Lewis Hamilton aims to spoil Max Verstappen title party in Qatar GP qualifying

Max Verstappen sent offer to quit Red Bull and join F1 rival keen to be his team-mate

Lewis Hamilton will be desperate to rain on Max Verstappen’s parade by putting in a strong performance in qualifying ahead of this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix. It seems as though Verstappen will wrap up his third Drivers’ Championship title over the next few days, with the Dutchman able to claim the spoils before Sunday’s race even starts.

Verstappen needs just three more points to mathematically secure the championship, which means that a top-six finish in Saturday’s sprint will be enough for him to start celebrating. However, it remains to be seen whether the pressure will get to him in today’s qualifying session, which will set the grid positions for the race on Sunday.

The Red Bull ace was quick to play down his team’s hopes of securing victory earlier this week, saying: “A lot of question marks, we have prepared the best way possible in the simulator but with the tarmac, we don’t know.

“It is going to be very windy which will also make it very difficult for the cars because with these new generation of cars being so big and wide, they are quite sensitive to wind, so a lot of unknowns. But I like to come here, it is a beautiful track to drive and a lot of fun.”

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Hamilton explains Wolff involvement

Lewis Hamilton has revealed that Toto Wolff is still taking a hands-on role at Mercedes despite being absent from this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

“Toto’s in every meeting,” said Hamilton.

“I saw someone wrote the other day that he had to call in or something for the last race, which was BS.

“Toto, even though he’s not here in person, and he’s obviously devastated he can’t be here, he’s a part of every single meeting.

“He dialled in to the meeting today, he’ll dial into the meeting tomorrow morning, he’ll be in the meeting in the afternoon, he’s on the comms just like the guys back at the factory on the comms for strategy all weekend.”

Temperature dropping

The track temperature has plummeted to around 35.2 degrees Celsius, which is significantly lower than it was in FP1 a few hours ago.

It remains to be seen how this will affect the setups locked in by teams after just one hour of running, with qualifying set to get underway in around 10 minutes…

What happened in FP1?

Max Verstappen made the perfect start to his weekend by ending FP1 as the fastest driver on track ahead of Carlos Sainz.

The Dutchman left it late to set a time of 1:27.428 on the soft tyres, putting him three-tenths ahead of his Ferrari rival.

Charles Leclerc managed to come home in third, with Ferrari looking quick despite gusty winds throwing up clouds of sand across circuit.

It was another difficult session for Mercedes, though, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finishing in ninth and 13th respectively.

Good evening

Hello and welcome to Express Sport‘s live coverage of qualifying ahead of this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.

Today’s session will be a huge test for all 20 drivers, who have only had one hour of practice around the Lusail International Circuit.

High winds, sand and blistering heat will also cause plenty of issues over the course of the weekend, but all that matters today will be delivering under pressure against the clock.

It won’t be long until we find out who will be lining up on pole position on Sunday, with qualifying set to begin in just under 30 minutes’ time..

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