F1: Bottas nips Hamilton to win GP of Portugal pole
Max Verstappen turned the fastest lap in the session but had his time deleted due to exceeding the track limits, handing the pole for the Portuguese GP to Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
That’s his first pole of the season, and is a good way to bounce back from the disappointment of crashing out of the race in Imola.
Lewis Hamilton will start 2nd in the 2nd Mercedes just 0.007s slower than Bottas. A frustrated Verstappen ended up third in his Red Bull Honda ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez.
“I was struggling a lot with grip. The car in front disturbed me, and cost me a lot of lap time,” said Verstappen
Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top-5 for Ferrari.
“It is a good feeling today to be on pole,” said Bottas. “It’s been a weak point for me in the first two races, getting the tires to work, but we’ve been working hard. The whole weekend I’ve been feeling better with the mediums, but the wind picked up on the last run. Starting on the medium tire, we can run as long as we want in the first stint.”
“Great job by Valtteri, great job by the team, got to be happy with that. I don’t think you can ever be satisfied, we exist to perform,” said Hamilton.
Interestingly, Hamilton’s 1m 17.968s was the quickest time of the session overall, but he set that in Q2. As the wind picked up, the reigning world champion couldn’t replicate that sort of lap time, and it was left to his teammate to nail his flying run when it mattered.
As for Perez, he starts fourth. Job one ticked, getting in the mix at the front of the field. With the Mexican saying that the team’s race pace is much better than their one lap pace, could he push for a first podium of the year?
Esteban Ocon was sixth despite hitting the curbs on his final run, ahead of Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc. Pierre Gasly and Vettel rounded out the top 10.
Sebastian Vettel finally showed some form and actually made it through to Q3 but ended up 10th some 1.3s off the pace, his best starting spot of the year.
We worked hard to figure out the issues I was experiencing in qualifying, we put things right and this is the result – it’s more like how it should be, so I’m happy. In the first two races, I knew the speed was there but my main issue was tire warm-up. We’ve put a lot of focus on that, we learned some lessons and I always knew our hard work would pay off. The key was to stay calm, execute the plan and focus on the small details, particularly on the out-laps.
We’ve been stronger than expected which is a positive surprise but it’s only qualifying, I’m already thinking about tomorrow. We know the Red Bulls have a strong race car and we are expecting an epic battle.
Not that enjoyable of a session because I couldn’t get that many good laps in but I’m not too frustrated, I only did one good lap and that was in Q2. Of course I’d have loved to put more good laps together but it was tricky out there. It’s a slippery track, the tyres are hard so you need to do multiple laps to put temperature into them and it’s quite a peaky balance – it works for a second and then falls away very quickly, it’s on a knife-edge.
It wasn’t meant to be but Valtteri did a great job today and I’m just focused on the race. Now is the time to understand strategy for tomorrow and work out where the opportunities lie. It’s not an easy track to follow but we shall we see – I hope we have good enough pace to fight for the win, tomorrow we’ll go all in.
Qualifying was always our weakness in the first two races and now we’re back at the front. We have seen these kinds of performances from Valtteri in the past and today was a mega day for him. But I have no doubt, like I’ve always said, he can be right up there. Tomorrow we have two Mercedes with two Red Bulls just behind, good ingredients for a nice race!
Congratulations to Valtteri on his 17th career pole position; he’s looked solid all weekend in challenging conditions so it’s a very well-deserved result. It’s also a fine result for the team to be starting with both cars on the front row – the 75th front row of the modern era for Mercedes F1.
It was a fairly difficult session; it wasn’t clear whether the medium or soft would ultimately be the faster tire, and we also had to understand whether a preparation lap was better than going straight for lap one. By final qualifying, no one had come close to matching Lewis’s time on medium from Q2 so we decided to hedge our bets by running both compounds. As it happened, the track got much slower in the final minutes so tire choice wasn’t important, but we were just grateful that we’d done enough to secure the front row. We had wanted both cars on the medium tire to start the race and on balance, we’re happy to have Red Bull on the same start-tire given that we have track position. Our main concern will be the warm-up on that compound, the soft runners on the third row and behind will have a grip advantage that could last a lap or two, so that may might things tricky.
