Lewis Hamilton relishes ‘beautiful’ last lap after taking pole position in Qatar

TOPSHOT - Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton gestures after the qualifying session ahead of the Qatari Formula One Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit, on the outskirts of the capital city of Doha, on November 20, 2021. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton gestures after the qualifying session ahead of the Qatari Formula One Grand Prix at the Losail International Circuit, on the outskirts of the capital city of Doha, on November 20, 2021. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton took a commanding pole position at the first ever Qatar Grand Prix after working long into the night to get the upper hand in his quest to get the better of Max Verstappen and lift an eighth Formula One world title.

The reigning champion is currently 14 points behind the Dutchman in the drivers’ championship but won in Brazil last weekend and had the beating of the Red Bull around the Lusail International Circuit.

With Mercedes showing their pace advantage in Saturday’s final practice session, Hamilton would storm to pole under the lights in Doha with a time of one minute 20.827 – almost half a second faster than his main title protagonist, with Verstappen starting second.

“Yesterday was a really difficult day for me – I really struggled through that practice yesterday,” Hamilton admitted.

“I was here until midnight last night working with the engineers and found a little variation where I could improve, made some changes for third practice and it worked but – then you have to carry that through to qualifying.

“That last lap was beautiful, it is an amazing track to drive and it felt good.

“I had a bit of a stomach ache from Wednesday but I slept really well last night and that made a bit of a difference.”

While Hamilton will also have the support of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who starts from third, Verstappen is on his own at the front of the grid.

The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez failed to make it out of the second round of qualifying and will start down in 11th.

“I think we were lacking a bit of pace,” said Verstappen.

“I think it is a bit more tricky for us. We are struggling a bit more than normal but nevertheless we are second so it is all to play for.

“It has been a bit up and down. I was happy in qualifying – but just not quick enough as that sometimes happens.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen felt his car was ‘missing a bit of pace’ (Darko Bandic/AP)

“I thought I had had a good lap and then I heard the gap in lap time and thought, well I didn’t really need to risk that. For tomorrow, when it is such a gap it will be difficult.”

The end of qualifying caused confusion as a puncture for Pierre Gasly saw the yellow flag come out and go back in.

The AlphaTauri man has impressed over the weekend and will start fourth despite his late issue, with Fernando Alonso fifth for Alpine.