Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Losail International Circuit, 2021

Flying Hamilton takes dominant pole position in Qatar

2021 Qatar Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton grabbed the pole position for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, four-tenths of a second ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen.

Q1

The first phase of qualifying began at 5pm under floodlights at the Losail International Circuit.

Nikita Mazepin missed the entirety of second and third practice due to damage and other car problems, so the last thing he needed on his first flying lap was to suffer a damaged front wing endplate caused by a hard hit on the kerbs. Mazepin completed the lap and went back to the garage for a new front wing.

For the other drivers, staying within touch of the kerbs was critical to keep their fast lap times from being deleted for track limits violations. Charles Leclerc sat on the bubble to advance into Q2 after his first fastest lap time was deleted, but he avoided elimination at the expense of Nicholas Latifi.

With rubber being put down on the track, and the track temperature dropping slightly since the start of the session, every team was eager to get their drivers on track at the end of the session. Nearly every driver was queued up at the final sector before setting off, similar to the traffic jams seen in qualifying at Monza.

Both Alfa Romeo drivers fell at the first hurdle. Kimi Raikkonen missed the cut by three-tenths and Antonio Giovinazzi was a tenth slower. They joined the two Haas-Ferraris of Mazepin and Mick Schumacher – who outqualified his team mate by 2.4 seconds – at the back of the grid. Aside from Mazepin, 1.506 seconds covered first to 19th in Q1.

At the top of the table, Hamilton led with a 1’21.901, less than a tenth ahead of Max Verstappen, then Botta. Pierre Gasly, in eighth, was the only driver to set their fastest lap on the medium compound tyres.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’23.156
17Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’23.213
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’23.262
19Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’23.407
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’25.859

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Q2

Red Bull suffered a blow in Q2 as Sergio Perez failed to accompany his team mate into the top 10 shoot-out. Both drivers went out on the medium compound tyres in an effort to ensure a strategic advantage in the race. Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren did likewise, though only Mercedes got both their drivers into Q3.

After the first set of flying laps, Hamilton was quickest on the medium tyres with a 1’21.682, but Gasly went second quickest on the softs, ahead of Verstappen on the mediums. The close gaps between the times led even the quickest teams to send their drivers out for soft tyre runs at the end in case they needed to improve.

Alpine and Aston Martin opted for the soft compound tyres. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon pushed their way above the cut line on their first runs, as did Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll. They pushed the likes of Sergio Perez and Lando Norris out of the top 10, with Charles Leclerc unable to figure out where he was missing nearly a second of pace after his first run.

With just three minutes left, Hamilton was sent out on the soft tyres for his final time attack – and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez followed suit, along with Leclerc, and the McLarens of Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. Bottas stuck with the medium tyres to try for a significant strategic advantage in the race, as did Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Leclerc and Ricciardo were unable to bump their way back into the top ten on their last laps. Sainz was unable to improve on his second run on the medium tyres – but Perez lost out in the final sector and could only go 11th fastest.

Joining Perez, Leclerc, and Ricciardo on the wrong side of the cut line were Lance Stroll and George Russell.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’22.346
12Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’22.460
13Charles LeclercFerrari1’22.463
14Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’22.597
15George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’22.756

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Q3

The final stage of qualifying commenced with all 10 remaining drivers on track; Hamilton, Bottas, and Verstappen went out on new sets of soft tyres that they’d saved, while the likes of Norris, Ocon, Sebastian Vettel, and Yuki Tsunoda went out on used sets.

Hamilton set the early benchmark with a 1’21.262, ahead of Bottas with a 1’21.478. Verstappen set a fastest first sector, but even with the higher downforce rear wing that his Red Bull crew installed after third practice, he could not displace Hamilton from the top spot on his first run – just 0.162 seconds behind.

Gasly stood as the best of the rest after the first set of time attacks. And Fernando Alonso, who finished Q2 in third place, went fifth-fastest as the Alpines continued their improvement from the start of the weekend.

