Mercedes celebrated a front-row lockout in the Portuguese GP qualifying after leading all three free practices
By Yuri Coghe
Mercedes continued to dominate the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend on Saturday.
After leading all three free practice sessions and the three parts of qualifying, the German team celebrated a front-row lockout in Portimao. Valtteri Bottas set his 17th career pole position to tie legendary three-time world champion Jackie Stewart for 18th in the all-time list for most poles.
“It’s a good feeling to be on pole. It feels like it’s been a while,” said Bottas after the race. “Qualifying has been a weak point for me but we’ve been working hard this weekend. It puts me in a good position for tomorrow.”
The Finn’s 1.18s772 lap time prevented teammate Lewis Hamilton, second, from achieving a hundred career poles this weekend. The Briton broke the 1.17s barrier to lead the Q2, but couldn’t repeat the performance in the top-10 face off. “Great job by Valtteri. Not the perfect lap (by me) but I gave it everything,” said Hamilton.
The qualifying carried off under heavy wind conditions, with the official broadcast reporting speeds of around 17.6 km/h at times. Bottas became the only driver to set up a faster lap time in Q3 than in Q2. The session also saw the two top F1 teams opt for different tyre strategies, with Mercedes performing better with the medium compound while Red Bull was at its best with the soft rubber.
As seen in Imola two weeks ago, lap times deleted for drivers exceeding track limits were a thing again, and Max Verstappen paid the price for it.
The Dutchman set the fastest Q3 lap and would have been on pole by 0s139 had it not been deleted. It’s the second race weekend in a row that a driver is denied a front-row spot due to track limit violations, as Lando Norris found himself in a similar situation in Imola.
“Qualifying was very difficult to drive,” said Verstappen, who starts third on Sunday. “I was struggling with grip. It’s not ideal. We’ll try to fight [Mercedes] in the race.”
His Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez follows, on fourth. The Mexican had a quiet session apart from a trip to the gravel in Q1.
Carlos Sainz Jr. out-qualified his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc for the first time in the season and will start the Sunday race in fifth, three positions ahead of the Monegasque.
Sebastian Vettel did the same and it’s now 2-1 in starting positions against teammate Lance Stroll. The four-time world champion broke a 16-race streak without making it to the Q3 and will start tenth tomorrow, while the Canadian got knocked out in Q1 and had to settle for the 17th position.
McLaren also saw a big gap between the results achieved by their drivers. Norris, who was leading the Q2 until a late lap by Bottas edged his time by 0s023, starts seventh on Sunday. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo also suffered a late blow, getting knocked out in Q1 after a late Esteban Ocon dropped the Australian to the 16th position.
The Frenchmen then proceeded to take his Alpine to sixth in the Q3. Alonso, his teammate, starts 13th. AlphaTauri drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda will start ninth and 14th, respectively.
‘Mr. Saturday’ George Russell had another impressive performance on qualifying sessions taking his Williams 0s057 shy of a Q3 spot. He will start on P11 on Sunday, achieving his best-ever starting position for Williams.
The Q2 also took out returning champ Fernando Alonso and rookie Yuki Tsunoda. They start in 13th and 14th, respectively, on Sunday. The Alfa Romeo duo, who came close to the points at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, also only took part in two-thirds of the qualifying session. Antonio Giovinazzi (12) will start three positions ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen (15).
The bottom of the grid is completed by the three usual suspects, with Canadian Nicholas Latifi starting ahead of the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher, nineteenth, and Nikita Mazepin, twentieth, on Sunday.
See the full Portuguese Grand Prix qualifying classification below