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Lewis Hamilton wins the Qatar Grand Prix, taking the lead in points from Verstappen

LOSAIL, Qatar – Lewis Hamilton inching closer to the top of the Formula One championship with Sunday’s dominating victory in the inaugural Qatar grand opening to earn consecutive wins and win at Max Verstappen’s advantage point.

Hamilton, who also won last week in Brazil, is 17 points short of the lead Verstappen in the title race in a week. Verstappen still leads by eight points with the remaining two races one of the most intense F1 title battle for at least a decade.

“I am really, really grateful for these points. It was a hell of a year,” Hamilton said. “Being at this time of year and having consecutive wins is a great feeling.”

Seven-time champion starts from cho pole Mercedes and was never challenged on the Losail International Circuit as Hamilton won the 102nd race of his career. It was his seventh win of the season.

Verstappen finished second for Red Bull, nearly 25 seconds behind Hamilton.

Hamilton said: “The front is quite lonely.

Verstappen received a penalty before the race started when he was dropped five places on the starting grid for a yellow flag violation during Saturday’s qualifying. The Dutchman had qualified for second but management had asked him to return to the grid following hearings on Sunday for Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz.

All three were accused of not following the yellow flag rules near the end of qualifying. Bottas, who made it through to the third qualifying round, was penalized for three starting sports. Sainz was not penalized.

Red Bull was baffled by the penalty for Verstappen, who lost any chance of challenging Hamilton for the win when he was penalized. Red Bull principal Christian Horner criticized the punishment when it was introduced.

“We’re really struggling to understand it,” says Horner. “It’s an important blow in this world championship for us.”

Despite the penalty, Verstappen needed just 5 laps to recover and drive back to the original starting position.

“Our starting position was damaged a little bit,” said Verstappen. “I know it’s going to be tough in the end but I think it’s great. It keeps it interesting. ”

But he says he is ready for the challenges ahead in Saudi Arabia and the finale in Abu Dhabi.

“I feel good,” he said. “It will be tight.”

Hamilton, a winner of four consecutive titles, has all the momentum now. The British driver is looking for a record eighth F1 title, which will take him through Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton said: “I feel very good, I am really pleased with the car. “I feel more comfortable than ever, so that’s a positive thing.”

Fernando Alonso of Alpine finished third on his first podium since 2014. He was assisted by pre-race penalties for Verstappen and Bottas, which sent the Spaniard into third. on the starting grid.

Sergio Perez finished 4th to help Red Bull beat Mercedes to win the constructors championship.

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