If there ever was a statement to make which suggested ‘game on’ to your Formula One rival, qualifying almost half a second ahead would be it. But Lewis Hamilton has taken it a step further.
The pole-sitter at the first Qatar Grand Prix was reportedly using an old engine configuration, older than the one from last week. So, yes, Lewis Hamilton out-qualified Max Verstappen without the engine with which he swept past the entire grid in Brazil.
Lewis Hamilton was also six-tenths faster than his own teammate, in the same car. This should put the Briton’s sheer talent in perspective as if it needed doing.
For whatever reason Hamilton was running an older engine on Saturday, it doesn’t take a ‘rocket scientist’ (pun intended) to presume that if he runs the newer engine on Sunday, he will comfortably win, And there are other elements that could play into Hamilton’s favour.
There are a few factors that could decide Hamilton’s, or rather Verstappen’s race at the Losaile circuit. After all, it’s Max Verstappen, who is on the back foot starting between a Mercedes sandwich in P2.
Although Verstappen started in P2 between Hamilton and Bottas in Mexico and took the lead in the very first corner, things will be quite different in Qatar.
For starters, he’s behind Hamilton and not Bottas. So, naturally, a low margin of error and a strong defence along with a strong start is the very least which the Dutchman should expect from the seven-time world champion ahead of him.
Secondly, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez will start in P11 after the Mexican was knocked out of Q2. This will take away Verstappen and Red Bull’s strategic cushion. And unless Perez pulls of a Hamilton, the current championship leader will be under immense pressure for at least the opening half of the race. Then, there’s obviously the fresh ‘spare’ engine from Brazil.
Regardless, the momentum and the odds are very much in Hamilton’s favour at the moment. If he continues in this fashion, the question shouldn’t be whether or not he wins, it should be by how much margin will he batter down on his rival.