Every driver had a new set of soft tyres stuck on for their final flying laps. Verstappen had more front wing angle added in the interim, and was set to be the last driver over the line when the chequered flag fell – with Hamilton being first in the order.

Hamilton set blistering first and second sectors and completed a sensational lap with a time of 1’20.827, fastest across all three sectors.

Moments later, Gasly hit the exit kerb hard, breaking the front wing and causing a right front puncture. The AlphaTauri began to spit rubber and debris on track, and eventually came to a stop on the front stretch.

Yellow flags were briefly shown in two marshalling sectors but withdrawn as the final drivers came to the line. Verstappen improved his lap time marginally, but not by enough to displace Hamilton from the top spot, as the reigning seven-time world champion became the first Formula 1 pole winner in Qatar.

Bottas held onto third and will hold a strategic advantage as he starts the race on medium tyres. Gasly held onto fourth place despite the yellow flags, ahead of Alonso in fifth. Norris, Sainz, Tsunoda, Ocon, and Vettel completed the top ten in that order.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’20.827
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’21.282
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’21.478
4Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’21.640
5Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’21.670
6Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’21.731
7Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’21.840
8Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’21.881
9Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’22.028
10Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’22.785

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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38 comments on “Flying Hamilton takes dominant pole position in Qatar”

  1. The best Max can hope for is second, baring more “dirty driving”!

    Good run from Gasly and Alonso. Should be a good race tomorrow.

    1. dirty driving”!

      You mean the option bottas takes out Lewis of course.
      Bottas using the same line as max in Brazil..
      Interesting thought :)

    2. Yes, Mercedes has become a problem. Lets hope they keep it clean, unlike Silverstone and Hungary. I mean they got all they need now (more suiting tyres, RB not allowed to be quick during the pitstops) so I do not expect them to bump Max off for a third time in one season.

  2. Game over for RB

  3. lexusreliability?
    20th November 2021, 15:19

    Let’s hope Verstappen won’t pull a Monza/Brazil and ensures he keeps his points lead through unsporting means as the momentum has shifted towards Merc and Hamilton on the final stretch of the championship.

    1. Yeah, that’s my thoughts too. Once again it would suit Verstappen to brake later into the first corner and takeout Hamilton. Going by the stewards todate, they’d likely call that a racing incident and not penalise the Redbully.

      Max is the first to talk about clean drivers or fair drivers, yet he’s the first to take liberties, so lets see what he comes up with tomorow. To be honest the tone at redbull is set by Horner…

    2. @lexusreliability?

      I think the lack of penalty in Brazil has set the stage for very aggressive driving. Verstappen has enough WDC points and lack of penalty points to allow him to push Hamilton around. Hamilton will probably concede the corner if Verstappen gets beside him. He’ll probably watch for an aggressive dive bomb in turn one too

      I don’t think, however, it makes strategic sense for Verstappen to crash him on purpose. There are too many points remaining.

      1. lexusreliability?
        20th November 2021, 16:47

        @slotopen

        In my view Max would happily crash his way to the championship- he showed that as early as Monza when he saw Hamilton ahead. Playing devil’s advocate- why would Max want a clean fight? On pure pace this weekend the Mercs seem to have the Red Bull beaten- I would even fancy Bottas to take him. So a potential 10 point swing with Hamilton 1st and Max 3rd, or a DNF with Max maintaining a 14 point lead with 2 to go? Also the thing about accidents is, just because they crash doesn’t necessarily mean Max also DNFs. He could survive, even with a penalty, extend his points lead. Max has motivation to not avoid a crash with Lewis, with Bottas maybe.

  4. Probably one of Lewis’ best laps in his career in qualifying, but I think Singapore 2018 remains hands down the best. This track is mad for driving. I approve this track for driving. Suzuka and Mugello like.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th November 2021, 15:29

      @krichelle Agree that it was one of Lewis’ quali highlights (at least from what I’ve heard). But that Singapore lap? Yeah even as not Lewis’ biggest fan I have to admit that was more than special.

