All the latest updates from the Losail International Circuit
Hello everyone and welcome along to our live blog for the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix, which is set to be a crucial race in this Formula 1 season. Max Verstappen leads the world championship, but Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes is on pole at the Losail International Circuit for the first ever F1 race here. It promises to be a thriller and we’ll have all the updates for you on this race live blog.
This is the start of our Qatar Grand Prix live blog, with the most recent entries the ones nearest the top. So, follow along with us as we find out if Verstappen or Hamilton will come out on top in the desert!
That brings to an end a hectic triple header which has seen Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes come back swinging. Just eight points separate the title contenders as Formula One looks ahead to a first visit to Saudi Arabia in two weeks time before the season finale in Abu Dhabi. We can’t wait.
Unsurprisingly, Alonso’s first podium since he left Ferrari in 2014 earns him the driver of the day award, voted for by fans. And Esteban Ocon’s fifth is not to be sniffed at in the battle for fifth in the constructors championship between Alpine, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin.
The VSC is withdrawn too late for Hamilton to set a fast lap but he cuts the deficit to Verstappen again with victory in Qatar. Verstappen takes second and the extra point for fastest lap while Alonso earns a podium for Alpine! Ferrari gain more points on McLaren after Norris’ late puncture and pit stop.
A weird decision from the FIA as Latifi’s well out of the way Williams starts to be moved unnecessarily. That is a relief for Alpine and Alonso who are on for a brilliant podium. Verstappen takes a free pit stop for soft tyres to try and set the fastest lap but if this VSC doesn’t end, then Verstappen has the fastest lap already.
A second Williams puncture in three laps as Latifi’s front left goes down on the main straight. Major worry for Alpine with Alonso still out on hard tyres which have been going off like fireworks at the end of this race. Latifi finds a service road to retire in as Ocon, Stroll, Sainz and Leclerc in a train for fifth.
A really strange decision from McLaren to pit with so few laps left but George Russell gets a puncture in the Williams! Maybe McLaren are expecting lots of tyre problems late on but they’ve dropped behind both Ferrari’s as well as Vettel and Gasly. Perez could still get that podium as Alpine tell Alonso to stay off high speed kerbs and Bottas retires his Mercedes from outside the point scorers.
Perez looked to have made an easy move down the main straight but Ocon fought back into turn four. The Red Bull wouldn’t be denied however and he did pass Ocon at the first attempt. Norris is next on the agenda for Perez but he has to close eight seconds to the Brit and a further eight to Alonso to get back onto the podium, with less than ten laps to go.
Fernando Alonso is well aware that Sergio Perez is coming as he radios his team to tell Esteban Ocon to defend ‘like a lion’ from the Red Bull. It might not be that simple though as the DRS has proved effective down the main straight. Perez has to pass Stroll before he can look at Ocon who is eight seconds behind Norris in fourth.
With a 54 second gap behind him, Verstappen can pit and maintain his second place. Hamilton responds the next lap as we all assumed he would as Perez also pits but drops down to seventh, but those ahead may have to pit again still. Bottas is recovering from his puncture as he passes Ricciardo for 12th.
Concern for Red Bull as Max Verstappen announces he has vibrations in his car which will send Christian Horner’s leg twitching afte Bottas puncture. Hamilton also believes he has a vibration but the AWS graphics think his tyres are still in good nick.
As expected, Gasly has pitted for a second time which releases Norris who had caught the Frenchman very quickly over the last handful of laps. Hamilton meanwhile could well lap the whole field on this pace, he’s just been let through by Leclerc and he’s rapidly catching Sainz too.
Nightmare for Mercedes as Bottas develops a puncture on his front left! He can’t turn into turn seven and just about makes it out of the gravel. He’s passed by Perez, Alonso, Gasly and Norris on track as he drops all the way down to 14th behind Daniel Ricciardo. That could set alarm bells across the pit lane as the race nears its end.
A super battle through the first sector sees Sergio Perez finally pass Fernando Alonso but he has to start setting fast laps to take third from Bottas who is yet to stop but nearly 20 seconds clear. AlphaTauri tell Gasly that a one-stop is available despite pitting way back on lap 14.
Charles Leclerc very nearly ended his and Alonso‘s race after a very, very late move under braking saw the Ferrari lock up and lose the place. He also saw Perez‘ Red Bull go by after a dismal lap. The team then double stack in good style as they return to the track 10th and 13th, Sainz the first of the duo.
Norris stayed out on the soft tyres for 25 laps but eventually he could go no further. He switches to the hard tyres and is surely now going to the end as he emerges behind Gasly who he passed in the early stages but the Frenchman has to pit again. Ferrari meanwhile are still out on the medium tyres in fourth and fifth in the battle for third in the constructors.
He took a few laps looking at the rear of Norris‘ McLaren but Bottas finally makes his move on the Brit who is still on his starting set of softs. Perez gets ahead of Vettel who is yet to stop in the same fashion at turn one. Alonso has pitted from third after a superb first stint and he comes out ahead of Ricciardo.
It’s a 2.7 second stop for the Mexican who switches to hard tyres and comes out down in 12th behind Vettel. Mercedes seem to be going long with Bottas to try and find an advantage over Red Bull. Bottas has to get past Norris for the strategy to work though as he’s within DRS of the McLaren.
Hamilton has been lighting up the timing screens and Verstappen has had no answer for his title rival. So Red Bull bring the Dutchman in for a set of hard tyres and he just about comes out ahead of Alonso. Hamilton comes in next time by and a clean stop sees the Brit comfortably clear in the lead.