“Third is of course not what we wanted, but it’s not too bad after I had a Q3 lap time deleted, which would actually have put us fastest even though I lost time with the snap at Turn 4. We struggled with the balance in Q1 and Q2 because of the track surface, and everyone is chasing grip, but we got to a decent level in Q3 so I don’t think we are too far off. It was really one of those sessions where you could end up in P1 or P3 out of the blue. You could do a lap which was pretty good and then put another set of tires on, and if you had just a little bit of a different out lap and tire preparation, with the lack of grip around here it makes a big difference and is hard to predict. I think we are still competitive, and it will be different in the race tomorrow. Our long runs have been ok and although it’s going to be hard to follow with the grip levels we will first focus on a clean start and then put the pressure on.”
“It wasn’t a great qualifying on my side, it was very messy in terms of finding my rhythm and so I’m not entirely happy with my lap time. I wasn’t very happy with the balance and I just struggled a lot so it’s a shame we weren’t able to qualify higher. This track is all about the tires and getting them to the right temperature which is very difficult. I tried everything in terms of warm up with my out laps, build laps, push laps but nothing seemed to work. The conditions with the wind made it more tricky and they probably suited the Mercedes better but we still have a good starting position and a great opportunity tomorrow so anything can happen. I think it will be a tight battle around us so I’m looking forward to that. We just need to put the pressure on the Mercedes and hopefully we can fight for a podium.”
“It was a difficult qualifying session today, particularly with the very windy conditions, but both drivers progressed through to Q3 on the medium tires which gives us better strategy options in tomorrow’s race where we lock out the second row of the grid. Max’s first run in Q3 was quick enough for pole but unfortunately, his lap was deleted for track limits after a gust of wind at Turn 4 unsettled the car, causing him to run only millimeters wide. Max’s second and final run was then compromised by traffic so it was a rather frustrating third place for him. Checo did well meanwhile to recover from a little scare in Q1 after he briefly visited the gravel trap to take fourth alongside Max. Hopefully, both cars can get a good launch and a clean run in tomorrow’s race to make life difficult for the two Mercedes in front.”
“I am feeling happier after that session. We are starting inside the top 10 and will be in the middle of a big fight for points. There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us, but things are starting to click for me and become a bit more automatic, which is helping me focus more on my driving. I am still learning about the car, but today I felt more comfortable. The conditions were tricky – despite the sunshine – and the gusts of wind were quite unpredictable and made the car feel quite light. My final lap in Q3 was not the best. The wind direction had changed again, and I lost some time as a result, which is costly when the midfield is so tight. Overall, though, it was a better session for me. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
“A difficult qualifying session and we did not manage to build on the performance level we showed yesterday. I was not very comfortable in the car today and I could not lean on it as much. The traffic at the end of Q1 also did not help and cost me some time on my second run. It is quite a change from yesterday, so we will go away and understand where we can improve and do better next time. Even though today’s result is disappointing, I think we will be stronger in the race. That has been the case in the previous two races. It is a track where we saw lots of overtaking last year and I will be pushing hard to make up ground tomorrow. With a strong first lap and a good strategy, I think we can score points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal
“It was great to see Sebastian getting to grips with the AMR21 – literally – over the twists, turns, uphills and downhills of Portimão this afternoon. We made a few set-up changes prior to qualifying, and it seemed they worked well because he was ‘on it’ throughout Q1 and Q2. In Q3, he was not as competitive, ending up P10. Lance was badly affected by traffic in Q1, and the tricky, windy conditions did not help him either; as a result, he just failed to get through to Q2. But he has been driving extremely well so far this year, he says he will be striving to score points tomorrow, and we think that is a legitimate ambition despite his P17 grid slot.”
