blinked first, and Max switched to new hard tyres on lap 17. Mercedes countered the move next lap with a stop for Hamilton. At the halfway point in the race, Lewis was still leading from Verstappen by 7 seconds. Bottas was third and yet to stop ahead of Perez, Alonso, Gasly, Norris, Ocon, Stroll, and Sainz.

Verstappen pitted again on lap 41 to switch to medium tyres, and Hamilton did the same next lap. The extreme loads on the front left tyre caused quite a problem for many drivers. 

Bottas, who was potentially doing one-stop to finish P3, had a left front tyre failure and eventually retired on lap 50. Latifi and Russell both had left front tyre punctures on lap 50 and 52, respectively. Norris also pitted a few laps from the end due to a slow front left puncture and lost a potential 4th place.

Lewis cruised past the line to claim his 102nd race win and reduce the gap to Verstappen to only 8 points with two races to go. Verstappen picked up the crucial point for the fastest lap to limit the damage. Alonso made a one-stop count and finished on the podium for the first time since Hungary 2014 when he drove for Ferrari. 

Perez was 4th ahead of Ocon, Stroll, Sainz, Leclerc, Norris, and Vettel.

F1 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads to another brand-new street track to race on the outskirts of the City of Jeddah at Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Stay on the front-row seat!