Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas finished third while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez failed to make it to the Q3 at Losail Circuit Sports Club
By Yuri Coghe
Lewis Hamilton had a perfect lap in Qatar on Saturday to claim pole position from championship leader Max Verstappen by almost half a second.
The seven-time world champion set the fastest time in all three sectors en route to claiming a 1:20s827 lap time for the first-ever pole at the Losail Circuit Sports Club.
“That last lap was beautiful,” said Hamilton after the session. “It was a really sweet lap. This track is amazing to drive, it’s incredibly fast, all medium and high-speed corners. It felt good.”
Verstappen, who still managed to complete his lap despite Pierre Gasly having a puncture in his final attempt and causing yellow flags, came 0s455 behind Hamilton.
Valtteri Bottas was third to give Mercedes hopes of a great weekend when it comes to the constructors’ championship – since Red Bull’s Sergio Perez failed to make it to the Q3. The Mexican driver will start Sunday’s race in eleventh.
“I think just lacking a bit of pace, I think it’s just been a bit more tricky for us,” said Verstappen. “(Sergio Perez) is not even in Q3 so it shows that we are struggling a bit more than normal.”
“I struggled quite a bit, especially in Turn 1,” said Bottas. “Need to have a look but obviously, I tried my best, but little bit confused about what happened to the car overnight.”
Hamilton’s performance adds to Red Bull’s doubts about the legality of the Mercedes’ rear wing, which is being tested by the FIA this Friday. In Brazil, Hamilton was disqualified from the qualifying session on Friday after a technical infringement was found in his drag reduction system.
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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also couldn’t make it to the Q3, having to start the first-ever Qatar GP in 13rd. His teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. was seventh, one position ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo was knocked out in the Q2, claiming no more than a P14 on qualifying.
Both teams are fighting for third in the team’s standings with Ferrari currently holding a 31.5-point gap.
Gasly, despite the puncture, was fourth – adding to his constant capture of great qualifying results in 2021. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda was eighth, build on to AlphaTauri’s hopes for Sunday in their fight with Alpine for fifth in the constructors’ championship – tied with 112 points.
The French team saw their drivers achieve good results as well, with Fernando Alonso in P5 and Esteban Ocon in ninth.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel wrapped up the top10.
Canadian drivers Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi were 12th and 17th, respectively. Latifi’s Williams teammate, George Russell, will start the race in the 15th position.
Alfa Romeo saw their departing drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finish in P16 and P18, respectively. The Finn is retiring at the end of the season at 43 while the Italian driver is headed to Formula E and will be replaced by Guanyu Zhou, who will become the first-ever Chinese F1 driver.
Haas, the only team without a point to its name in the 2021 season, saw its drivers fill the last row as usual, with Mick Schumacher in P19 and Nikita Mazepin in P20.
The first-ever Qatar Grand Prix is set for Sunday at 9 AM EST, 6 AM PT.
See the full Qatar Grand Prix qualifying results below: