Lewis Hamilton relieved but puzzled with pole

Carrie Guzman
June 24, 2018

Both Mercedes' opted to use the supersoft tyre in Q2 along with the Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo and will start the race on the compound.

Vettel and Bottas, meanwhile, were on a charge.

"Ferrari will start the race on the ultra-soft tyres, we're on the super-softs, so that should be interesting", Hamilton mused.

Up front, Verstappen was the first of the leaders to blink, diving into the pits for soft tyres.

Fernando Alonso, who was fourth for McLaren. It meant that by the time he pitted, he could comfortably rejoin ahead of Verstappen, momentarily handing the lead to Raikkonen, who had chosen to run deep into the race.

Boosted by the new "2.1" spec engine Mercedes have introduced this weekend, the Silver Arrows were untouchable in qualifying.

Bottas, running ahead on track, jumped to top spot with a lap of 1m30.147s, only for Hamilton to reclaim pole position for good with a 1m30.029s. This prompted Romain Grosjean to crash his Haas, and made the final hunt for pole position more complicated.

Vettel followed suit on the next lap, but took the ultrasofts and his five-second time penalty for colliding with Bottas, and still stayed fifth to set up a grandstand finish.

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Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was second in opening practise, was hit by a water leak in the afternoon and wound up seventh after being prevented from completing the second session. The Finn quickly caught the Australian and after swarming all over the Red Bull's gearbox, he pulled the trigger into the chicane.

Raikkonen himself did little to dampen the speculation on track, lapping over a second shy of Hamilton and in excess of half a second behind Vettel.

Vettel's run continued and he took fifth place from Carlos Sainz on lap 20 heading towards the chicane on the Mistral straight.

The increasingly-impressive Charles Leclerc propelled his Sauber into the top 10 with eighth - the team's best result in four years - to send talk of a 2019 promotion to Ferrari at the expense of Kimi Raikkonen into overdrive. Can Valtteri Bottas secure his first win of 2018?

A flying late lap by Leclerc lifted him to 10th for Sauber, pushing Esteban Ocon and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez out of the shootout in 11th and 13th, either side of Nico Hulkenberg of Renault.

"We have all pulled together and done a great job in putting the auto where we need it, for both Valtteri and I", Hamilton said after qualifying.

"Mercedes are gone - this tyre is really suiting their auto on this surface".

If Hamilton is successful in Sunday's race, which starts at 6.10pm UAE time he will regain the championship lead from Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who starts third.

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