      Similar opinions about the track as well. Looks amazing for lapping in Quali. Worried it won’t be so good in the race though.

  5. RandomMallard (@)
    20th November 2021, 15:27

    Sounded like a hell of a lap from Lewis (according to the radio 5 live lot)

    And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

  6. Good pole lap, all purple. I believe 0.455 is the biggest dry qualifying pole gap we’ve seen all season.. and to see it on a short track like Qatar…..

    Good stuff from Alonso, didn’t even come across my mind to see him ahead of Mclaren and Ferrari

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      20th November 2021, 15:31

      I think if you ask Ross Brawn you’ll find out that the biggest dry pole gap was Bottas in Monza by 2.325 seconds ;-)

      But on a more serious note that was a special lap from Lewis

    2. The Losail Circuit with its 5.380 km length is longer than 11 tracks of this season’s calendar, and thre are a few other which ones are just a bit longer as well, so I consider it as a not so short curcuit, even a bit longish. Probably it felt short because it is flowing, and the pace of many was amazing to watch at qualy. But it was a nice pole lap that is for sure.

      1. @jockey
        I was referencing more to the short time to complete a lap rather than the distance. But I still wanted to make sure of my claim too: the avg pole time till now was about 1min 22.6 sec. which makes losail’s 1:20 a SLIGHTLY shorter track than avg.
        Despite all that, it’s still an ominous gap

  7. Bias is screaming loud from British media lately. Moves like that of Max happened basically since Formula 1 begin, I remember it from the 2000s as well, not that fuss about it, it was normal racing. The proof that even when Mercedes has momentum they and their fans find some way to whine scandalously.

  8. Super lap. Hamilton clearly did his homework last night, and it showed on the slow mo of his qualifier with him having the best approach into the corners, compared to Verstappen.

    There really wasn’t that much between the two cars besides the quality of the drivers.

    1. Even the most ardent Hamilton fans don’t believe the Mercedes was equal to the Red Bull today. But there is a new level of delusional fans I see.

      1. Don’t feed a troll

        1. *Here @trib4udi take this small morsel of food* – oops :-)

    2. Guess you also claim that Red Bull had the fastest car in Brazil or was on par.

      Ever since Silverstone the Mercedes is easily 0.2-0.3 per lap faster on average with some circuits more and other less and as always in Mexico slightly behind the Red Bull.

      1. Slightly behind the Red Bull in Mexico? Very funny!

    3. You’re going to upset the “Max made the difference” fans – they can’t see the irony :-)

  9. Just pun intended 😛

    How about this for a conspiracy theory.

    Mercedes purposefully spoiled bottas engines so that they can use the reliability angle to come up with engine improvements that it became a rocket ship.

    And Lewis wins the championship yet again 😂

  10. Impressive final lap by Hamilton. He nailed every sector and made sure Verstappen had no chance of taking it from him.
    Not a bad effort from Verstappen to get onto the front row alongside Hamilton, but P2 is on the dirty side of the grid and there are no support races here. The start will be tricky for him.
    Poor effort from Bottas. He looked so good yesterday and in FP3, but failed to keep up with Hamilton already in Q2. However he is on the clean side of the grid, so not a bad starting position for him.

    Gasly did well to grab P4 ahead of Alonso and to not crash after his broken front wing destroyed his right front tyre. Yuki did also well in P8, just 0.2 behind Pierre.
    Impressive stuff not only from Alonso, but from the whole team. The Alpine already looked very strong on yesterday’s long runs, but P5 in qualy is even more impressive, plus he now starts on the clean side of the grid. With Ocon also starting one place behind an Alpha Tauri, it’s gonna be an interesting fight.

    Good job from Norris to limit the damage and at least start in front of both Ferraris.
    Great effort from Sainz to get through on the Mediums. P7 is not too bad of a starting position and he can easily make a 1-stopper work from there. I wonder what Ferrari might do with Leclerc now. They could as well change his PU and make him start from the back of the grid, considering McLaren also have only one car in the top 10. The fresh PU could come in handy in the finaltwo races.