McLaren F1 Team
Lando Norris (7th, 1:19.116): “Reasonably happy with today. A little bit annoyed because we could’ve been a few positions further up – maybe three – and fourth on the grid, I would say. I can be confident in saying that. I got caught on my Q3 run two lap on the new tire because of another car backing up in front of me out of the last corner, so I had to abort the lap quite early on, which was frustrating. Apart from that, I’m pleased with my performance today. The car was good. Tricky to drive, but fast, and I was still P7, surprisingly, so I’m happy. There are definitely some positives and we’ll see what we can do in the race tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo (16th, 1:19.839): “A frustrating day. We’d had a positive day yesterday, so I wouldn’t have bet on this today. I’m not really sure where it went wrong yet, we’ll have to look at it this evening. Q1 goes very quickly and we just didn’t get any clean laps in. The Medium tire felt pretty good, and I was pretty happy. Then the first lap on the Soft was a bit interrupted by traffic at the start of the lap, and the end of the lap was just a little bit messy. We tried to go again but the tire fell away really quickly and we just didn’t have the pace. P16 is far from where I want to be, so I’ve just got to figure it out, get some sleep and wake up tomorrow ready to do better.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “P7 and P16 is not what we had in mind today when we arrived at the track this morning. We’re definitely disappointed at the moment with the outcome of qualifying. Unfortunately, Daniel, after three good practice sessions when he felt a lot more comfortable in the car, couldn’t repeat the performance today in Q1, which unfortunately meant an early end to his qualifying. This evening, together with Daniel, we’ll analyze what happened. On Lando’s side, it was again great to see the potential of the car at this track with an in-form Lando behind the wheel. Ending up P7 feels like a disappointment at the moment, looking at the lap-time Lando did in Q2. The track got slower in Q3 and conditions were very inconsistent, but still a better position was possible. Unfortunately, on his final run in Q3 he got caught out by another car slowing in front of him, so he didn’t get a chance to set a time on the new tires. On the positive side, it was again great to see the potential competitiveness of the car, which is a result of the continuous development and hard work by the team back at the factory. Those improvements in performance are very encouraging and we’ll take them with us into the race tomorrow. As always, we’ll put this disappointment behind us as quickly as possible and refocus again on tomorrow when points get distributed. We have two good drivers and a great team that will try to fight back tomorrow.”
“I’m very satisfied with my Qualifying performance today, we seem to find this track more difficult than the last few, so to make it through to Q3 again was positive. We knew coming to Portugal that the characteristics of this circuit would be trickier for us and I think it’s been obvious since we arrived that we’ve struggled slightly with the different conditions, particularly the wind. The team have worked hard since FP1 to change the balance of the car, but we’re not completely happy with it yet, so we’ll need to work more tonight to try to understand this more. Whilst I’m not completely comfortable in the car yet, I’m happy we made it through to the final Qualifying session, as it seems that our midfield competitors have made some steps forward this weekend, and I think we’re in a position to take some more points tomorrow.”
“This is my first time driving here and by the end of FP2 I think I’d adapted well to the circuit, so I felt really prepared ahead of Qualifying this afternoon. For me, the lap was good, but the tire just wasn’t there – I had no grip at all with the Softs, and it almost felt like I was driving with the hard tire until the final sector. It was a tricky Qualifying session today, and I’m really disappointed, but I’ll analyze the data tonight with my engineers and see where I can improve. Tomorrow, hopefully my race pace will be better, and I will try my best to make my way up the grid.”
Alpine F1 Team
Esteban Ocon (6th, 1:19.042): “I’m very pleased with that one! Thanks to the team for their hard work and dedication in recent weeks as it’s made the difference today. We made a good step between practice and qualifying, and everything worked really well. We aim to keep finding these improvements and carry this progress forward. We’re starting up there for the race, so that’s good news. We know it’ll be challenging tomorrow but overtaking is possible and there are some differences on starting tire throughout the grid. The aim is to score points.”
Fernando Alonso (13th, 1:19.456): “It was not easy today and the weather conditions changed quite a lot from final practice. We lost something between FP3 and qualifying so we need to look at this and understand what happened. The good thing is we can choose the tire we start on tomorrow and this gives us more options on strategy. Points are scored tomorrow, so it’s still all to play for.”
Davide Brivio, Racing Director: “We’re very pleased with sixth position today for Esteban. He did a great job throughout all of the sessions today and was very consistent. The team also executed our plan in qualifying very well so we can be pleased with that. It was a pity for Fernando, but on the positive we do have some options for his strategy tomorrow. I think we are in a good position for the race and that’s when it all counts.”
