Valtteri Bottas denied his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by coming out on top in qualifying for 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix with Imola winner Max Verstappen only third for Red Bull Racing.
The sport’s top two teams opted for different tyre strategies for the final runs in Q3, with the Mercedes drivers returning to medium compound with which they had dominated in Q2, and used to top qualifying at Portimao in 2020, while Verstappen stuck with the softs throughout.
But the tyre change did not work for either of the Black Arrows drivers, as Valtteri’s lap of one minute, 18.38 seconds that was set on the first Q3 runs on the softs ended up being the pole time.
Both Bottas and Hamilton could not improve on their final efforts, which meant the former’s 0.007 seconds advantage from the soft tyre runs gave him his first pole of 2021.
Verstappen had lost his first Q3 saving an oversteer snap to the right as he ran through Turn 4 and beyond the track limits onto the back straight and so was under extra pressure for the final runs.
The Red Bull driver was also only taking a single warm-up lap on the tricky low-grip surface compared to the two most other drivers completed.
Despite having to pass traffic on what would be his sole legal Q3 lap, Verstappen reached third but ended up 0.398 seconds slower than Bottas.
Behind the leaders came Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz, who outqualified Charles Leclerc for the first time as a Ferrari driver.
Esteban Ocon was sixth ahead of Lando Norris and Leclerc, with Pierre Gasly ninth for AlphaTauri.
Sebastian Vettel, making his first Q3 appearance since the 2020 British Grand Prix, took tenth for Aston Martin. This is a great result for the four-time world champion after a difficult period of racing. Hopefully this will build up his confidence.
In Q2, the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers progressed through on the medium tyres as has become typical to start on the preferred rubber for the opening stint of the race, but here they were joined in this by Leclerc.
Both Ferrari drivers started Q2 on the mediums, but while Sainz switched to softs to ease his Q3 progression, Leclerc preserved with the harder rubber and did enough to get by with a personal best on his second flying run on the same set at the end of the end of the segment.
Behind the top ten runners, George Russell took P11 for Williams, ending up 0.057 seconds adrift of Gasly’s P10 time in Q2 – crossing the line as the last of the runners setting flying laps in the middle segment.
Behind him came Antonio Giovinazzi for Alfa Romeo, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda – the trio all completing personal best laps on their final Q2 runs but still being eliminated nevertheless.
Kimi Raikkonen could not improve on his final run and ended up P15 as a result in the Alfa Romeo.
In Q1, Daniel Ricciardo suffered a shock exit ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, with Norris putting the other McLaren second in the opening segment, which featured Alonso spinning exiting the penultimate corner and Perez losing the rear running through Turn 4 and spinning through the gravel on the exit.
Ricciardo and Stroll not finding enough time on their final efforts in Q1 preserved Russell’s perfect record of getting through to Q2 at all three races so far in 2021, as they failed to jump ahead of the Williams.
But it was Ocon’s late jump to fourth on his last lap that meant Ricciardo could not progress.
At the back, Nicholas Latifi led the two Haas cars, with Mick Schumacher finishing ahead of Nikita Mazepin.
So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas with pole position. After his big crash with George Russell at Imola, this P1 is the perfect result following a tricky start to the championship. The two title contenders are behind and it’s going to be fascinating in the race. Bring it on.
Qualifying position, Portuguese Grand Prix:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:18.348
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.355
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:18.746
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:18.890
5 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:19.039
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:19.042
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.116
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:19.306
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:19.475
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:19.659
11 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:19.109
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:19.216
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:19.456
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:19.463
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:19.812
16 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.839
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:19.913
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:20.285
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:20.452
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:20.912