The seven-time world champion took pole position for the inaugural race in Saudi Arabia after title rival Max Verstappen crashed on his final lap of qualifying while trying to beat Hamilton’s time. 

Verstappen set the fastest first two sectors and appeared on course to snatch pole away from Hamilton until he locked up at the final corner and tagged the outside wall, damaging his car. 

The incident meant Hamilton’s lap time would go unbeaten, while teammate Valtteri Bottas improved to jump ahead of Verstappen and secure a sweep of the front row for Mercedes. 

Hamilton was delighted with the result after Mercedes encountered struggles on the softest tyres throughout qualifying. 

“We were quick through practice, but for some reason P3 and particularly qualifying, just lacking pace,” Hamilton said. 

“We were struggling with the tyres, so, for us, to get a 1-2, I'm really proud of Valtteri, and the guys, the men and women in our team who have just been working so hard. So yeah this is a great, great result.”

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Hamilton conceded that Mercedes ultimately had no answer to Red Bull’s pace in qualifying. 

“We've worked so hard through simulation, through setup, and the collaboration has been just epic with Valtteri,” he explained. “He is the best teammate there's ever been in the sport for sure.

“And we've worked together to work on the set-up, getting the car to where it needs to be. Those guys were just so fast: that [Red] Bull around this track is just something else.

“But given where we are, I'm grateful for what we managed to pull out with what we have.”

And Hamilton is also wary of a Red Bull fightback in the race, despite demonstrating some strong run long pace on Friday. 

“We always get closer in race pace,” Hamilton added. “I think my long run was good yesterday but you know, they've [Red Bull] obviously picked something with the set-up and they're rapid today.

“So I anticipate it will be a close battle all the way through tomorrow. But Valtteri and I will be on it.”