Lewis Hamilton converted pole position into race victory on Formula 1’s first visit to Qatar, cutting Max Verstappen’s lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to eight points with two races remaining.
The pair were joined on the podium by Fernando Alonso, with the Alpine driver making a one-stop strategy work to give the Alpine driver his first podium since Hungary in 2014.
There was drama before the race as Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas were given penalties for not obeying yellow flags in qualifying, promoting Pierre Gasly to the front row of the grid.
Verstappen started well from seventh, picking up three places on the opening lap, while Gasly lost out to Fernando Alonso, who moved up to second.
A mistake from Gasly allowed Verstappen to move up to third just four laps in, before cruising past Alonso on the next lap, leaving him just four second behind the race leader.
The Red Bull driver seemed to be closing the gap, but ran wide over a kerb and told his team he thought he’d damaged his front wing, although not enough that they had to bring him into the pits.
Sergio Perez started down the order after a disappointing qualifying, but made his way through the field well to climb up to sixth after 10 laps, while Bottas dropped down the field after a poor start, finding himself stuck behind Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll for several laps before finding a way through.
Verstappen was first to stop at the front, forcing Mercedes to react and bring Hamilton in on the next lap, despite the reigning champion insisting his tyres still felt good.
Bottas continued to make progress up the order as Mercedes left him out longer attempting a one-stop strategy, but his hopes of a podium were dealt a blow when he suffered a puncture. The Finn managed to nurse the car back to the pits, but it was a long stop as the team also had to replace his front wing, dropping him out of the top 10, and moving Perez up to the podium.
The front three all stopped again late on, dropping Perez back down the order, with the Mexican having to push hard in the final 10 laps to try to get back in the podium places.
Lando Norris’s finishing position was hit late on when McLaren had to call him in for a second pitstop after the team spotted the early signs of a puncture, while George Russell had to dive into the pitlane after puncturing his tyre over a kerb, with teammate Nicholas Latifi suffering the same fate a lap later.
Bottas became the race’s first retirement, with Mercedes calling him into the pitlane because of the damage he suffered earlier in the race, while Latifi had to park his Williams at the side of the track, resulting in a virtual safety car with just a couple of laps remaining.
The VSC meant Verstappen made a third stop to ensure he sealed the bonus point for fastest lap.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
5. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
6. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
7. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
8. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
9. Lando Norris (McLaren)
10. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
11. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
12. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
13. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
14. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
15. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)
16. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
17. George Russell (Williams)
18. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)
Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)