Lewis Hamilton was in total control in qualifying for the Qatar Grand Prix to take pole position ahead of championship rival Max Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas finished third, with the final runs in Q3 featuring Pierre Gasly, who ended up fourth position getting a dramatic puncture at the end of his final lap.
Hamilton led the way after the opening runs in the final stages with a time of one minute, 21.262 seconds, with Verstappen edging ahead of Bottas but still with 0.162 seconds gap to close.
But Hamilton, who ran at the head of the pack for the final Q3 run, put pole out of reach almost from the off on his final lap, as he smashed the fastest time in the opening sector by over 0.3 seconds.
Lewis held his advantage as he completed his run, setting a one minute, 20.827 seconds – the only driver to reach the one minute, 20 seconds as he became scored the first Formula 1 pole at the Losail track.
Behind Hamilton on the track right at the end, Gasly ran very wide out the high-speed 90-degree right of Turn 15 ahead of the final corner – the AlphaTauri bouncing over the raised exit kerbs where its front wing and left front practically exploded.
Gasly carried on around the final corner, which meant yellow flags briefly flew, but they were in before Bottas and Verstappen came around.
The former could not improve his Q3 personal best and stayed third, while Verstappen was able to go quicker but not by enough as he wound up second 0.651 seconds slower than Hamilton.
The front three will start Sunday’s main race on the medium compound after getting through Q2 on that compound, as did Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Gasly remained fourth despite his late drama, with Fernando Alonso taking fifth despite abandoning his final Q3 lap.
Lando Norris set a personal best on his final lap to score sixth ahead of Sainz, with Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel rounding out the top ten.
Ocon’s ninth place followed the Alpine driver complaining about severe vibrations as he braked during Q1.
In Q2, Sergio Perez was a shock elimination in P11 – the Red Bull was one of several drivers that had to abandon their plans to progress on the mediums, but his one minute, 22.346 seconds on the softs was not enough to beat Sainz’s lap on the mediums, which meant the Ferrari driver squeaked through the second segment on the preferable race tyre in P10.
Lance Stroll was P12 ahead of Charles Leclerc, who was left perplexed at his lack of pace throughout Q2.
He was slowest of the 15 runner after the opening efforts with most cars on the mediums and although he improved after taking the softs it was only good enough for P13.
Daniel Ricciardo had a similar story as he was eliminated in P14, ahead of George Russell, who completed an offset run plan in the middle segment – setting his final lap with just under five minutes remaining while the track was otherwise empty.
Although he made it a clean sweep of Q2 eliminated runners to produce a personal best on the final efforts, his one minute, 22.756 seconds eventually had him shuffled back to P15.
In Q1, Kimi Raikkonen was edged out by Stroll’s late improvement, which meant he was knocked out in P16, just ahead of Nicholas Latifi, who was the first driver to take the chequered flag at the end of opening segment and was the only eliminated Q1 runner not to set a personal best on their final effort.
Antonio Giovinazzi was P18 ahead of the two Haas cars, with Mick Schumacher leading Nikita Mazepin.
Mazepin’s difficult event continued in Q1, as his FP2 absence as he was switched to a new chassis and the FP3 red flag caused by an engine control unit problem were followed by his front wing hanging at a funny angle during the early stages.
It meant he had to pit to get it changed, the first wing dragging along the floor by its endplates due to the drop, and Mazepin eventually ended up last with a best time over two seconds slower than Schumacher’s.
So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton with a fine qualifying lap to pole position. The Mercedes W12 looks so fast and hooked up around this track. With title rival Max Verstappen on the front row, it’s going to be a fascinating race.
Qatar Grand Prix, qualifying results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:20.827
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:21.282
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:21.478
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:21.640
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:21.670
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.731
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:21.840
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:21.881
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:22.028
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:22.785
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:22.346
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:22.460
13 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:22.463
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.597
15 Kingdom George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:22.756
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:23.156
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:23.213
18 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:23.262
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:23.407
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:25.859