Damage limitation for penalised Verstappen in Qatar

The Red Bull Racing man keeps the championship lead with two races to go

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 9:42 am

Max Verstappen overcame a five-place grid penalty to take second place in Qatar. However, title rival Lewis Hamilton cut the Red Bull Racing driver’s lead at the top of the standings to eight points with two races to go.

Max Verstappen showed the F1 world that it is not just Lewis Hamilton who can slice through the field as he overcame a five-place grid penalty to finish second in the first Qatar Grand Prix.

Hamilton was the class of the field as he dominated all weekend, setting a mighty pole position lap which was almost half-a-second clear of title-rival Verstappen on Saturday. But championship leader was handed a five-place penalty because he failed to slow for double-waved yellow flags on the pit-straight, meaning he would have to start from seventh.

The penalty though did little to slow Verstappen down, as he made it to fourth spot by the first corner, and was back into second spot by the fifth lap. Hamilton though had a comfortable margin to the Dutchman behind. The pair were clearly the class of the field, lapping up to two-seconds per lap faster than the pack, leading to a lonely race for both.

The duo also avoided the tyre dramas suffered by Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris in the McLaren and both Williams drivers, who tried to make their tyres last with just one stop.

While the Red Bull man was unable to make an impression on Hamilton on Sunday, he claimed the fastest lap bonus point.

“I’m of course happy with the result today,” said Verstappen. “This weekend has been quite difficult for us as a team and we are still lacking pace, I tried everything I could after the five-place grid penalty so to finish in second and score the fastest lap is really good.

“I had an exciting start and I knew that the first few laps were really important, I had a good launch and I was fairly quickly back in to second place, from there I tried to keep the gap small and that worked out quite well. I had fun today, especially when going for the fastest lap.

“For now, we need to stay focused, there are still two races left to go and a lot of things can happen, anything is possible.”

Sergio Perez missed out on a podium for a second week in a row after a badly-timed virtual safety car period late. Stopping fairly late to avoid the Pirelli tyre drama, Perez had to chase down Fernando Alonso’s Alpine in third place.

But when Nicholas Latifi’s stricken Williams needed to be pulled out of the gravel trap, the VSC halted Perez’s hunt and he had to settle for fourth place - a strong recovery from a poor 11th place in qualifying.

He said: “We managed to recover from qualifying and moved through the grid quickly from P11, we were in a very good position to be on the podium but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

“It was a very exhausting race, I was flat out the whole time, overtaking and pushing. We were changing our strategy throughout the race; at some stages we were going for one stop and at others two, but others’ tyres were exploding so we had to protect ours to prevent getting a puncture and maximise our position in the Constructor’s Championship.

“I think we had the podium in our pocket but for the second week running a virtual safety car has potentially cost us. I don’t know if without it we would have definitely caught up with Fernando, but we would have been close.”