    A shame Seb couldn’t set a proper lap on a fresh set of tyres in Q3, but it seems like P9 would’ve been the maximum anyway.

    Perez, Leclerc and Ricciardo really dropped the ball today. The only thing they can hope for is for the Soft-runners to hit tyre problems and not being able to do a 1-stopper.

    A shoutout also to Russell and Schumacher. They did very well in their uncompetitive machinery. Didn’t really expect to see Russell in Q2 and Schumacher only 0.2 away from the Alfa Romeos.

  11. After reading the title of this report, Red Bull lodged a complaint with the stewards concerning Mercedes new flying car. More news to follow…

  12. Perez, Leclerc, & Ricciardo surprised me. Sainz got lucky through their slowness.
    I reckon Hamilton will run away tomorrow unless something happens.

  13. We shall see tomorrow, but with Max on dirty side of the grid, Mercedes have awesome chance of scoring P1-2.

    Offcorse there will be the meddling Max Verstappen.

    We shall see, how uncompromising he will be in to turn one. High chance of crashing I reckon.

    1. @jureo – if Hamilton keeps his position post turn 1 might be a boring race, completely expecting dangerous, crazy moves in the race, as I fear there won’t be many opportunities for Max.

  14. The Mercedes seems to have become a rocketship in the last couple of weekends it seems, far outstrips any kind of advantage RBR have held at any point all season. I’m all for a close end to the championship battle but I sincerely hope that after all the excitement, drama and parity between Red Bull and Merc that we’ve had all year long, we aren’t going to see four weekends in a row to finish the season where Lewis and Merc score straightforward lights-to-flag processions. It would render the season a bit of a damp squib.

    1. So lewis had a “straightforward lights-to-flag procession” of a win last week?

      ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

    2. Kimberley Barrass
      20th November 2021, 17:12

      I wouldn’t necessarily call last week a lights to flag procession – but I do know what you mean – and Merc were certainly very much faster last week .. Personally – so long as they all finish on the track I’d be happy – I would hate for either Max or Lewis to have a DNF in these last races..

  15. Well, almost half a second on top of Verstappen. Cracking lap.
    Also, Gasly is shining: after being near the top in free practices, at the end of qualy ahead of him we can see only the two Mercedes and one RedBull, so he managed to put that AT in front of the Alpine, the Ferrari and the McLaren cars. Brilliant stuff. That Honda engine have some muscle.
    Also: what the hell happened to McLaren in the second half of the season?

  16. Has there been any info on which engine Hamilton is using? If pre Brazil then Merc have played a blinder for the power tracks to come.

  17. Hooray! Mercedes 306th championship in a row. This will never get old.

  18. Being true to my word, I haven’t watched any of last race or any from this race so I can only comment on what I’ve read on this site.

    However, from reports I’m reading, there appears to be some very strange, of not dangerous activities going on, and I can’t help but wonder how much of it is real and how much is being engineered for the benefit of DTS and “the show”

    Yellow flags are shown for a reason and should never be withdrawn just so drivers can complete a qualifying lap regardless of who the driver is or where they sit in the WDC pecking order. This is a safety issue and I’m truly hoping that safety was not put at risk. If it was, then there had better be a very thorough investigation.

    Similarly, we shouldn’t be constantly hearing/reading about stewarding and decisions being made (or not made). We certainly shouldn’t be reading that they’re saying that “the same scenario might get a different decision” in this or some other races. Again, one has to wonder how much of this is truly stewards being hopelessly inept and how much is being driven by wanting to make the show as interesting (and controversial) as possible.

  19. Tactical masterclass from Mercedes. Sacrifice Bottas a few times so you can work out how to build a monster engine for Lewis and “bam” half a second a lap advantage.

    Game over again.

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