Hamilton wins Qatar and Verstappen fights back after penalties to keep WDC fight in a close contest.
The F1 championship battle between defending WDC Lewis Hamilton and current leader Maz Verstappen has narrowed to just eight points.
Hamilton followed up last week’s win in Brazil with an uneventful victory from a front-row start in Qatar, however, things were not as straightforward for the grid behind.
Verstappen won a second-place start in qualifying but received a five-place penalty from the stewards for ignoring yellow flags after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture near the finish line on Saturday.
It meant Verstappen started seventh on the grid behind Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, but a flying start from the Dutchman saw him quickly overtake the Mercedes driver and move up to a fighting position in fourth position behind Gasly. An error from the Frenchman saw Verstappen quickly get around Gasly before Verstappen managed to overtake Fernando Alonso and stay a steady second for the race.
Alonso fought a battle of attrition with tyres, prolonging the first stint on softs and making a one-stop to hard tyres work, and ultimately that put him on the podium in third for the first time this year.
Others were not so fortunate and four drivers suffered punctures – suspected by Pirelli because of the sharp edges on the track ripple strips – including Bottas who ended up retiring, leaving Red Bull with fourth-placed Sergio Perez to be just five points behind Mercede-AMG on the constructors championship.
It leaves the championship wide open for both the winner of the drivers and constrcutors battles, with just two races left and a very close margin in both.