The seven-time world champion was untouchable as he surged to a dominant pole position at Interlagos for Saturday’s sprint qualifying race, producing a lap 0.438s quicker than Verstappen. 

The two championship contenders will share the front row of the grid for F1’s third and final sprint race, but Hamilton will carry a five-place penalty into the main grand prix following an engine change. 

"I loved today for sure," Hamilton said. "We're working so hard to try and get this car right. It's been tough. And so to finally get the car feeling how it did today, it feels great.

"It's just a testament to all of the great work that everyone is doing in the garage and also back home, all of the work that is going on at home to just pull out everything we can from the car.”

Hamilton struggled for pace early in Friday’s sole practice session and was left unhappy the front-end of his Mercedes before a set-up change proved key to overcoming the problem. 

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"I've been going from free practice and sitting there for a whole hour trying to make the right set-up change, and the anxiety you get is crazy,” he explained. 

"A lot of the times we get it wrong, I get it wrong, and today I got it right and the car was really nice to drive. It was everything I wanted.

"That enabled me to just keep pushing. You saw purple, purple, purple, so I was just gaining each time.

"I don't know how we can go from one track where [Red Bull] are half a second ahead to then being behind, but anyways, they'll be very strong in the race tomorrow.

"I hope Valtteri gets a good start."

Despite making a perfect start to the weekend, Hamilton is unsure his impressive one lap pace will translate into strong-race performance and is expecting a big challenge ahead to catch Verstappen in Sunday’s grand prix. 

“It’s not easy to follow but I guess Max is obviously starting on pole now so it’s going to be very hard to catch him but I will do my best to get through the field,” he said. 

“I don’t know what tomorrow will hold. I think the weather will perhaps be better which makes it a little bit more difficult for everyone, but I feel really grateful. 

“It’s crazy because it’s been a while, so it just feels like the first.”