Lewis Hamilton led the Qatar Grand Prix from start to finish with Max Verstappen also soon settling into second place. The action mainly happened behind them where Alonso for instance returned to the podium after 7 years.
When the lights eventually went out, Hamilton made a strong start but it was Gasly who momentarily looked challenging for first place. Hamilton however opted to take the inside line into Turn One and thereby solidly kept in the lead.
Alonso was a bit stuck and followed up in third place but then got ahead of Gasly to take second place through Turn 3. Lando Norris meanwhile was passed in Turn 1 already by Verstappen while Ocon ended up behind him in P6, having started in 9th.
Sergio Perez had a strong start and moved up into 8th, progressing further ahead past Sainz and later Ocon to be 6th by lap 8.
Valtteri Bottas on the other hand had a very poor start from the dirty side of the track and found himself in 12th after the first lap.
In stark contrast, Verstappen got past Gasly when he went wide on the final corner of lap 2, followed by an easy DRS pass on Alonso another lap later. At the time, the gap with Hamilton was 3.3s as Mercedes soon requested Hamilton to “at least” maintain this gap.
On lap 10, when Tsunoda and Raikkonen had already pitted to exchange their soft tyres for fresh mediums, Hamilton had 5.77s in hand. Alonso meanwhile on the soft tyres dropped back rapidly, trailing Verstappen by 17s. Gasly failed to keep up even that pace and got passed by Norris for 4th that same lap. Perez soon did the same to take 5th and then 4th by passing Norris. Gasly on the other hand got pitted on lap 13 to switch his dying soft tyres with a fresh set of medium compound Pirellis.
Roundabout that time, Bottas also seemed to have come alive as well, steadily making up positions to end up in 7th.
On lap 17, Verstappen pitted to take on hards, followed by Hamilton the next lap do do the same. Both retained their positions as Alonso and Norris in 3rd and 4th were stretching their first stints on their soft tyres. As Norris got company from Bottas, he lost some pace trying to defend his position, helping to further increase Alonso’s advantage to P4. When Bottas eventually made it past the McLaren, the gap to the Spanish Alpine driver ahead amounted 11 seconds.
Alonso then pitted on lap 23 of 57, changing to hard tyres and rejoining the race in 8th, 4s behind Leclerc and coming out just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Ocon shadowed the same pitstop the next lap, ending up in 12th.
At the very front, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen remained largely the same as both drivers exchanged fastest laps and drove away from everybody else.
In the battler for fourth, Sainz first got out of the way of Alonso by pitting and then Leclerc missed his braking point to give Alonso an easy pass. It took Perez a little bit longer, but he too got past the Ferrari driver half a lap later before passing Alonso around Turn 1 after a DRS draft on the main straight.
On lap 33, Bottas suffered a puncture and ended up in the gravel trap. He managed to continue and return to the pits, but by the time he arrived there, he got passed by Perez and Alonso. The Finn got a new front wing and hard tyres, rejoining the track down in 14th, one lap down on race leader Hamilton.
On lap 40, Verstappen pitted to take on a fresh set of medium tyres while maintaining position. The same lap, Perez pitted as well, rejoining the track in 7th on used medium tyres. Without surprise, Mercedes shadowed Verstappen’s pitstop one lap later, switching to a set of used medium tyres.
These stops brought Alonso back up in fourth, 35s behind Verstappen. Norris followed in 4th, halfway in the 14s gap between both Alpines. Lance Stroll was 6th with Perez closing up quickly on his new mediums. Perez quickly got past Stroll with DRS on the main straight, and despite having been asked to defend with “elbows out”, Ocon really had nothing to keep Perez behind.
Lando Norris then pitted from 4th to take on new medium tyres. At the same moment, Russell pitted with a broken front wing and took on soft tyres and Bottas was told to pit and retire the car. A single lap later, Latifi found himself with a punctured front left tyre. As the Canadian had just passed the pit entry, he retired from the race at the end of the race.
Meanwhile, Alonso was asked to avoid the kerbs in high-speed corners as he tried to nurse his tyres and maintain fourth ahead of a charging Perez.
3 laps from the end, a VSC period is started to get Latifi’s Williams cleared off the track. During this period, Verstappen pitted for softs, securing the fastest lap of the race in the final lap as the VSC ended just in time.
As Hamilton won, Alonso was voted as driver of the day as he returned to the podium after a 7-year draught, making for a brilliant result for Alpine in the Constructors’ Championship as well.
Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
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