Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is “very happy” to secure pole position for 2021 Qatar Grand Prix after enduring three difficult Practice sessions.
Hamilton struggled with his set-up throughout Friday Practice as he finished fourth in both sessions before improving to second in FP3, yet was able to dominate all three stages of Qualifying to claim pole position.
Feeling “very happy” about his Qualifying performance, Hamilton explained that he had struggled with illness since arriving in Losail, Qatar and that meant a “difficult” Friday Practice.
Hamilton also explained how he was able to improve as he said: “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.”
The seven-time champion however believes that Losail “will be the easiest of circuits to follow” with an unknown quality of whether he can do a one or two stop strategy due to F1 having no experience of racing in Qatar previously.
Valtteri Bottas meanwhile qualified third but is under investigation for a yellow flag infringement after topping FP2 and FP3, yet believes that it has still been “a strong weekend” despite his slip-up in Qualifying as Hamilton’s title rival – Max Verstappen secured second on the grid.
Verstappen though is under investigation for a double-waved yellow flag infringement but Bottas is focusing on himself as he admitted that he was “a bit confused” at losing speed overnight especially in Turn One where he struggled with preparing the tyres.
Bottas added that he is ultimately happy with third because he starts on the clean side of the grid and feels he doesn’t have anything to lose on top of various options, as he and Hamilton take on Verstappen after the Dutchman’s Red Bull teammate – Sergio Perez qualified 11th fastest.
Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff meanwhile was delighted with a “spectacular” Qualifying display by both drivers, as he attributed their improvements to “hard work” across the pre-race weekend preparations and also during the three Practice sessions in understanding the car and set-up.
Wolff in particular praised Hamilton for delivering a “dominant” Qualifying but added that Bottas just simply struggled to find his “sweet spot” as a one-three Qualifying finish puts them in a strong position for the race start.