Hamilton nabs pole from Bottas at Portuguese GP

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2020 Portuguese Grand Prix, Friday - LAT Images

Welcome to Portimão! Portugal is the scene of a brand new track to the Formula 1 calendar in the form of Algarve International circuit. As can be the case in some tracks—especially a new track to the F1 series—things don’t always go smoothly and that’s how the Qualifying session began with loose drain covers, quick-dry cement, and concrete bonding compound.

The drain covers at the Algarve circuit looked to be old—some appearing to be in two pieces when pulled out of their place—and as Sebastian Vettel rifled around the circuit in Free Practice 3, his car ran over a drain cover and prompted a lengthy repair process that delayed qualifying.

The challenge that developed over the weekend was the new asphalt surface and how it reacted with the hardest compound tires on offer in 2020. It presented difficult heat cycles in the tires, loose rear ends and graining. This prompted some teams to do push, push, pull or push, pull, push laps to get heat in the tires and more grip. Some drivers said it was like a drifting event.

Q1

All the cars were quick to get out after a 30 minute delay. The drivers were braking and elbowing out some room around them to give them a clear run.

Initial laps were in the 1:17.629s range set by Sergio Perez but once the Mercedes duo got fired up and set their initial laps, they jumped to the top of the time sheet with Valtteri Bottas leading by half a second.

Verstappen circulated a few laps and eventually took top spot with a 1:16.879s and was ahead of the two Mercedes cars. Heading into the weekend, some believed that Red Bull may close the gap at this circuit but Lewis’s second hot lap took him to the top of the time sheet suggesting that the Silver Arrows still had the pace to keep the grid covered.

Sebastian Vettel’s time was deleted for running outside the circuit limit and with just 5 minutes left, his Ferrari was dangerously close to the relegation zone. Alex Albon was up to 6th, a fair bit off his teammate’s pace while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was very handy in 5th on their initial runs. Charles would prove to be delivering outstanding performances in his Ferrari in Q3.

For the final runs, it was George Russell once again to haul his Williams into Q2 and pushed Kimi Raikkonen out of the session. It’s the seventh time George has managed to get into Q2 and this amid all the talk of Russell losing his ride at Williams for 2021.

Out in Q1- Latifi, Magnussen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen

Q2

The Ferrari’s, Red Bull’s and Mercedes cars came out on Medium compounds while the Racing Point’s were on Soft compounds. Once again, the cars were bunched up and elbowing out room for a clean run as they did their warmup laps in order to push for a timed lap.

Bottas jumped to the top with Perez behind him and Lewis’s initial run was balked by Vettel. Lewis continued to set a competitive lap and jumped to 2nd place on the time sheet. The McLaren duo of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were running nose-to-tail in 5th and 6th on their initial laps.

Vettel was struggling on the Medium compounds and was once again down in 14th place after his initial runs.

With 2 minutes to go, the cars were taking a couple of laps to get their tires into the correct heat window and maximum grip. Leclerc remained in 8th but it was Vettel who had to press but missed Q3 once again. Daniel Ricciardo ran off and kissed the wall on his final run at turn 11.

Out in Q2- Vettel, Ocon, Stroll, Kvyat, Russell

Q3

All cars were out immediately with Bottas leading Hamilton for their initial laps. Frantic action in the Renault garage as mechanics desperately tried to repair Ricciardo’s rear wing and get him out for a run in Q3. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to make a run.

Bottas set a 1:16.969s with Hamilton just 0.047s behind him. Albon was on Medium compounds versus the other cars on Softs. Verstappen jumped to third with Leclerc just behind him in 4th. The cars were going slightly slower in Q3 than they did in Q2 and that suggested the track had lost a little pace as the sun dipped lower on the horizon.

With 5 minutes to go, Mercedes and Medium compounds fitted to Hamilton’s car. Bottas was also sent out on Medium compounds with Red Bull sending Verstappen out on Softs.

Lewis set provisional pole with a 1:16.934s on Medium compounds. Bottas has been quickest all weekend long. Every practice session and Q1, as well as Q2. Could he take pole?

Bottas jumped up to pole with a 1:16.754s but Lewis and Verstappen had enough time to make one more run. Lewis jumped to pole position leading Bottas, who had the entire weekend covered, and Verstappen.

POS DRIVER CAR GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m16.652s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.102s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 0.252s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.438s
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 0.571s
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 0.785s
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 0.868s
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 0.873s
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1.151s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 0.962s
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 0.974s
13 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1.076s
14 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1.136s
15 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.267s
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1.549s
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1.671s
18 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1.712s
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1.856s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 2.125s
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