Doha, Nov 17: Lewis Hamilton will continue his late push to keep his crown as Formula One world champion at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this week.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton has three races left in his quest to deny Red Bull rival Max Verstappen glory.
Verstappen leads the championship by 14 points, a lead that was reduced by Hamilton's memorable win at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton started the sprint qualifying race at the back of the grid and then the main event on Sunday in 10th on the grid, sitting 21 points adrift.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 14, 2021
Damage limitation would have been a reasonable aim, but instead Hamilton turned the tables with a famous win that hauled him back into contention.
A tense and thrilling title race has also proven controversial, with Mercedes this week requesting a review of the decision not to take any action against Verstappen for an incident involving the pair in Brazil.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff branded Verstappen's defence while Hamilton attempted to pass him as "over the line", but Red Bull boss Christian Horner saw nothing untoward.
Verstappen still has the precious lead that means he has the title race in his hands. The Dutchman knows he will be world champion if he wins the next two races while also setting the fastest lap.
In a remarkable year, he has finished in the top two for 15 of his 16 finished grands prix this year.
But a surging Hamilton – looking for a record eighth championship that will see him surpass Michael Schumacher – will not relinquish his title without an almighty scrap, and a night race at Losail Circuit will provide the latest twist.
LAST TIME OUT
Hamilton claimed a crucial win with a magnificent performance in Brazil.
Verstappen had extended his lead in the title race on Saturday to 21 points when he finished second behind Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the sprint qualifying race.
Hamilton had his Friday qualifying session result ruled out due to a DRS infringement, meaning he started the Saturday sprint in last, but impressively charged up from 20th to fifth.
A five-place grid penalty meant he still had to start back in 10th for the main event on Sunday, yet the reigning world champion delivered, gaining eight places within the early exchanges before, at the third attempt and after the controversial moment, he overtook Verstappen with 12 laps remaining.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) November 14, 2021
Poleman Bottas had been unable to keep control of the race after Verstappen and Sergio Perez nipped ahead to make it a Red Bull one-two early on, but Hamilton ensured it was Mercedes' weekend as he cut the Dutchman's lead in the championship.
Bottas ultimately took third, with Perez settling for fourth as well as a point for the fastest lap which stopped Hamilton from making further gains on Verstappen. Charles Leclerc was the best of the rest in fifth for Ferrari.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN QATAR
A new circuit means there is no past form for teams or drivers to look back on, but Hamilton goes into the week as favourite for victory on the back of his Brazil brilliance.
The Briton has won five of the last seven GPs raced in Arabian Peninsula, most recently this year in Bahrain when he won despite Verstappen starting from pole.
This will be Hamilton's 35th different circuit – he has won at 29 of the previous 34 he has appeared at during his F1 career and taken pole at 30 of them.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 17, 2021
As well as the thrilling battle in the drivers' standings, Mercedes are now 11 points clear of Red Bull in a race for constructors' glory that looks poised to go down to the wire.
McLaren, meanwhile, have fallen to 31.5 behind Ferrari in the battle to finish third as they continue to lose momentum, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo in need of a morale-boosting result in Qatar.
After this race, the Qatar Grand Prix will move to a new purpose-built circuit from 2023 as part of a 10-year contract for the event.
TOP FIVE OPTA FACTS
F1 history - Losail in Qatar will be the 75th circuit to host an F1 race, the 11th in Asia and the third in the Arabian Peninsula after Sakhir in Bahrain and Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton thrives - In Brazil, Hamilton became the F1 driver to win the most races in the Americas (18) and the Briton will now be looking to be the driver to win the most races in the continent of Asia, surpassing Sebastian Vettel (28).
Masterful Max - Verstappen comes to this contest after equalling the tally of podiums (57) earned by Nico Rosberg, the last person other than Hamilton to win the title. The Dutchman is six points away from being the eighth F1 driver to surpass the 1,500 mark.
Three in a row? - Mercedes have taken the pole position in the last two qualifying sessions (both by Bottas in Mexico and Brazil) and are now looking to equal their best run this season, the three taken between Emilia Romagna and Spain (Hamilton x2 and Bottas).
900 up - McLaren will become the second team to reach 900 GPs in F1 after Ferrari (1,027). The British team appeared for the first time in Monaco 1966 with only one driver, Bruce McLaren, who failed to finish that race. This year they are the only team to have recorded a one-two finish (in Monza).
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 332.5 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 318.5 3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 203 4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 178 5. Lando Norris (McLaren) 151
1. Mercedes 521.5 2. Red Bull 510.5 3. Ferrari 287.5 4. McLaren 256 5. Alpine 112