Valtteri Bottas clinched pole position at the Portuguese Grand Prix with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, ending a Mercedes lockout in first place in qualifying on Saturday. Hamilton’s pursuit of a 100th pole on the track where he notched his record 92nd win last year was delayed when Bottas took the 17th of his career.
“It’s a good feeling to be on pole,” said Bottas after a final qualifying lap in 1min 18.348sec.
He added: “Looks like it’s been a long time. It was a weak point for me in the first two races. The team worked hard all weekend and we have a good position for tomorrow.”
Bottas’ performance was well timed after qualifying third in the season opener in Bahrain and then a small eighth in Emilia Romagna.
His time was 0.007 seconds faster than Hamilton’s.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, one point behind Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, took third place on Sunday’s grid with teammate Sergio Perez by his side on the second row in Portimao.
Verstappen had actually improved Bottas’ time, but his run of 1min 18.209sec was erased after going over the limits of the track.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fifth ahead of Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, Lando Norris, in a McLaren, and Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.
Hamilton paid tribute to Bottas “and our team to keep us both in the front row”.
“It wasn’t planned. You have to be happy for that, it wasn’t the perfect turn but I gave it my all.
“You can never be satisfied, we exist to keep moving forward but I am happy with what we are doing and the actions we are taking.”
Hamilton narrowly leads the 2021 championship after winning the opener in Bahrain before Dutch rivals Verstappen hit back at Imola.
“Third is of course not what we wanted, but it’s not too bad after taking out a lap time in Q3, which would have actually put us in the fastest,” said Verstappen.
“We struggled with the balance in Q1 and Q2 because of the surface of the track, and everyone is looking for grip, but we got to a decent level in Q3 so I don’t think we are too far.”
Bottas’ last outing at Imola was to be forgotten as he and Williams rider George Russell collided at 300 km / h.
Both cars were destroyed that day and Russell was furious with the Finn before the two continued their clash off the track with a bitter war of words.
Russell will start from the sixth row on Sunday with Pierre Gasly, in an AlphaTauri, and quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, in an Aston Martin, ahead of him.
“It’s our best qualifying position in three years so I’m really proud,” said Russell.
“We all have our responsibilities and as a team we have done a very good job.”
“Tomorrow we have to keep moving forward. We have a good race car – it’s quick on the straights, so let’s see what we can do.”
Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin’s Haas duo start at the back.
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