Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton admits he hadn’t been feeling well in the week leading up to the Qatar Grand Prix after beating championship leader Max Verstappen to pole position by 0.455s in the desert. Hamilton currently trails Verstappen by 14 points heading into the final three races of the season, with the Dutchman lining up second on Sunday.
With plenty of focus off track on Mercedes’ rear wing as Red Bull questioned the legality of their car, Hamilton dominated the final practice session in Qatar before setting the fastest lap in qualifying.
Hamilton however was lucky as he left the pits earlier than his main rivals, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly suffering a puncture in the final sector, hampering any other drivers from going faster as the clock clicked down to the end of Q3.
Speaking after though, Hamilton admitted it’s not all been plain sailing in the build-up to the weekend. “Yesterday was a really difficult day for me actually, Thursday and Friday wasn’t feeling too well,” admitted Hamilton. “And so really struggled through throughout practice and I was just off yesterday, so really had to dig deep.
“I was here until midnight last night working with the engineers, who also always work so late, they’re such hard workers, and found a lot of areas which I could improve.
“Made a lot of changes for P3 and it seemed to work. Then of course you’ve got to carry that through to qualifying, but I’m so grateful for the timings they put us out on track, we didn’t have any traffic.
“Then that last lap was beautiful. It was a really sweet lap.”
Hamilton added: “I had a bit of a stomach ache from Wednesday but felt fantastic today. I slept well last night so that makes a big difference.
“This track is amazing to drive, incredibly fast on medium and high-speed corners. But it felt good.”
Verstappen starts alongside Hamilton on the front row, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in third.
However, Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was unable to get into the pole position shoot-out on Saturday, with Verstappen sandwiched between two Mercedes.
“Just lacking a bit of pace. It’s been just a bit more tricky for us again in qualifying,” said Verstappen after qualifying.
“Checo is not even in Q3 so it definitely shows we are struggling a bit more than normal. But nevertheless, it’s still second, so it’s all to play for.
“But I wish we could have fought for more.”
The Qatar Grand Prix gets underway at 2pm GMT with three races remaining of the season.