World champion Lewis Hamilton won his 10th pole position of the season at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who clinched a seventh title in Turkey two weeks ago, had a comfortable 0.289 second lead over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who seemed a threat to Mercedes in practice, returned to his usual third.
His teammate Alexander Albon recovered from a heavy accident on Friday to take fourth place.
But the Anglo-Thai driver was 0.6 seconds behind the Dutchman and less than 0.1 seconds behind Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon finished sixth and seventh, separated by just 0.002sec, ahead of Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri and Lando Norris of McLaren.
Despite becoming the most successful driver in Istanbul history, having tied Michael Schumacher’s title record and already surpassing his winning tally, Hamilton shows no sign of easing.
In fact, he said he wanted to continue his form run and end the season on a high.
“I didn’t celebrate too much,” he says. “I was practicing and making sure I was ready for it and kept an eye on the ball.
“With the pressure a little low, it’s a bit of a liberation to go and drive like I just did. “
Hamilton was the fastest in both heats in final qualifying, but did not make the most of his first lap, which was slower than he did with harder ‘medium’ tires. in second qualification.
This put him 0.146 seconds ahead of Verstappen, with Bottas third.
Hamilton said there was “a lot of room for improvement” and he came out and proved it.
Although all three improved on their second stint, Hamilton went further, Bottas slipping past Verstappen for the usual grid front in 2020.
It was Hamilton’s 98th career pole, and he can reach a century if he does the same in the last two races of the year, a remarkable feat.
Bottas said: “It felt good. That’s the problem when it feels good and you feel like you’re getting the most out of the car and the lap time isn’t there. “
Verstappen described his lap as “pretty decent”, adding: “I was just missing a bit of rear grip. “
The battle for the third / fourth
As the championship peak is set, there is an epic drop for third place in the Manufacturers’ Championship between Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari, and for fourth in the driver chase between Perez, Charles Leclerc de Ferrari and Ricciardo.
Perez gave him and his team a boost with a solid performance, while Leclerc is stuck in 12th place in a non-competitive weekend for Ferrari.
Leclerc was beaten in qualifying by teammate Sebastian Vettel, who was 0.016 seconds ahead of 11th place, for just the fourth time this season.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz finished 15th after rear brake failure sent him into a spin early in qualifying.
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