Lewis Hamilton wins in home race for the first time in 10 years

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is second after the first lap but has dropped to seventh by the end of the race

Lewis Hamilton cut Max Verstappen’s championship lead to seven points as Mercedes won in his home race for the first time in the last 10 years.

The Mercedes driver has now won five races in a row and cut the Dutchman’s advantage with every victory.

Hamilton’s victory was achieved in style as he began the race ahead of Verstappen and then maintained the gap through a close race.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second.

The Australian, who led from pole position for all but three laps of the race, ran wide on the first lap on the run to Turn One and his lead was never restored.

Hamilton was clear for 10 laps then the safety car was deployed with seven laps to go as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull engine failed on the run to Turn Two.

But Hamilton, who has an untouchable 28 points lead in the title race, did not stop the car for fuel or tyres and went on to set the fastest lap of the race at the end of the race.

“I cannot believe how the Red Bull driver has blown us up today,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t stop for tyres and fuel – that’s our problem.

“I am loving racing here with Ferrari, one of the hardest tracks to drive on. I believe we will fight for the championship again. For me this is a final battle in this championship – a run of five races at home with so much on the line.

“I believe I can win more races this year and take the championship.”

The pole-sitter has had the virtual safety car for the last three races and there was none in Qatar.

Race officials explained that “to support the FIA’s commitment to promote safety” a virtual safety car was needed on all laps, even in the absence of a green flag.

So the Red Bull engine problem – which also led to a 45-minute delay as mechanics worked to restart the car – was the reason behind the delay.

An inspection took place around Lap 48 and the track was cleared, and the race resumed without further incident with a 1:47.815 lap from pole’s start.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso passed Esteban Ocon to move up to sixth and then from that position he collided with the Force India of Sergio Perez. Alonso went wide on Turn Two then sustained damage as Perez made a couple of late moves.

The two clashed and Alonso lost power but he powered on to the next corner, regained his speed and closed to within 1.5 seconds of Perez.

By that time, Perez’s tyres had gone and he drove strongly into the pit stops – and then pulled away when they were re-started with new tyres.

That gave Alonso a similar enough lead to the Red Bull that Hamilton was able to cruise in front in the final 30 laps and notch his first win in Qatar.

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Verstappen is only four points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers’ championship

Hamilton’s last home victory in 2014 was in Qatar

Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are the only two drivers to have won five races in a row at the same place

Lewis Hamilton won in Monza in July to take his 50th race win

Formula 1 has not seen five victories in a row at the same track since 1960

Hamilton’s 10th victory of the season gave him 240 points, 13 ahead of Vettel in the championship

Mercedes have now won 10 races in a row for the first time since November 1991

The last time three drivers scored more than 10 points in a single season was in 2005, when Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello were on 10 apiece

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