Max Verstappen clung on to secure pole and delight his home crowd despite a late challenge from Hamilton, who ended up just 0.038s adrift on his final flying lap of Q3, having produced a mighty improvement in the final sector.

Hamilton explained that Mercedes is losing the most time to Red Bull in the opening sector of the lap, with the seven-time world champion admitting “Max has been incredibly fast through the first sector”.

“That’s been an area we’ve been really working hard at improving the car balance overnight and through P3 into qualifying, just slowly chipping away at it,” Hamilton explained. “It’s a circuit where you need to continually chip away and build that confidence.

“The lap, particularly the second and third sector, the third sector was on the edge, you should have seen the last corner, there wasn’t any road left, so I was really really happy with it.

“I think it’s great we were able to get that close because they pulled quite far ahead at one point pace-wise. But I still think if we had another session, again, we’d all go quicker and there’s more time to find.”

Hamilton said Mercedes is especially struggling through Turns 2 and 3, adding that the banked corners do not play to some of the characteristics of the W12.

“It’s mainly the exit of [turn] two they’re a lot quicker and particularly through three they’re a lot quicker,” he said.

“Even on that lap, it’s something close to two-tenths that we’re losing in that area. It’s difficult to say exactly what it is but there’s some characteristic of our car that doesn’t like that corner, but still, it’s incredibly fun.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added: "It’s odd because we are competitive in the rest of the circuit but our car doesn’t seem to be happy in the extreme banking of that low-speed corner. We haven’t found the answer yet."

Hamilton admitted losing almost the entirety of second practice on Friday due to an engine-related stoppage did hamper his preparations going into qualifying.

“I think also time in the car to just chip away at it, to continue to try different lines - obviously, there was a lot of time lost yesterday,” Hamilton said.

"I lost a whole session so I didn’t really get that practice or get the car where I needed it to be. Fortunately, Valtteri did some great work yesterday setup wise so that gave us some guidance.

“I think it got closer towards the end but there’s still some time there and I hope that tomorrow we can capture that.”