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Mercedes-Red Bull pressure tells as Hamilton mounts charge - What we learned at the Qatar Grand Prix

Mercedes-Red Bull pressure tells as Hamilton mounts charge - What we learned at the Qatar Grand Prix

F1 News

Mercedes-Red Bull pressure tells as Hamilton mounts charge - What we learned at the Qatar Grand Prix

Mercedes-Red Bull pressure tells as Hamilton mounts charge - What we learned at the Qatar Grand Prix

The F1 championship race took another twist at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton cut Max Verstappen's lead to just eight points.

Victory for the Mercedes driver seemed a dead certainty after he had negotiated the first corner with only Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso for company after Verstappen was handed a five-place penalty for a qualifying infringement.

Fernando Alonso took a record-breaking podium to prove he is well and truly back, but what did we learn at the Losail International Circuit?

Hamilton refuses to give up

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described Hamilton as a "lion" that had been awakened by his disqualification from qualifying in Brazil last week.

The follow up to his scintillating charge through the field in São Paulo saw a masterful drive in Qatar to notch up his seventh win of the season and close the gap to Verstappen back to single digits.

It could have been even better had it not been for the Dutchman's tremendous start from seventh on the grid. By lap five, the championship leader had made his way to second despite fears the circuit would be difficult to overtake on.

It means that the title fight should, barring any misfortune, go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

Pressure begins to tell at Red Bull

Whilst last weekend saw Wolff lose his cool with the "f**k them all" radio message, this weekend it was Christian Horner who was tipped over the edge.

In fact, the Red Bull boss landed himself in hot water with the FIA over a "rogue marshal" comment after what he believed to be an organisational "balls-up" that led to Verstappen's qualifying penalty.

Horner was found to be in breach of the International Sporting Code with comments that could "cause moral injury or loss to the FIA".

He was given an official warning for his outburst but has since insisted he feels no pressure during the title run-in.

With all the political battles off-track, including a tense FIA press conference alongside Wolff on Friday, the cracks are beginning to show.

Pirelli failures cause concern

For the second time this year, Pirelli tyre failures are among the main talking points after a grand prix weekend.

Though unspectacular, the way the front-left tyres simply deflated with no warning in Qatar is a real worry and raises safety concerns.

Valtteri Bottas was on a set of medium tyres he had taken 33 laps when his tyre deflated, although this was understandable given the Pirelli advice was to take the tyres only 30 laps.

But the fact three drivers suffered the same failure on hard tyres that had only gone around 20-25 laps is simply not good enough,

Pirelli pointed to teams running over the limit and aggressive kerbing playing its part, but many circuits feature far more aggressive kerbing and 20 laps on a hard tyre should be easily within boundaries.

Lando Norris was scathing in his verdict after he lost a near-certain top-five finish with his failure. The reality is, the problems are too common.

Alonso and Alpine back on form

He is back!

Alonso was back to his brilliant best in Qatar with elbows out racing and superb tyre management leading to a stunning P3.

The Spaniard's race was epitomised by a wonderful move on Pierre Gasly for second in the early stages of the race, whilst his ability to get ahead of Sergio Perez, who had made his way past in the quicker Red Bull, was all down to a fantastic strategy from Alpine.

Indeed, the French manufacturer was on top form all weekend long with Esteban Ocon also clinching a top-five finish.

With AlphaTauri failing to score after switching to a two-stop race with Pierre Gasly early on, Alpine now sit comfortably ahead in the race for fifth in the championship with a 25-point gap.

McLaren's painful day on landmark occasion

What should have been a weekend of celebration as McLaren reached 900 F1 races turned rather sour with just a ninth-place finish to show for its efforts.

After wins in Monza and a near-miss in Sochi, it looked for all the world that McLaren would be clinching third in the constructors' standings.

Yet an improved hybrid system for Ferrari and a lack of form for the Woking-based team has seen the Scuderia take the initiative.

With two races left, the gap stands at 39.5 points with Ferrari securing yet another double points finish.

Yes, Norris was unlucky with his puncture whilst Daniel Ricciardo endured fuel-saving issues, but the drop-off in results for McLaren has come from nowhere. Is there any way back for them in the final two races?

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