Lewis Hamilton ‘in good stead’ for the title after holding off Max Verstappen in Qatar

Lewis Hamilton goes undercover to inspire school children

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton says he’s put himself in good stead to win the Drivers’ Championship after beating Max Verstappen for the second race in a row after dominating the Qatar Grand Prix. Hamilton has now cut the lead to just eight points to Verstappen in the standings as the Dutchman recovered from seventh to finish second under the lights in Doha, with Fernando Alonso in third for Alpine. 

Verstappen was hit just hours before the race with a five-place grid penalty in Qatar after qualifying second for the inaugural race, with Hamilton on pole. It meant the seven-time world champion was alongside AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. 

After a strong start to hold off Alonso and Gasly, Hamilton drove a commanding race, unphased by Verstappen who was carving his way through the pack.

But by the time he reached Hamilton, Verstappen was unable to bring the fight to the seven-time world champion. 

Speaking after, Hamilton admitted: “It was pretty straight-forward, it was pretty lonely at the front.

“Of course I enjoy those races where you’re battling through but we needed those points today, so I think a real solid job from the team, just with pit stops and the car.

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“I can’t wait to watch the replay of the race to see what happened behind me. I’m not really sure why tyres were going, I’m sure it’s the curbs.

“But I’m really grateful for the points, it’s been a hell of a year. To be at this point in the season and have back-to-back wins is a great great feeling and puts in good stead for the next two.”

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas was one of four drivers who suffered punctures during the race, with McLaren pitting Lando Norris after reporting a strange feeling on the radio, with both the Williams of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi struggling on the hard tyres while some attempted a one-stop strategy. 

With just two races remaining in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Hamilton’s back-to-back wins have sent a clear warning sign to championship leader Verstappen and Red Bull.

And Hamilton admitted he feels good ahead of the final two races.

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Hamilton continued: “Feeling really good. I’m really, really happy with the car.

“I feel fit fitter than ever I’ve ever felt so that’s a positive. Big, big thanks to Angela [Cullen, Hamilton’s physio], she’s helping me train and keep me on my toes.

“Recovery has been great. So yeah, bring on the next two.”

Meanwhile, Verstappen said: “Of course our starting position was a bit compromised, but thankfully we had a really good start and from there I was quickly back into second so at the end of the day to get that fastest lap was very nice.

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Max Verstappen hit with a five-place grid penalty ahead of Qatar GP

“I know it’s going to be difficult to the end, but that’s nice. It keeps it exciting.” He added: “I feel good. It’s going to be a tight battle until the end.”

Alonso meanwhile scored his first podium since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix with Ferrari after holding off Sergio Perez. 

He said: Seven years, but finally, we got it. We were close a couple of races but not enough.

“Today,  honestly I thought I could be leading after Lap 1, I thought with the soft tyre I could go at Lewis but I couldn’t.

“Then with Checo it was very close, but well done to the team. I was waiting so long for this… so I’m happy.”

Formula One heads to Saudi Arabia next before heading to the season finale in Abu Dhabi with just eight points separating the pair.

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