Doha: The first-ever Formula One Grand Prix at Losail International Circuit near Doha could have turned out to be a mediocre race with only the showdown between championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with Lewis comfortably leading the race and taking the first position to cut Verstappen's championship lead down to 8 points. But F1 fans were in for a surprise, as the third place went to Fernando Alonso, securing him his first podium in 7 years since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2014.
Verstappen started from P7 with a five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags during the qualifying session but quickly managed to lance through the field to P2 although he had no answer to the blazing pace Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes set, remaining 6-8 seconds behind his rival for the rest of the race. Hamilton's comfortable lead ensured that he could not even be undercut by the Red Bull team. Verstappen complained of some damage to the front right wing due to going over the track kerbs at high speed although he continued to race with the same wing.
He took fresh tyres near the end of the race to steal points for the fastest lap, minimising the damage of Hamilton's 102nd win.
Much of the race action took place in the midfield and just behind the two race leaders, with vicious battles taking place for P3-P4 between Mercedes' Valterri Bottas, Red Bull's Sergio Perez, McLaren's Lando Norris and Alpine's Esteban Ocon. Unfortunately, Bottas was forced to retire near the end of the race due to a front tyre puncture caused by severe tyre degradation from running the mediums too long. Initially, it was suspected to be a kerb issue, as kerbs also ripped off the front wing of Pierre Gasly in qualifiers and damaged the chassis of Nikita Mazepin's Haas, forcing him to miss FP2.
Lack of track data meant that many teams chose a safe two-stop strategy to change tyres due to the high temperatures and high tyre degradation on the circuit. However, Alpine's Fernando Alonso chose to go with a one-stop strategy that carried him to P3 with blistering pace and kept him ahead of rivals, with a Virtual Safety Car on the penultimate lap allowing him to keep ahead of Sergio Perez to claim his 98th podium and first in seven years.
A visibly elated Hamilton took his second win in a row after Brazil, stating that he was happy with the car and his performance, thanking his team for the win. Team head Toto Wolff said that the Jeddah Circuit race would decide who would "survive" to reach the finale in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this December. Red Bull's team chief Christian Horner was forced to apologise over remarks made about the Marshall who awarded Verstappen the penalty, stating that he made such remarks in the heat of the moment. Red Bull is also contesting the legality of Mercedes' rear wing after a contentious legal back-and-forth between the teams since Brazil.
Red Bull's Sergio Perez finished in fourth place after a stunning series of comebacks from down the grid following poor pace in qualifying. Alpine's Esteban Ocon took fifth. Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were in sixth and tenth place for Aston Martin, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in seventh and eighth for Ferrari and Lando Norris in ninth for McLaren.