Lewis Hamilton wins in Qatar, slashes Verstappen's lead to 8pts

Hamilton and Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton has won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix and slashed the gap between him and Formula One championship leader, Max Verstappen to just eight points.

Hamilton had thrown the championship race open, after recording two back-to-back wins, in Mexico and now Qatar.

He now has 343.5 points to Verstappen’s 351.5. There are two races to go, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull’s Verstappen was second in Qatar after starting seventh following a five-place grid drop for failing to respect warning flags in Saturday’s qualifying, but took a bonus point for fastest lap.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso was third for Renault-owned Alpine, the 40-year-old Spaniard’s first podium finish since 2014.

“It was pretty straightforward, it was pretty lonely at the front,” said Hamilton, who led from pole position and was never challenged over the 57 laps of the floodlit night race.

The win was Hamilton’s seventh from 20 races this season and the record-extending 102nd of his career also continued his record of being first to win at new circuits on the calendar.

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Verstappen, who has nine wins this year, carried out another solid piece of damage limitation as Red Bull cut Mercedes lead in the constructors’ standings from 11 to five points.

“Of course, our starting position was a bit compromised but luckily we had a really good start,” said Verstappen, who was fourth by the end of the opening lap and soon slotted into second.

“I know it’s going to be difficult to the end but that keeps it exciting. It’s going to be a tight battle until the end.”

The Dutch 24-year-old can still win the championship with a race to spare at the next round in Saudi Arabia if Hamilton fails to score.

Mexican Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull with Frenchman Esteban Ocon fifth for Alpine in a race with a sudden spate of punctures late on among those trying to make a single stop work.

Lance Stroll took sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of the Ferrari pairing of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. Lando Norris finished ninth for McLaren and Sebastian Vettel 10th for Aston Martin.