Hamilton crushes Qatar qualifiers

FORMULA ONE: Lewis Hamilton took the most dominant pole position of the season to beat title rival Max Verstappen at the front of the grid under the spotlight at the Qatar Grand Prix yesterday (November 20).

Hamilton established the biggest pole position margin in a dry qualifying session of the season, beating title rival Max Verstappen to first place by 0.455 seconds. Photo: AFP

Formula 1 has never raced at the Losail International Circuit, but Mercedes has looked at home throughout the weekend to date. Hamilton used his machine to the max, establishing the biggest pole position margin in a dry qualifying session of the season, beating Verstappen for the top spot by 0.455 seconds.

“This last lap was magnificent,” he said. “It was a very good lap. This track is amazing to drive.

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

“I think we’re just missing a bit of rhythm,” he said. “I think it was even more difficult for us in qualifying – [Sergio Perez] isn’t even in Q3, so it just shows we’re struggling a little harder than usual.

Valtteri Bottas will be Verstappen’s main threat from third place on the most gripping race line, although the Finn was disappointed to be 0.651 seconds off pole after appearing to subdue Hamilton throughout practice.

“It was a good weekend until qualifying,” he said. “In qualifying, I struggled a lot, especially in the first corner.

“I’m a little confused about 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 on the sidewalks and punctured his right front tire.

Gasly was unharmed and was able to park his car in the pit straight, and he nevertheless edged out Fernando Alonso in the AlphaTauri battle with Alpine for fifth place in the championship standings.

Lando Norris was sixth ahead of Carlos Sainz, but his McLaren will start with the softer, more delicate tire while the Ferrari will use the more durable mids, which is the preferred starting compound around this high-energy track.

Yuki Tsunoda was eighth ahead of Esteban Ocon, who struggled with brakes throughout qualifying, while Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10 for Aston Martin.

Sergio Perez called a modest 11e, the Red Bull Racing driver failed to keep pace throughout Q2 and unable to compete with his teammate Verstappen despite using the fastest tire in a last ditch effort to clinch pole position.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was knocked out 12e, with Charles Leclerc of Ferrari a deflated 13e, the Monegasque suddenly lost his rhythm after sunset for the evening qualifiers.

Daniel Ricciardo was also disappointed in 14e, the Australian nearly 0.4 seconds behind his teammate McLaren in Q3 Norris, while George Russell put on his Williams 15e on the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen qualified 16e ahead of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, while Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi will field 18e.

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

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