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Hamilton ends eight-race pole drought but faces front-row drag race with Verstappen

Hamilton ends eight-race pole drought but faces front-row drag race with Verstappen

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Hamilton ends eight-race pole drought but faces front-row drag race with Verstappen

Hamilton ends eight-race pole drought but faces front-row drag race with Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton scored his first pole position in nine races but faces another front-row showdown with F1 title rival Max Verstappen at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix.

Hamilton has struggled for poles this season, but in securing only his fourth of the campaign and 102nd of his F1 career, he was quickest in all three sessions at the Losail International Circuit that is making its debut on the calendar.

The Mercedes driver beat Red Bull's Verstappen by 0.455secs with a lap of one minute 20.827secs, the biggest margin in dry conditions this year.

For only the second time this season, Hamilton starts from pole ahead of Verstappen, with the last occasion being the Spanish Grand Prix in which the Dutch driver beat the Briton into turn one.

At this track, there is a longer run into turn one and it is likely Verstappen may come under attack from Bottas behind if he is unable to beat Hamilton off the line.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, who sustained a puncture towards the end of his second hot lap, had done enough with his first run in Q3 to secure a superb fourth ahead of Alpine's Fernando Alonso.

McLaren turned around its poor practice form as Lando Norris will start sixth in front of good friend Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari, with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda eighth, with Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel on row five.

At the end of Q1, Hamilton had the edge over Verstappen by just 0.095s, at least suggesting he was in the fight for pole position, with Bottas a further 0.020s back.

In the second session, Hamilton again held sway, with a three-tenths-of-a-second gap between himself and Verstappen as both drivers went through on the medium tyres along with Bottas.

There were major shocks at the end of Q2, though, notably as Red Bull's Sergio Perez exited despite a soft-tyre run in a bid to get the Mexican through, similarly with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc who was at a loss to understand where his car's performance had disappeared to after strong form in practice.

The duo will start 11th and 13th respectively either side of Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, with McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo 14th and George Williams lining up 15th.

Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen led a typical quintet of drivers to exit Q1, finishing two-tenths of a second adrift of Russell whose team-mate Nicholas Latifi will start 17th.

With no grid penalties this weekend, departing Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi lines up 18th ahead of Haas duo Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

The Russian finished almost two-and-a-half-seconds behind Schumacher, primarily as a result of a chassis change that saw him sit out FP2 and then an engine control unit and engine loom change that sidelined him for FP3.

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