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Lewis Hamilton relishes ‘beautiful’ last lap after taking pole position in Qatar

The reigning champion is currently 14 points behind Max Verstappen with three races remaining.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Nov 2021

LEWIS HAMILTON TOOK a commanding pole position at the first ever Qatar Grand Prix after working long into the night to get the upper hand in his quest to get the better of Max Verstappen and lift an eighth Formula One world title.

The reigning champion is currently 14 points behind the Dutchman in the drivers’ championship but won in Brazil last weekend and had the beating of the Red Bull around the Lusail International Circuit.

With Mercedes showing their pace advantage in Saturday’s final practice session, Hamilton would storm to pole under the lights in Doha with a time of one minute 20.827 – almost half a second faster than his main title protagonist, with Verstappen starting second.

“Yesterday was a really difficult day for me – I really struggled through that practice yesterday,” Hamilton admitted.

“I was here until midnight last night working with the engineers and found a little variation where I could improve, made some changes for third practice and it worked but – then you have to carry that through to qualifying.

“That last lap was beautiful, it is an amazing track to drive and it felt good.

“I had a bit of a stomach ache from Wednesday but I slept really well last night and that made a bit of a difference.”

Earlier today, Valtteri Bottas again outpaced Formula One’s duelling title rivals to set the pace in final practice for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.

World champion Hamilton and current leader Verstappen are embroiled in the most entertaining title battle in years, with 14 points separating the pair heading into the final three races.

But it was Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate who ended today’s practice at the top of the timesheets, just as he had in yesterday’s second practice session.

Bottas’ time of one minute 22.310 seconds was less than a tenth of a second quicker than Hamilton in second – but Verstappen was 0.341 behind the Finn.

Pierre Gasly’s impressive start to the weekend saw him go fourth-fastest for AlphaTauri, with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez in fifth.

The Ferraris again had the upper hand on McLaren as the old foes battle for third in the constructors’ championship, as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc both finished in the top 10.

While the times and data collected during practice may not be representative of qualifying and race pace, with both taking place at night under floodlights, Verstappen and all at Red Bull will be worried by the gap already established by Mercedes.

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