By Robert Haile
The Losail International Circuit, Qatar made its Formula One debut and what a time to do so.
After the Brazilian Grand Prix Max Verstappen’s lead at the top of the championship has been cut to fourteen points and with Lewis Hamilton riding high after that come back, it is going to be a close finish.
With all the drivers having to get used to the new circuit it was Hamilton who provided a dominant display going fastest in all qualifying sessions.
Hamilton said: “I’m very happy with that qualifying session. Yesterday was difficult for me, I wasn’t feeling well on Thursday or Friday and then struggled in practice.
“So, I had to dig deep, I was here late last night working with the engineers and we found a lot of areas to improve. I felt fantastic today and slept very well last night, which made a big difference.
“We made some changes for FP3 and it seemed to work, and I was able to carry that into qualifying. That last lap was just beautiful, this track is amazing to drive and very fast, all medium and high-speed corners.
“In terms of the race, we don’t have much experience at this track, but I don’t think it will be the easiest of circuits to follow. It’s also not massively degrading the tyres so it could be a one or a two stop, we’ll find out tomorrow.
“It’s a decent run down to Turn 1 and it’s nice and wide, so we’ll be giving it everything.”
In the first session the outgoing Alfa Romeo team of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen went out along with the Haas team of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi completing the five to be eliminated.
In the second session the battle for third heated up as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was the only qualifier at one point from the Ferrari-McLaren fight.
Heading into the final laps Sainz couldn’t improve and dropped to tenth with McLaren’s Lando Norris jumping to ninth.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo were joined by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in a surprise group that were eliminated with Williams George Russel and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll completing the group.
In the top ten shoot out Hamilton was the first driver out for the final laps and improved his time.
AlphaTauri Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture at turn fifteen bringing out a yellow flag meaning the drivers had to pull out of their laps for safety.
Verstappen will start second with Valtteri Bottas third and Gasly fourth.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso will start fifth with Norris sixth and Sainz seventh.
Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel completed the top ten.
With this being the first Grand Prix to be held on this circuit anything could happen in the race.