Haas F1 Team
Mick Schumacher (19th, 1:20.452): “Looking at all the free practices I think we were set for higher, but I think some of the other guys and teams managed to make a step ahead with their second set and frankly we didn’t. It could be anything on this track – you get the wrong gust of wind at the wrong moment; you lose half a second in the first sector. I think in general we can be happy, we’re still making consistent steps forward with each race weekend. There’s a big improvement in ourselves and we should be happy with that. I’m feeling more comfortable in the car with every hour and every day, and that makes it easier for me to jump into the car straight away and be on the pace. That’s something that’s very positive and I’m grateful for the team for teaching me the necessaries to do that.”
Nikita Mazepin (20th, 1:20.912): “I felt like yesterday was a very difficult day for me as I just wasn’t very comfortable with the track or with the car. We then made small steps in the right direction this morning – which I like to see, they’re the ones that build foundation. Obviously, the wind has picked up here, which was something I didn’t want to happen as no driver likes wind as it makes the car balance very unpredictable, but the grip has improved since yesterday naturally with all the laps being put down. Overall, the car was feeling much better and I think that’s a good place to be – we were quite close to getting the maximum out of it.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “We had a good FP3, everything was going in the right direction. In qualifying we were a little bit short of not finishing 19th and 20th. I think we’re making progress and getting closer and closer; it just takes a little bit more and we’ll make it not to be last. It’s encouraging how the guys learn and hopefully tomorrow we make another step on that learning curve and finish the race with both cars. That is our aim.”
George Russell (11th, 1:19.109): “It was a great performance from us. I did not expect Q2 after this morning, yet alone P11 on the grid. We made it happen when it counted which seems to be the theme at the moment. It’s our best qualifying position in three years so I’m really proud. We all have our responsibilities, and as a team we did a really good job. Tomorrow we’ve got to keep moving forward. We have a good race car – it’s fast on the straights, so let’s see what we can do.”
Nicholas Latifi (18th, 1:20.285): “Today was an improvement as we made some big changes overnight. However, it wasn’t the best qualifying for us, and I wasn’t able to get a clean lap at the end of Q1. I am still struggling with the car balance along with the track surface, as everyone is sliding around. It was a bit of a frustrating day, but the race is tomorrow, and we must focus on that.”
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer: “Today was much more difficult than we expected, with the tire requiring subtly different preparation than yesterday. Fortunately, after a tricky FP3, we got it right when it counted and having got into Q2 once again, George was able to hone the preparation ready for a final push lap, which he was able to execute brilliantly. We are a bit frustrated not to get into Q3, however, we are in a strong position for tomorrow as the first car with a new tire to start the race. Nicholas was very unfortunate in Q1 and having recovered very well from a difficult day yesterday to be sparring with George at the beginning of Q1, it was frustrating to see him miss out on a final push lap at the end of Q1. He was very good today and like in Imola, his mental strength was exemplary. We need to review what we could’ve done better to help him as he prepared for his final push lap, but when there is such a variety of tire strategies playing out, it is very difficult to manage all of the traffic. We have had a good result today and off the back of a strong showing in Imola, this is very pleasing to see. The Team are working well together and are enjoying putting pressure on our competitors. There is a long race ahead tomorrow, but we have got George into a very good position to continue the push to score points. Nicholas too, although further back than he would’ve liked, is in a position to make good progress during the race.”
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:19.485||1:18.650||1:18.746||20|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:19.337||1:18.845||1:18.890||22|
|6||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:19.092||1:18.586||1:19.042||17|
|7||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Mercedes||1:18.794||1:18.481||1:19.116||24|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||1:19.464||1:19.052||1:19.475||26|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:19.403||1:18.970||1:19.659||22|
|11||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||1:19.797||1:19.109||–||15|
|12||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:19.410||1:19.216||–||19|
|13||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:19.728||1:19.456||–||12|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda||1:19.684||1:19.463||–||17|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||1:19.748||1:19.812||–||19|
|16||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren Mercedes||1:19.839||–||–||11|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:19.913||–||–||10|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:20.285||–||–||9|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:20.452||–||–||11|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas Ferrari||1:20.912||–||–||11|