The seven-time world champion charged to a his fourth pole of the season at Losail with a stunning lap that saw him finish 0.455s clear of his championship rival, who holds a 14-point advantage heading into the final three races. 

Verstappen improved on his final lap but still lagged nearly half a second behind Hamilton. It sets up a thrilling prospect for the run to Turn 1 on Sunday with the championship contenders sharing the front row. 

Valtteri Bottas was unable to translate his practice pace into qualifying as he ended up third, over six-tenths down on his Mercedes teammate. 

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly claimed a brilliant fourth on the grid but ended qualifying crawling across the line with a puncture after damaging his front wing with a wide moment over the kerbs at the penultimate corner. 

Fernando Alonso was just a fraction behind Gasly in P5 as Alpine and AlphaTauri look set to reignite their tight battle over fifth place in the constructors’ championship. 

3005773.0064.jpg

Lando Norris was the sole McLaren as he took sixth, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz

Yuki Tsunoda returned to Q3 with a strong showing to seal eighth, while Esteban Ocon’s Alpine and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10. 

Sergio Perez was a shock elimination in Q2 as the Red Bull driver failed to progress into Q3 despite running on soft tyres, meaning the Mexican will only start 11th. 

Behind him came the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was left bewildered by his pace struggles on his way to being knocked out in the second segment of qualifying. 

Daniel Ricciardo was a disappointing 14th for McLaren, ahead of George Russell, who secured his latest Q2 appearance for Williams, setting the 16th-quickest time. 

Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out in Q1 with a lap only good enough for 16th, while Williams’ Nicholas Latifi managed to split the Alfa Romeos to go 17th, half a tenth clear of Antonio Giovinazzi

Behind Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo, the Haas pairing of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were once again slowest of all and will form the back row of the grid for Sunday’s race. 

Mazepin, who only took part in one of the three practice sessions owing to chassis and power unit problems, ended up 2.5s behind his teammate.