The Red Bulls have looked very racy today as Perez drives by Norris down the main straight for fourth and it looked as if Norris was happy to let the Mexican by. McLaren will know they haven’t got the pace to beat Red Bull or Mercedes without intervention so he is focused on staying consistent with Alonso the main target. Bottas has passed Ocon as well for sixth as the soft tyres begin to go off the cliff for those who started on them.
AlphaTauri seem to have committed to the two-stop with both drivers in early. It’s a big time delta though as he emerges behind Mazepin in 18th. A big gap is needed to keep your position but the leaders are nearly a pit stop clear of Alonso in third. Bottas has finally passed Sainz for seventh as Hamilton sets the fastest lap. He’s nearly seven seconds clear of Verstappen.
Two laps after he first tried it, Norris passes Gasly into turn one and takes fourth on the road. Gasly may be told to let the senior Red Bull of Perez through fairly soon as the Mexican has looked supremely quick on the mediums so far today. That battle is some three seconds off Alonso in third as Perez passes Gasly down the main straight next lap by.
An early first pit stop of the day as Tsunoda dives into the lane after losing out to Bottas who has now dispatched of Stroll for ninth. Norris tried to pass Gasly into turn one but had to back out of the move and Perez is right on the rear of the McLaren as a result. The leaders have now pulled the trigger and are 20 seconds ahead of Alonso in third.
It’s not been the day Valtteri Bottas wanted so far, as he’s been stuck behind Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll since the start but a rallying call from Toto Wolff sees the Finn pass Tsunoda as Stroll also gets the AlphaTauri round the outside. Perez has charged forward to sixth past Ocon and he’s now hunting down Norris and Gasly who are close for fourth.
While Verstappen has enjoyed a tremendous opening seven laps, it’s not been so fruitful for Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel who have lost places and currently run 16th and 17th respectively, stuck in a DRS train behind George Russell‘s Williams which has the same Mercedes power unit as their cars. Perez is trying to make places after his poor qualifying. He’s passed Tsunoda and almost got Sainz too but a snap of oversteer put pay to that move, for now.
Pierre Gasly makes an error at the final corner and that allows Max Verstappen to breeze by the AlphaTauri and hunt down Alonso‘s Alpine. The Spanish double world champion hasn’t been dramatically dropped by Hamilton yet but as soon as Verstappen makes the move, the pace will ramp up, and it does. Verstappen passes Alonso one lap later and he’s now got just Hamilton ahead.
The first ever Qatar Grand Prix is underway and it’s a tough start for those on the dirty side of the grid. Hamilton holds onto the lead and begins to build a lead as Alonso passes Gasly. Verstappen makes a super start and is up to fourth already, ahead of Lando Norris with Ocon up to sixth and Bottas down to 11th behind Perez.
One final practice start and a last look at conditions as the formation lap begins. The Losail circuit produced a fantastic spectacle in qualifying but there are fears that the fast corners could hamper the ability to race and track position could be vital, despite a two-stop strategy being the preferred. Don’t be surprised to see those further down gamble on a one-stop in an attempt to score points.
There’s confusion on the grid as both Ferrari and Mercedes head to the fifth grid slot expecting their car to start there. The provisional grid had Valtteri Bottas there after his penalty but an amendment from the FIA confirms Carlos Sainz will start fifth instead and the Mercedes mechanics have to awkwardly move their tool kits over to the other side of the grid. Further down the order, Charles Leclerc has a new chassis in place but keeps his 13th place while Nikita Mazepin will get his first long run of the weekend after missing both second and third practice in his Haas.
The fastest four-wheeled machines on the planet are making their way to the grid for today’s Qatar Grand Prix and those starting in even-numbered positions will have a distinct disadvantage off the line. Such is the nature of racing in the desert, sand is often blown onto the circuit and we saw plenty of it being kicked up off track during practice but on the start/finish straight, the dust remains off line which will hamper the likes of Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris who start second and fourth respectively.
One hour to race start in the desert and the grid penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas mean Fernando Alonso will start third in his Alpine. The Spaniard has always been a fast starter and he’s on the clean side of the grid with his soft tyres so he fancies his chances of leading this race come turn one. He states on Sky Sports he has nothing to lose today.
There is drama before the cars even take to the grid, as Max Verstappen has been handed a five-place grid penalty and Valtteri Bottas has been given a three-place penalty. This is for not respecting yellow flags during qualifying and means that Pierre Gasly – whose puncture, ironically, brought out the yellow flags – starts on the front row.
Lewis Hamilton didn’t just take pole position on Saturday. He stormed to the front of the grid, with his time of 1:20.827 a lot quicker than Max Verstappen – 0.455 seconds quicker to be precise. “I definitely wasn’t expecting to have as big a gap as that,” Hamilton said afterwards.
It was Lewis Hamilton who took pole position on Saturday with a sensationally quick lap. Behind him is Max Verstappen in P2 and then teammate Valtteri Bottas in P3 on the clean side of the track. The full Qatar Grand Prix starting grid is as follows:
This race is starting at 17:00 local time, which is 14:00 BST for fans in the United Kingdom, who can follow the race on Sky Sports. For those in the USA, the start time of the Qatar GP is 09:00 ET on the east coast and 06:00 PT on the west coast. In the USA, it’s ESPN who’ll be broadcasting the race.
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