F1 Race Report: Punctures Galore in Qatar as Hamilton Beats Verstappen After Bottas’ Luck Goes from Bad to Worse

Published 11/21/2021, 10:30 AM EST
Formula One F1 – Qatar Grand Prix – Losail International Circuit, Lusail, Qatar – November 21, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in action REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

As the checkered flag dropped in Losail, Lewis Hamilton crossed the line first to claim his victory at the Qatar Grand Prix. In a race filled with drama and excitement, the championship protagonists battled hard for points. Now, closing round 20 of the 2021 F1 season, Hamilton has another victory to his name, while Verstappen holds tight to his lead.


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Grid penalties set the tone for the race as two crucial players dropped their starting position. With Max Verstappen starting in seventh and Valtteri Bottas in fifth, the jumbled grid gave everybody all to play for. Further up the field, all eyes were on Pierre Gasly took his AlphaTauri to the front row; a first for him and the team.

Formula One F1 – Qatar Grand Prix – Losail International Circuit, Lusail, Qatar – November 21, 2021 AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in action REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

The Frenchman’s start soon dropped as the soft tires proved to be his downfall in the initial stint. Behind him, Fernando Alonso promised to threaten Hamilton with a P3 start, one that ended with a glorious podium position for the double champion.


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The Top 5 at Qatar had a glorious race, as Hamilton lead the pack. Verstappen crossed the line behind his rival as the Spaniard followed. Sergio Perez brought home some points in P4 with Esteban Ocon rounding up a fascinating top 5.

Dramatic race start Qatar Grand Prix

As the lights went out, it was an incredible charge to Turn 1, Verstappen gained three positions as he attacked the position of Pierre Gasly. Soon, it was lap 5, and it was Verstappen getting ready to attack Hamilton as he took P2.

Formula One F1 – Qatar Grand Prix – Losail International Circuit, Lusail, Qatar – November 21, 2021. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the race REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani.

The second drivers of the top 2 teams had contrasting starts as the once pitied Sergio Perez, made his way to ninth. On the other hand, a bad start from Bottas pushed him down to eleventh.

A sight worth watching was Fernando Alonso’s aggressive charge to P2, reminiscent of his championship days. Despite losing position to the Red Bull driver, the Spaniard showed off his skills behind the wheel and it payed off in the end.

Battles throughout the F1 field

What was considered being a difficult circuit to overtake in proved to be right. Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz battled for P7 earlier in the race as Perez claimed toward the more interesting action in front. His Mercedes counterpart, on the other hand, stayed in P11 for a while, despite having opportunities to overtake. Wolff even came on to the radio to budge the Finn: “Come on Valtteri, get these cars!”

The battle for P3 intensified as Norris was the sole McLaren in the points, defending his position relentlessly. His teammate struggled further behind, far from the battle with Ferrari. Instead, Daniel Ricciardo was left fighting Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin.

The Ferrari team soon compensated a lockup on Sainz’s part and a two-turn position drop for Leclerc. With a double-stack pitstop that was executed to perfection, the Prancing Horses were back in the battle. Finishing P7 and P8, the team in Red proved to be more powerful than their Orange rivals.

The more intense battle was for the Alpines. With Fernando Alonso in a podium position in lap 45, Alonso had one message for his teammate: “defend like a lion!” And Ocon did. With Perez charging through the field, Ocon defended best he could, and although he yielded his position to Perez, he fought hard for his team.

Box Box Box!

And the pitstop strategies began as Tsunoda lead the way by pitting first on lap 11, switching his soft tires for medium boots. Gasly’s softs proved to be his downfall, but after the pitstop, there was little room for improvement for the Frenchman.

The first stop in the top 2 was the Red Bull of Max Verstappen; with a rather early stop for the medium compound on lap 18, the team switched the yellows for the whites. With the perfect 2.2 stop, Verstappen maintained his P2 behind the Mercedes.

Formula One F1 – Qatar Grand Prix – Losail International Circuit, Lusail, Qatar – November 21, 2021 Red Bull’s Max Verstappen makes a pit stop REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/Pool

Despite Hamilton’s protests, Mercedes soon followed suit, pitting in their driver for the hard tires as well. Although Hamilton wasn’t happy, he maintained his lead. And so, the first stops were out of the way.

Did they opt for a two-stop? Red Bull was the first to pull the plug, switching Max on to mediums on lap 42. Mercedes once again mirrored their rivals, pitting with Sergio Perez on the following lap; all on the yellow boots.

Bottas victim of aggressive F1 strategy as Williams falters

With 34 laps of the race gone by, Valtteri Bottas was the only driver who had forgone a pitstop. The aggressive decision came back to bite Mercedes as their driver in P3 suffered a puncture, pushing him off to the gravel. He wobbled into the pitlane, where he finally got the fresh tires he required and a new nose for the W12.

He exited the pitlane in P14, a disappointing outcome for the driver and the team. Now, with the expected P3 finish slipping away, with six laps to go, Valtteri Bottas retired his car. Doesn’t look good for Mercedes in their constructor’s battle.

Amid Bottas’s retirement, George Russell’s Williams brought out the yellow flags. The aggressive curbs damaged the wings on the machine, bringing in some work for the pit crew. Another driver to suffer tire problems was his teammate, Nicholas Latifi, who brought in a punctured car with five laps to go. With a puncture soon following, he retired his car as well.


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The dramatic final laps


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Amid punctures and retirements, it was soon five laps remaining in the race. With Latifi’s condition going from bad to worse, the VSC was out with a lap to go. As a result, Verstappen takes the opportunity and pitted. As the greens flag dropped in the last lap, the results were decided. Despite the incredible charge from Verstappen; the fireworks were for Lewis Hamilton, the rightful victor of the Qatar Grand Prix.

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Shreya Sanjeev

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Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.