Hamilton crushes Qatar qualifying

Lewis Hamilton has taken the season’s most dominant pole position to beat title rival Max Verstappen to the front row of the grid under lights at the Qatar Grand Prix.

This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.

Formula 1 has never raced at the Losail International Circuit, but Mercedes has looked at home through the weekend to date. Hamilton wielded his machinery to maximum effect by setting the largest pole position margin in a dry qualifying session of the season, beating Verstappen to top spot by 0.455 seconds.

“That last lap was beautiful,” he said. “It was a really sweet lap. This track is amazing to drive.”

Verstappen conceded Mercedes’s superiority, and the Dutchman painted a relatively bleak picture for his race prospects starting from the dirty, low-grip side of the grid.

“I think we’re just lacking a bit of pace,” he said. “I think it’s been just a bit more tricky for us again in qualifying — [Sergio Perez] is not even in Q3, so it just shows we are struggling a bit more than normal.”

Valtteri Bottas will be Verstappen’s chief threat starting from third on the grippier racing line, though the Finn was disappointed the be 0.651 seconds short of pole after appearing to have a handle on Hamilton throughout practice.

“It’s been a good weekend so far until the qualifying,” he said. “In quali I struggled quite a bit, especially in turn one.

“I’m a little bit confused what happened with the car overnight.”

Pierre Gasly was an excellent fourth, but his qualifying session ended in a shower of sparks and rubber when his front wing collapsed riding over some kerbs and punctured his front-right tyre.

Gasly was unscathed and was able to park his car on the pit straight, and he nonetheless pipped Fernando Alonso in a boost to AlphaTauri’s battle with Alpine for fifth in the championship standings.

Lando Norris was sixth ahead of Carlos Sainz, but his McLaren will start on the more delicate soft tyre whereas the Ferrari will run the more durable mediums, which is the preferred starting compound around this high-energy track.

Yuki Tsunoda was eighth ahead of Esteban Ocon, who suffered brake problems throughout qualifying, while Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10 for Aston Martin.

Sergio Perez qualified a lowly 11th, the Red Bull Racing driver off the pace throughout Q2 and unable to match teammate Verstappen despite using the fastest tyre in a last-ditch effort to make the pole shootout.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was knocked out 12th, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc a deflated 13th, the Monegasque suddenly off the pace after the sun set for evening qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo was similarly disappointed in 14th, the Australian almost 0.4s shy of Q3-bound McLaren teammate Norris, while George Russell put his Williams 15th on the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen qualified 16th ahead of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, while his Alfa Romeo teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, will line up 18th.

Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will start on the final row of the grid in 19th and 20th.