At F1’s first visit to Qatar, both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc slightly struggled for pace during Saturday’s Qualifying session, but both cars were confident that points were on the cards on Sunday.
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Photos: Scuderia Ferrari.
With penalties for Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas for ignoring yellow flags in Saturday’s qualifying session, Carlos moved up a position to fifth, after also being investigated for ignoring th flags, but was eventually cleared by the stewards of any wrongdoing.
As the lights went out, Lewis Hamilton held onto first, as Verstappen was able to jump up to fourth position. Fernando Alonso md up to second past the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly. Carlos had dropped position to seventh, while Charles also dropped down to 13th position.
By lap four, Verstappen was now up to third position, as Bottas was now down outside the points in 11th. Throughout the next couple of laps, Carlos dropped down to eighth position due to both Sergio Perez and Bottas, both cars were still in the points, as Charles had now worked his way into the top ten.
Gasly was the first of the frontrunners to pit for medium compound tyres on lap 14, as Verstappen and Hamilton opted to pit on lap 17 and 18. Despite stops for some of the cars around them, both Carlos and Charles opted to stay out for longer before their first stops.
On lap 27, Charles was lucky to avoid an accident after a lock up while battling Perez sixth, but managed to get away with the incident, despite losing the position to the Red Bull.
Despite radio issues for Carlos, Ferrari opted for a double stop on lap 28, with superb stops for both cars seeing Carlos re-join in tenth and Charles in 13th, with both cars coming back out with a fresh set of hard compound tyres.
Lap 34 saw disaster for Bottas, as the Mercedes suffered a puncture in the first half of the circuit, dropping him out of the points in fourteenth. Carlos was now up to ninth, with Charles just lingering inside the points in tenth.
Charles had moved up to ninth position after a second stop for Gasly, who was going for a two-stop strategy and for a fresh set of medium tyres.
After Bottas’ puncture, the top three drivers decided to go safe and go for a second stop, with Verstappen pitting on lap 41, while Perez and Hamilton pitted on the following lap, all three drivers going for a fresh set of medium tyres. This promoted Alonso back into third position.
As the race got into the final few laps, Mercedes opted to retire Bottas, while George Russell also suffered a puncture similar to Bottas, as Lando Norris opted for a late second stop due to the incidents and a puncture, and then Russell’s teammate Nicholas Latifi also suffered the same fate.
The McLaren’s stop promoted Carlos and Charles to seventh and eighth position, the pair now getting involved in a four-car battle for fifth, as Esteban Ocon began to struggle. With two laps remaining, a Virtual Safety Car was deployed to remove Latifi’s Williams, who was unable to return to the pitlane.
As the race came to a close, Lewis Hamilton took the win ahead of Max Verstappen, while Fernando Alonso claimed his first podium since his return to F1 with third place. Seventh and eighth for Carlos and Charles was a great effort despite the struggles throughout the weekend.
Written by Cóilin Higgins.