Hamilton was the first driver out for the second and final runs, and he found even more time, smashing into the 1m20s to take pole.
Lewis Hamilton won the first Qatar Grand Prix after one of the most dominant qualifying performances of the season, with title rival Max Verstappen lining up alongside him in second. The reigning world champion came into Q3 with momentum, having been fastest in the previous two segments, and put himself in supreme shape after the first runs with a clinical lap. He was the first driver out for the second and final runs, and he found even more time, smashing into the 1m20s (the only driver to do so) to take pole by nearly half a second over Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes finished third, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who had the shine taken off his stunning performance when he ran well wide at the penultimate corner. This dragged him onto a kerb, shattering his front wing and causing a puncture. Some drivers were forced to withdraw from their final results as a result, but Fernando Alonso’s first effort was still good enough for a fifth-place finish, his second top-five start in the last five races.
Lando Norris put McLaren sixth, giving them the advantage in the constructors’ championship battle with Ferrari for P3, but Carlos Sainz was only a place behind for Ferrari, out-qualifying teammate Charles Leclerc for the third race in a row. Yuki Tsunoda finished eighth in Qatar, putting both AlphaTauris in the top ten for the fourth time in five races. For the first time since Russia, Esteban Ocon qualified third and will start ninth, with Sebastian Vettel rounding out the top ten after his first Q3 in eight races.
Sergio Perez was the biggest surprise of the Q2 session, as he was forced to swap mediums for softs for the final run – but as the track cooled, he couldn’t find enough time and slipped to 11th and out of the session, a big blow to Red Bull and their race strategy.
After being overshadowed by teammate Bottas on Friday, Hamilton emerged in supreme form on Saturday, not only having found some good direction with the team overnight but also feeling better after a stomach ache. He put himself in the best position after the first runs by taking provisional pole, and then he delivered an even better second lap. Surprisingly, it was only his third pole in the previous 16 races. His lead over Verstappen, who improved on his second lap but did not threaten Hamilton, was the largest in a dry Q3 all year.
“I found a lot of areas in which I could improve, made some changes for P3 and it seemed to work, and then of course you’ve got to try and carry through into qualifying but I’m so grateful or the timings that they put us out on track, we didn’t have any traffic,” said Hamilton.
“And then that last lap was beautiful. 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,” the Brit added.