Max Verstappen breaks silence on FIA sanction after losing out to Lewis Hamilton in Qatar

F1: Hamilton v Verstappen in numbers

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Max Verstappen was thankful that he was able to cut his way through the pack early on after being handed a five-place grid penalty at the Qatar Grand Prix. It was all set up for a fascinating battle into Turn One in Qatar after qualifying on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton had dominated qualifying and was quickest by some margin in Q3, although both Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen had their final laps compromised when Pierre Gasly slowed to a stop on the main straight.

Yellow flags were waved as cars crossed the line to finish their final lap, with both Bottas and Verstappen deemed to have ignored the warning signs.

Verstappen still had secured the front row, placing his car in between the two Mercedes with Bottas in third.

But the two rivals ended up being punished just hours before Sunday’s race for disobeying yellow flags.

JUST IN: Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas hit with a three-place grid penalty

Bottas was dropped down to sixth after being given a three-place grid penalty for ignoring single-waved yellows, while Verstappen was handed a bigger punishment as double yellows were waved.

That put Verstappen down in seventh for the start of the race, with a host of cars ahead of him on the racier soft compound.

But the championship-leader got a strong start off the line and quickly found himself on the back of Lando Norris.

Just a few laps went by before Verstappen eventually found himself up in second behind Hamilton.

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The seven-time world champion had already opened up a healthy lead at that point and Mercedes appeared to adopt the tactic of copying anything their rival was doing.

When Verstappen came in for his first stop early, Mercedes reacted immediately to bring Hamilton in.

The same happened late in the race as the hard compound began to wear away, and the move worked well for Red Bull as Verstappen was able to steal a crucial fastest lap point away from Hamilton.

The seven-time world champion still cut the gap to just eight points heading into Saudia Arabia next month, but Verstappen knew his fastest-lap point could be crucial for the final two races.

“Of course our starting position was a bit compromised,” he said.

“But thankfully we had a really good start and from there I was quickly back into second so at the end of the day to get that fastest lap was very nice.

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“I know it’s going to be difficult to the end, but that’s nice. It keeps it exciting.”

He added: “I feel good. It’s going to be a tight battle until the end.”

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