- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Lewis Hamilton has won a dramatic Qatar Grand Prix littered with tyre punctures to close the gap to Max Verstappen in the F1 world championship race.
The seven-time world champion won the inaugural race in Qatar in his Mercedes to cut Verstappen's overall lead to just eight points with two races remaining.
'VERY CLEAR': Lewis Hamilton at centre of F1 cheating storm
'MONEY RULES': F1 driver's staggering claim after 'ruthless' dumping
Verstappen was second after starting seventh following a five-place grid drop for failing to respect warning flags in Saturday's qualifying, but he earned a potentially crucial bonus point for fastest lap.
Double world champion Fernando Alonso was third for Renault-owned Alpine, the 40-year-old Spaniard's first podium finish since 2014.
It was another frustrating afternoon for Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, who missed out on the points again with his 12th-place finish in his McLaren.
"It was pretty straightforward, it was pretty lonely at the front," said Hamilton, who led from pole position and was never challenged over the 57 laps of the floodlit night race.
"Of course, I enjoy those races where you're battling through, but we needed those points today, so I think a real solid job from the team...Bring on the next two."
While Hamilton was never really challenged, there was chaos and drama behind him.
Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi also suffered tyre punctures, with Bottas and Latifi failing to finish as a result.
“I guess you don’t expect the tyre to blow up, especially not on the hard tyre,” Norris said.
“We weren’t even that far into the stint, 20 laps or something, and the tyre should do a lot more than 20 laps.
“Every track, you look after the tyres because the tyres wear out a bit but you don’t expect it to suddenly let go completely.
“(It was) quite dangerous for a lot of people today. It shouldn’t happen.”
“It just shouldn’t happen. If there’s a wall there or something, it could’ve been a lot more dangerous.
“They should make the tyres better. It’s dangerous for us as drivers. We risk a lot every time and if we can’t just drive a Formula 1 car around the circuit, what can you do?
“I didn’t even do a very long stint, 20 laps, 25 laps, whatever. I should still be able to drive the circuit.”
More punctures with out warning Pirelli masterclass 🤡
— jKe (@jKeAVFC) November 21, 2021
Just tweeted the exact same wtf 😭😭😭https://t.co/XFtnoLOkSv
— K.Shah (@kshitijshah23) November 21, 2021
This track is eating up tyres like Oprah giving out new cars for everyone
— Muhammad Amin (@Ismaski) November 21, 2021
— Chrystal Horner (@ChrystalHorner) November 21, 2021
Lewis Hamilton closes gap on Max Verstappen
The win was Hamilton's seventh from 20 races this season, and the record-extending 102nd of his career also continued his record of being first to win at new circuits on the calendar.
Verstappen, who has nine wins this year, carried out another solid piece of damage limitation as Red Bull cut Mercedes' lead in the constructors' standings from 11 to five points.
"Of course, our starting position was a bit compromised but luckily we had a really good start," said Verstappen, who was fourth by the end of the opening lap and soon slotted into second.
"I know it's going to be difficult but that keeps it exciting. It's going to be a tight battle until the end."
The 24-year-old Dutchman could still win the championship with a race to spare at the next round in Saudi Arabia if Hamilton fails to score.
Red Bull had been mystified by the grid penalty for Verstappen, with team principal Christian Horner criticising the punishment.
However, he was given an official warning for suggesting a "rogue marshal" was to blame.
The Briton apologised and also agreed to participate in an international stewards' program next February.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 21, 2021
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.