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Lewis Hamilton takes pole position at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after taking the pole position. (AFP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates after taking the pole position. (AFP)

Hamilton, eight points behind with two races to go, was joined on the front row by teammate Valtteri Bottas



By Reuters/AP

Published: Sun 5 Dec 2021, 12:27 AM

Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for the first Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday as Red Bull rival and Formula One leader Max Verstappen hit the wall at the last corner on his final flying lap.

Hamilton, eight points behind with two races to go, was joined on the front row by team-mate Valtteri Bottas after the floodlit qualifying session on the new super-fast Jeddah Corniche street circuit.

Verstappen, who needs to finish at least second in Sunday’s night race to have a chance of taking the title, qualified third with a question mark over his car’s gearbox and whether he risks a possible grid penalty.

“That was looking like the lap of the year,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner of Verstappen’s effort until the moment of impact.

“It was a mighty, mighty lap. He was pulling something very special out of the bag.”

Verstappen said it was a “terrible” end to a session that promised so much.

“I knew the pace was there and it showed at the end. I don’t really understand what happened but I locked up. I still tried to keep the car on track and keep going but clipped the rear and had to stop,” he said.

Hamilton, chasing a hat-trick of wins after victories in Brazil and Qatar that narrowed the gap to Verstappen, was delighted to be leading a front row lockout.

“For us to get a one-two, I’m really proud of Valtteri and the men and women in our team who have just been working so hard. This is a great result,” said the Briton after the latest twist in a roller-coaster season of fluctuating fortunes.

The pole was the 103rd of Hamilton’s career and fifth of the season.

Hamilton used back-to-back victories last month to slice 11 points from Verstappen’s lead. After qualifying, he embraced Bottas for locking up the front row for Mercedes.

Bottas is being replaced at Mercedes next year and Hamilton heaped praise on his teammate.

“The collaboration has been just epic with Valtteri, he’s the best teammate there’s even been in this sport, for sure,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton, who was fastest in both of Friday’s practices, has a chance to leave Saudi Arabia tied with Verstappen in the standings if the Mercedes driver wins on Sunday and scores maximum points.

The drivers have praised the high-speed street circuit that spans 6.2 kilometers (3.8 miles), with 27 corners (16 left turns, 11 right turns). It was built along a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) coastal resort area in Jeddah and workers were still completing final touches ahead of this weekend’s F1 debut in the country.

F1 is closing its season with three consecutive races in the Middle East and four total stops in the region this year. The season concludes next week in Abu Dhabi.


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