Valtteri Bottas has beaten his Mercedes teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton by seven-thousandths of a second to take pole position for the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Finn set his fastest time on his final run to secure pole position, after appearing to struggle on his first run in Q3.
Verstappen’s fastest lap was deleted when he exceeded track limits, the Red Bull was on the theoretically faster soft tyre at the end of Q3 looking faster the opening sector. However, the Mercedes switched back to the medium tyre, which Hamilton set the overall fastest time in Q2, to try and improve, they didn’t, meaning Bottas retained pole.
The session became a session where it was about being on track at the right time. The Dutchman being caught out by the gusty conditions on his second attempt in Q3 leaving him three tenths behind Bottas. It wasn’t enough, leaving him three tenths behind Bottas.
Much of the hype had been about Hamilton going for a century of poles, but Bottas equals Sir Jackie Stewart number of pole positions and Mercedes equals Williams on a hundred and twenty-eight pole positions.
Mercedes and Red Bull have appeared evenly matched all weekend, but advantage swung towards the German manufacturer when qualifying became about being on track at the right time and finding the correct operating window for tyre performance. This led to cars needing to do multiple warm-up laps before setting their fastest laps.
Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari will start the race on the red soft tyre.
Verstappen’s deleted lap was half a second faster than Bottas meaning he could have taken pole, on his legal lap he struggled through the final sector leaving him almost four-tenths off Bottas. The Dutchman has struggled with grip all weekend after Pirelli brought the hardest compound to a circuit with low abrasion.
He was also not helped when he was held up by Sebastian Vettel through Galp as he started his final lap.
Bottas needed a good session after crashing out at Imola with George Russell, leading to him falling behind in the driver’s championship. Mercedes securing a front-row lockout by four-tenths, despite Verstappen being on the theoretically faster softer tyres.
Hamilton said: “Great job by Valtteri and by the team to end up on the front row – that was not expected this weekend. Not the perfect lap. But I gave it everything.”
Verstappen added “Qualifying was very difficult to drive, struggling a lot with the grip. That first lap was decent but I had a bit of a moment in Turn Four and went a bit off track.”
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was around a tenth and a half behind in fourth, the Mexican appearing to be more comfortable with the Red Bull, however, he did manage to spin into the gravel in Q1. Perez managing to be comfortably ahead of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, who have shown good pace this weekend.
Sainz managing to out-qualify his teammate Charles Leclerc for the first time this season. But he will be at a slight disadvantage after needing to use the soft tyres to get through to Q3, having done his personal best.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was seventh ahead of Leclerc, but the big surprise of the session was his teammate Daniel Ricciardo who was knocked out in Q1, was over a second behind Norris after he failed to improve on his final run. Before then being shuffled down the order with a flurry of late improvements leaving him unable to respond he starts sixteenth.
Leclerc was eighth in the Ferrari, ahead of Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel, who made it through to Q3 for the first time since the first race at Silverstone last July. The four-times champion appearing to be more comfortable with his car, and outqualified his new teammate Lance Stroll for the first time this season.
Russell had his best qualifying for Williams, he just missed out on getting the team through to Q3 by five-hundredths of a second after Gasly improved at the end of Q2 with the fastest middle sector. However, he should be in a good position starting the race on fresh tyres, with the hope of scoring his first points for the team.
Antonio Giovinazzi was twelfth fastest ahead of the Alpine of Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda, the three drivers setting their best times on their final runs. Kimi Raikkonen however didn’t improve leaving him fifteenth.
Ricciardo wasn’t the only surprise casualty of Q1, Lance Stroll starts seventeenth like the McLaren he did not improve on his final run as Ocon jumped up to fourth fastest. The first time since Suzuka 2019 than he had been knocked out in Q1, and McLaren also seeing their first since Interlagos in the same year.
Asked what happened, Ricciardo said: “I don’t really know at the moment, it happened so quickly. I guess Q1 you get a few laps and certainly the laps were tricky, especially going toward the last sector it was really hard to hang on.”
“But why we struggled, or why it was hard to put a lap together is not so clear at the moment. There’s something for sure, some tenths left on the table, but it was tricky. 16th is grim. Certainly not a result I feel good about at all.”
Nicholas Latifi was ahead of both Haas’s, Mick Schumacher again out qualifying Nikita Mazepin.