Bottas on pole in Portugal as Mercedes lock out front row

Ahead of Red Bull

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By Olivier Ferret

1 May 2021 - 17:19
Bottas on pole in Portugal as (...)

Valtteri Bottas beat Lewis Hamilton by just seven thousandths of a second to claim the 17th pole position of his career, as Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for the 2021 FIA Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finished third ahead of team-mate Sergio Pérez.

In the opening stages of Q1 it was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who set the early pace, the Spaniard topping the timesheet with a lap of 1:19.303. Verstappen then took P2 with a lap of 1:19.485. The Dutchman’s time was then beaten by Hamilton but the Mercedes driver’s lap time was swiftly deleted for exceeding track limits in Turn 1. Hamilton dropped back to the bottom of the order but soon found his way back to the top five with his next tour.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was complaining about a lack of straightline speed and having established a solid time on his opening run he retreated back to the garage to make changes and eventually secured his Q2 berth with 11th place.

It was Bottas who topped the opening session, the Finn posting a lap of 1:18.722 to edge McLaren’s Lando Norris by 0.072 with Hamilton a further six hundredths of a second behind in third. Esteban Ocon, impressive in an improved Alpine, took fourth place ahead of Sainz and the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez who also had a spin during the session.

While Norris’ opening showing was good, at the other end of the order his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was struggling and the Australian was the shock elimination of the session in 16th place, ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and the Haas cars of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

In Q2 both Mercedes and Red Bull sent their drivers out on medium tyres but while the Silver Arrows found a sudden and somewhat unusual boost in pace on the yellow-banded tyhres over the soft – with Hamilton topping the timesheet with a quick lap of 1:17.968 – it was a different story for the Red Bull drivers. Both Verstappen and Pérez struggled for pace on the medium but qualified on the yellow compound in fifth and eighth places.

Eliminated at the end of the second segment, however, were Williams’ George Russell in a nonetheless impressive 11th place, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen.

In Q3 Verstappen was back on the soft tyres he’d had more comfort with and his first flying lap, a 1:18.209, put him at the top of the timesheet. However, he was soon sent back to P10 when his time was deleted for straying beyond the track limits in Turn 4. Bottas then took provisional pole ahead of Hamilton and Pérez.

Verstappen pushed hard for an improvement on his final run but hampered by traffic and a downturn in conditions he could find his way to third place behind Bottas and Hamilton, who failed to improve after moving to mediums for their final runs. Pérez secured fourth place on the grid, 0.144s behind his team-mate.

Sainz took fifth place for Ferrari ahead of Ocon and Norris, with Charles Leclerc claiming eighth place for Ferrari. Pierre Gasly with start ninth for AlphaTauri and Sebastian Vettel will start from 10th place for Aston Martin.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W12 1:18.722 1:18.458 1:18.348
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W12 1:18.857 1:17.968 1:18.355
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:19.485 1:18.650 1:18.746
04 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Honda RB16B 1:19.337 1:18.845 1:18.890
05 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF21 1:19.309 1:18.813 1:19.039
06 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A521 1:19.092 1:18.586 1:19.042
07 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:18.794 1:18.481 1:19.116
08 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF21 1:19.373 1:18.769 1:19.306
09 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:19.464 1:19.052 1:19.375
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:19.403 1:18.970 1:19.659
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 George Russell Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:19.797 1:19.109
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:19.410 1:19.216
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault A521 1:19.728 1:19.456
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda AT02 1:19.684 1:19.463
15 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C41 1:19.748 1:19.812
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes MCL35M 1:19.839
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes AMR21 1:19.913
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43B 1:20.285
19 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:20.452
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari VF-21 1:20.912

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