F1 2021 QATAR GRAND PRIX: Hamilton dominates to pole
The first F1 qualifying in Qatar saw some shocking eliminations early on. It also saw a masterclass performance from Sir Lewis Hamilton, as he beat his championship rival Max Verstappen to pole.
The Haas drivers were the first ones out on track, followed by half of the grid. Most cars opted for the soft tyre compound, though Pierre Gasly used medium tires putting himself 4th on his first try.
The first attempts of Hamilton and Verstappen put the two in a completely different league. Hamilton led by two tenths, but Lando Norris in third was over half a second behind Verstappen. On his second attempt, Valtteri Bottas lifts himself up to first place, three thousandths ahead of Hamilton.
Both Alfa Romeo and Haas drivers struggled on their first attempts, sitting in P17 to P20. Charler Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo also had a difficult time, only getting up to 12th and 13th respectively. The track was improving towards the end of the session, with Russell putting his Williams to P10 with two minutes to go.
A lot of traffic collected in the final sector, catching out Nicholas Latifi who could not go onto make his final lap.
Hamilton ended Q1 on top, followed by Verstappen and Bottas. The eliminated drivers were Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Schumacher, and Mazepin.
Medium was the tyre of choice for most teams, though AlphaTauri goes out with softs on both cars. Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas retain their places from A1 on their first attempts, until Gasly took second place.
Perez’s first attempt was a dud, with the Mexican only eighth and almost one second behind Hamilton. The Aston Martin’s and Alpine’s came out on the softs after the other teams finish their attempts. Their speed forces Leclerc and both McLaren’s to change their medium tires to softs.
Perez was also forced to take the soft tyre, as he finds himself on 12th place with 5 minutes to go in Q2.
Leclerc cannot improve enough and is left in P13, with Ricciardo struggling to 14th. The Biggest shock is Perez being eliminated in 11th place. Ferrari’s gamble with putting Sainz on mediums paid of, as the Spaniard qualified for Q3 in 10th place. The Alpines and AlphaTauri flew in Q2 and get both of their cars into Q3.
All drivers headed out straight away after the green light in Q3. The first attempts echo the standings from Q1 and Q2, with Hamilton leading ahead of Verstappen and Bottas with two tenths between all three drivers. Gasly and Alonso complete the top five, all five inside just over four tenths.
Hamilton was the first one out for the final attempts with little over three minutes left on the clock. Mercedes splits their cars a sector apart, quite unusual for the team. Verstappen was the last car to leave the pits.
Hamilton dug out an incredible first sector, beating everyone by three tenths. He finishes his lap with a 1:20.827, over four tenths faster than his previous fastest lap. Gasly’s front wing broke in the last sector, puncturing his tyre and causing short yellow flags. This meant Hamilton took the pole by four and a half tents to Verstappen in P2, followed by Bottas in P3. Gasly and Alonso kept their impressive P4 and P5.
Norris got 6th, followed by his golfing partner Sainz. Tsunoda was an impressive 8th, with Ocon in 9th. Vettel could only manage 10th in his Aston Martin.