Red Bull saw their two drivers finish in the top four of the Qatar Grand Prix, after a race that saw pre-race drama.

Max Verstappen had been due to start second, but less than 2 hours before the race was due to start, the stewards confirmed the Dutch driver was being penalised for ignoring double waved yellow flags in qualifying.

This meant the championship leader had to go on a recovery drive from 7th. But Verstappen was able to get back to second, and also took the fastest lap point, mitigating the damage to championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who took home a comfortable victory.

Meanwhile, Sergio Perez was able to pull off a decent comeback to finish in 4th place after starting 11th, though he was pipped to a 4th podium in 5 races by Fernando Alonso, with the Spanish driver managing his first F1 podium since 2014.

In a tight driver’s championship battle, Verstappen enters the final 2 races of the 2021 season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi holding an eight point advantage over Hamilton.

Perez meanwhile remains 4th on 190 points, though with Mercedes’ Valtterri Bottas failing to finish after damage sustained by a mid-race puncture, he is just 13 points behind the Finnish driver.

As for the constructor’s race, Red Bull close the gap, with the Milton Keynes-based team reducing Mercedes’ lead in that field to 5 points.

In the Qatar race at the Losail International Circuit, Verstappen made an early recovery after getting past Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Bottas pretty much straight away before getting past Pierre Gasly and Alonso on later laps to return to the top 2. However, he was unable to get close to challenge Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Perez was able to break through some early scraps before the pace told, as he swept up into the top 4. The Mexican was on a two-stop strategy, but timed it enough to get back past ex-team mates Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon before a puncture for Norris helped Perez into the top four. However, it was too late for him to catch Alonso, who just held on to take the podium.

In one further item of business, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was given a warning by the stewards after criticising a marshall for the yellow flag that got Verstappen his penalty. Horner blamed a “rogue marshall” waving double yellows for the stricken Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly, who had stopped on the main straight, and in a post-race meeting, Horner apologised to the marshall and participate in next year’s FIA International Stewards Programme.