Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has taken pole position for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, ahead of title rival Max Verstappen for Red Bull.
The reigning World Champion clocked a 1:20.827 on his final flying run in Q3, improving on his initial effort by four-tenths of a second as he put in fastest sector times the whole way around the lap.
Championship leader Verstappen will start alongside him, having fallen a tenth shy of Hamilton's initial benchmark. While Verstappen improved on his second run, it was only by a tenth and wasn't enough to overcome Hamilton's immense pace.
Valtteri Bottas claimed third in the other Mercedes as he was two-tenths down on Verstappen, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly in fourth.
Gasly looked set to improve on his final run in Q3, but suffered a sudden puncture after running hard over the kerbs at Turn 15. The tyre failure forced him to pull over and stop on the main straight but, fortunately, it didn't hinder any of the following drivers' flying laps.
Alpine's Fernando Alonso claimed a stellar fifth, 0.8s away from the front, and just ahead of Lando Norris. Norris was the highest placed driver from the McLaren/Ferrari battle, but will face stiff competition at the start from Carlos Sainz in seventh, with the pair separated by just a tenth.
AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda will start from eighth on the grid, ahead of Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas and Sainz will all start the Qatar Grand Prix on the Medium compound tyre, with the rest of the top 10 starting on the Softs, after using those tyres to get through Q2.
Result Qualification - Qatar
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Hamilton was the quickest man in Q2, setting a 1:21.682 on the Medium tyre as the majority of the drivers opted for the harder compound to get through into Q3.
Gasly was Hamilton's closest rival, setting a time just 0.046s down on Hamilton, albeit using the Soft compound tyre. Alonso was third, also on the Soft, while Verstappen made it through on the Medium. The Red Bull's time was 0.302s slower than what Hamilton managed on the same Medium compound.
Red Bull's Sergio Perez was a surprising elimination in Q2, as the Mexican failed to crack the top 10. Having done his first run on the Medium tyre, Perez could only manage 14th as he failed to hook up his flying lap. This meant that the team opted to put him on Softs for his second run but, again, Perez fell short by 0.105 seconds.
In the end, just four drivers made it through Q2 on the Medium tyres - both Mercedes drivers, Verstappen and Sainz.
Perez was joined on the sidelines by Aston Martin's Lance Stroll and another surprise elimination in the form of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.
While Sainz made it through on the Medium tyre, Leclerc was 0.9 seconds slower than him on the same compound and radioed his team to admit that he didn't know where the pace was. Fitted with Softs for his second run, he still fell short and exclaimed "I've no idea what's going on" as he returned to the pits.
McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was 14th, with Williams' George Russell the final Q2 elimination down in 15th.
Verstappen set the pace in the first part of qualifying, pipping both Mercedes driver by just two hundredths of a second as the darkness took hold and the floodlights illuminated the track.
It was a straightforward 18 minutes of running, with no surprise eliminations. Gasly, wanting to hold on to two sets of fresh Softs for the latter parts of qualifying, successfully made it through Q1 on the Medium tyre.
Eliminated were Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen in 16th, Williams' Nicholas Latifi in 17th, Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi in 18th, and the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin at the very back.
The Russian managed to make it into qualifying after missing the entirety of FP2 after a chassis change and then missing FP3 as a result of an engine loom change.
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