Verstappen and Hamilton neck and neck
The drivers started qualifying on a lit Losail International circuit. In Q1, it was directly the Mercedes that took the lead, winning time against Max Verstappen in sector 1 in particular. However, the Dutchman managed to stay on track with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. A second fast lap gave him the fastest time with a 1.21.996 – the first 1.21 of this weekend.
The differences at the front were very small as the top three only gave each other 0.023 second. Behind that was the gap to Sergio Perez of no less than four tenths. Hamilton dived almost a tenth below the time of Verstappen in the final seconds.
Dropouts in Q1: Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Schumacher and Mazepin
Perez disappoints: eliminated in Q2
No surprises in Q2 in terms of tire choice, all favorites chose to qualify on the medium tyre. This means that they also have to start the race on this tire on Sunday.
Hamilton had an excellent first run and was three tenths faster than Verstappen and Bottas. It was Pierre Gasly who managed to squeeze himself between the title rivals on the soft tire. Hamilton gained some time in every sector over Verstappen, who was actually just too close behind teammate Sergio Perez on the track.
There were many big surprises in Q2 as Perez, Leclerc and Ricciardo did not advance to Q3. Especially for Perez, who even used the soft band, it was a very poor performance.
Dropouts in Q2: Perez, Stroll, Leclerc, Ricciardo and Russel.
Unprecedented exciting fight for pole position
With all the drivers on new red tires, the big question was who could get involved in the battle for pole position. Could Verstappen fight for pole, or was Mercedes too powerful? And Gasly managed to give his strong weekend a suitable follow-up.
In the first run it was again Hamilton who was fastest. Verstappen then gave almost two tenths and was the fastest only in sector 1. Hamilton set purple times in sectors 2 and 3. Just behind the Red Bull driver, Bottas completed the top 3. Gasly and Alonso managed to stay on track in positions four and five.
Everything came down to the final run in the closing seconds of qualifying. Mercedes chose to take to the track first, while Verstappen was the last driver to complete his flying lap.
Hamilton smashed his own fastest lap time by three tenths and was six tenths off the field. Verstappen had a reasonable lap, but did not come close to Hamilton’s time and starts the race from second position.