Hamilton had little trouble seeing off teammate Valtteri Bottas in their exclusive battle for pole, with both his laps in the top-10 shootout quick enough to secure him a place at the front of the grid.
The gap from the leading pair to the rest of the field was astonishing. While only 0.3 seconds separated Hamilton from Bottas, more than an entire second split the Briton from everyone else.
“Obviously it’s a relatively big gap between us and third place, but it doesn’t matter,” Hamilton said. “At the end of the day Valtteri is pushing to the end right to the limit.
“It was a real struggle out there. This track is just awesome.”
Not even a spin through the gravel in Q2 could throw the Briton from his rhythm or detract from Mercedes’s dominance, instead underlining the superiority of the car-driver combination.
“Qualifying’s a lot about confidence building,” he said. “I had that spin, I was already down, I was struggling through the first sector every lap.
“I don’t know how, but with some deep breaths I managed to compose myself.”
However he did it, it was bad news for Bottas, who until the top-10 shootout was feeling strong enough to snatch pole from the home favourite.
“I felt really comfortable with the car, but by the time Q3 I started to drift a bit more with the rear end than I was hoping,” he said. “I don’t really know [why].
“It’s disappointing but I need to look into it.”
Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull Racing, 1.022 seconds off Hamilton’s pole time, but the Dutchman conceded third is the best his or any other team can hope for with Mercedes in such imperious form.
“I think the lap itself at the end was pretty good, but you could see of course very early on in qualifying [Mercedes] are just was too fast,” he conceded.
“You just have to accept that and do the best you can, and that’s P3 for us, so I’m pretty pleases about that.”
Charles Leclerc impressed to qualify fourth for Ferrari and only a tenth behind Verstappen, but the Monegasque has concerns for his race pace after the team biased his car’s performance towards single-lap form.
Leclerc is also under post-session investigation for blocking Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo in the pit lane during Q3, putting his relatively lofty grid spot at risk.
Lando Norris qualified fifth for McLaren. He was almost 1.5 seconds behind the benchmark, but it was enough to outqualify Stroll’s Racing Point, the Canadian unable to convert his strong pace in the heat of Friday practice into the cooler qualifying conditions.
Carlos Sainz qualified sixth in the sister McLaren ahead of Renault teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon.
Sebastian Vettel’s horror weekend was compounded by 10th on the grid, delivered in part for exceeding track limits on his fastest lap, triggering its deletion.
But the Ferrari driver started qualifying desperately underprepared, having lost first practice to an intercooler problem and parts of second and third practice to issues with his pedal box.
Pierre Gasly qualified 11th, the first knocked out of Q2, ahead of another driver to suffer a torrid weekend, Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon.
Albon had looked quick on Friday until a crash robbed him of most of second practice and an electrical problem confined him to 10 laps in third practice.
The Thai driver missed out on progression by just 0.044 seconds and was 0.4 second adrift of teammate Verstappen when eliminated in 12th.
Nico Hulkenberg qualified 13th on his temporary F1 return for Racing Point. The German is filling in for Sergio Perez, who has contracted COVID-19 and is recovering in isolation, and was unlucky to make it to the top 10 of the grid. A scruffy final lap left him just 0.065 second shy of the cut-off, the benchmark coincidentally set by teammate Stroll.
Daniil Kvyat qualified 14th for AlphaTauri but will start 19th with a gearbox penalty. Williams driver George Russell, making another Q2 appearance, qualified 15th.
Kevin Magnussen was knocked out of Q1 in 16th ahead of Alfa Romeo pair Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen and Haas teammate Romain Grosjean, while Nicholas Latifi qualified last for Williams.