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Hamilton, seeking his eighth title, said he could do no more. “I gave it everything I had but unfortunately it was not good enough. It was the best I could do. We want to be first but we knew that it’s going to be a challenge. We knew from day one on track that the Red Bull was faster than us and we had an uphill slope to climb.”
For Verstappen this will be the 23-year-old’s first real shot at the title, in his seventh season in F1. There was satisfaction at the steps forward his team had made. “You always aim for this,” he said. “In the last few years it hasn’t materialised, we knew what our weaknesses were last year and we addressed them.”
Verstappen was given little margin for error to secure the pole but did so with a magnificent run at Sakhir that will be all too familiar to Hamilton and Mercedes. He led on his first run in Q3 with a time of 1min 29.526sec but Hamilton was just two-hundredths back from the Dutchman.
The world champion was extracting more pace from the car than it has shown all weekend. Yet Verstappen declared himself unhappy with his opening hot lap and proceeded to show just what he could do, his final run of 1:28.997 leaving Hamilton with no answer.