Hamilton on pole in Qatar with Verstappen second
Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole position for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix with a dominant display under the floodlights on Saturday.
Red Bull's championship leader Max Verstappen, 14 points clear of his British rival with three races remaining, will start alongside him on Sunday night but qualified nearly half a second slower. Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas was third.
AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly was fourth despite losing his front wing and suffering a puncture, shedding debris and bringing out the yellow flags on his final lap.
“That last lap was beautiful, it was a really sweet lap,” said Hamilton.
The defending champion was first out of the pits for the final flying effort and set an eye-opening time of one minute 20.827 seconds for his 102nd career pole.
The 36-year-old had already been on provisional pole with a time of 1:21.262 after going fastest in the first and second phases of qualifying.
Hamilton said he had not been feeling well on Thursday and Friday, when he was also up until midnight working with his engineers.
“I had a bit of a stomach ache from Wednesday but felt fantastic today. I slept well last night so that makes a big difference,” he said.
Verstappen said his car was just lacking some pace.
“It's been just a bit more tricky for us again in qualifying,” said the Dutch 24-year-old, whose Mexican team mate Sergio Perez qualified only 11th.
“Checo (Perez) is not even in Q3 (the final phase) so it definitely shows we are struggling a bit more than normal. But nevertheless it's still second, so it's all to play for. I wish we could have fought for more.”
Fernando Alonso qualified fifth for Alpine, with McLaren's Lando Norris sixth and Carlos Sainz seventh for Ferrari. AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10.