Hamilton won 102nd pole position of his career, fourth of the season and first since the Hungarian Grand Prix in August.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen qualified 1-2 for the first Qatar Grand Prix in a clash between Formula 1 championship contenders at the start of Sunday’s race.
Hamilton won 102nd pole position of his career, fourth of the season and first since the Hungarian Grand Prix in August. Hamilton is 14 points behind Verstappen in the championship fight with three races remaining.
On Saturday, he beat Verstappen by 0.455 seconds to win pole position at the Losail International Circuit. The seven-time champion said his stomach has bothered him since he arrived in Qatar, but a good night’s sleep helped him recover.
Hamilton said that the opening day of the new circuit was difficult due to stomach pain, and he was fourth in both Friday workouts.
“I really struggled during the first training session and I was just out of my mind,” Hamilton said. “I was here until midnight, working with the engineers, who also always work so late, and found many areas where I could improve.”
Mercedes made changes to Saturday’s final practice session and Hamilton said he was helped in qualifying by a clever strategy that put him on a track with little traffic and a strong rider lap. It was the dominant result for Hamilton, who was fastest in all three qualifying groups. He was the first rider to enter the final qualifying heat and the only rider to complete the lap in 1 minute 20 seconds. He was almost half a second faster than Verstappen.
“That last lap was great, it was a really nice lap,” Hamilton said. “This track is amazing to drive and incredibly fast. Was good.
Verstappen said Red Bull lacks pace and noted that his teammate Sergio Perez was unable to advance to the final qualifying group. Perez will start 11th.
“It was a little more difficult for us in qualifying,” said Verstappen. “We are fighting a little more than usual. We have never raced here, so a lot of unknowns remain. “
The race is the first in a 10-year agreement between F1 and Qatar.
Hamilton unveiled a helmet on Friday that featured a rainbow in the colors of the Progress Pride flag, recognized by the LGBTQ + community. He shared a photo on his social media with the caption “We are together” and said after qualifying that he hopes to wear a helmet at the upcoming races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton spoke again on Friday on human rights issues in the region and acknowledged that F1 is closing the season in places “considered the worst in this part of the world” for human rights violations. Campaign groups have highlighted discriminatory laws against women and LGBTQ + persons in the Gulf State, which will also host the FIFA World Cup next year.
He said that after qualifying, he did not receive any negative feedback on the helmet.
“It’s important for me to represent this community. I know there are a few situations that are not ideal and require special attention, ”Hamilton said. “But I hope that someone will come to us and want to know what is happening here and what they are doing to support the LBGTQ + community.”
Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes, finished third in qualifying, followed by Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri. Gasley was fast all weekend, but a tire puncture at the end of qualifying slowed him down. At the penultimate corner, Gasly ran past, and his front fender flew apart as he hit a curb, resulting in a punctured tire.
Fernando Alonso qualified fifth in the Alpine, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Yuki Tsunoda was eighth, about 0.2 seconds behind his teammate Gasley, followed by Esteban Ocon from Alpine and Sebastian Vettel from Aston Martin.
The weekend kicked off with the Brazilian Grand Prix remains the main topic of discussion as Mercedes challenged the FIA’s decision not to punish Verstappen for driving off the track in Sao Paulo last week. Mercedes demanded a reconsideration of the decision, which the FIA rejected in the middle of a press briefing on Friday between the leaders of the two rival teams.
Red Bull complained that the rear wing on a Mercedes was illegal in some races, and last week Verstappen was fined in Brazil for touching the wing after training.
“It’s hard to find out. Not only moving forward, but what has already been done in previous races, ”said Verstappen. “I mean we have footage, so these things can be highlighted. Let’s hope we have a good battle to the end. “
The 24-year-old Dutchman is seeking his first Formula 1 championship. Hamilton, 36, has won four titles in a row.