Can Max Hold Onto His Lead With Only 2 Races To Go!
THE QATAR GRAND PRIX: SUNDAY 21ST NOVEMBER 2021
LOSAIL INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, DOHA
- 1. Lewis Hamilton
- 2. Max Verstappen
- 3. Fernando Alonso
- 4. Sergio Perez
- 5. Esteban Ocon
- 6. Lance Stroll
- 7. Carlos Sainz Jr
- 8. Charles Leclerc
- 9. Lando Norris
- 10. Sebastian Vettel
“I’m really, really happy with the car. I feel fit, fitter than I’ve ever felt, so that’s a positive.” (Lewis Hamilton)
Qatar saw another win for Hamilton - in the closing chapters of one of the closest World Championship races we have seen for some time. At this point last year Hamilton had already claimed the title. This year, with two races to go, it is far from over.
There are now just 8 points separating the top two. Verstappen has 9 race wins and Hamilton 7.
This has been a season where fans have enjoyed seeing Red Bull grow to seriously rival Mercedes – putting the current Constructor Champions on the back foot for much of it.
But the last two races have seen something of a comeback.
Before we get carried away with this turn of events, remember that Verstappen still has the advantage. He also drove exceptionally to fight back from a 5-place grid penalty to finish second and limit any damage that Hamilton could have done to his lead.
Now, realistically, Hamilton needs to win the final two races to win the title. If Verstappen wins in the next race in Saudi Arabia and achieves a point for the fastest lap then Hamilton would need to finish at least 5th to keep his hopes of a record 8th World Championship alive.
According to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, disqualification in qualifying and a grid penalty in Brazil had ‘woken the lion’ in Hamilton. Adversity apparently suits him. We have witnessed this on many occasions - as the Brit has turned an apparently dire situation around.
In such a tightly fought contest you would expect tempers to fray. And fray they have. Red Bull have continued to question the legality of Mercedes rear wing. The accusation being that it flexes backwards when the car goes above a certain speed, reducing drag. Verstappen has suggested that they have video evidence of this.
These concerns have yet to be ‘put to bed’ and so continue to fester.
Then, after Verstappen was given a 5-place grid penalty this weekend for ignoring double waved yellow caution flags in qualifying – the subsequent interview with Christian Horner put the Red Bull boss in front of the FIA to explain himself.
Red Bull have suffered issues with their own wing – after it had been oscillating when the DRS overtaking aide was open. They attempted repair, but in Qatar replaced it for a different design.
This weekend, on the track, Hamilton was in control. He took pole, then held on for the first corner and was relatively untroubled from there. Even when Verstappen made it up to second – Hamilton kept 8 seconds ahead and held there until the finish.
Fan favourite Fernando Alonso came in 3rd to achieve his first podium since Hungary in 2014: “I was waiting so long for this.” A long wait indeed. Four drivers suffered punctures. Otherwise, Qatar - by comparison to recent races - was somewhat lacklustre.
So far Verstappen is keeping his cool, limiting the damage and concentrating on the positives: “We’ve done an amazing job as a team compared to the previous year when they were so dominant and so fast.”
And he may very well take the title in two week’s time. But it won’t be without a fight from Hamilton.
Which way will the pendulum swing?