Mercedes’ Hamilton Secures Pole In Portimão.
As Formula One came back to Portugal for the first time since Estoril in 1996.
The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve’s elevation changes and blind corners caused chaos ahead of qualifying.
In practice over 150+ lap times were deleted for track limits infringements as drivers struggled on the newly laid tarmac.
However, the real issue came at the end of final practice when Sebastian’s Vettel Ferrari dislodged a drain cover.
Forcing the FIA to carry out track repairs and an investigation of the circuit, subsequently delaying qualifying by half an hour.
Better Late Than Never
Once qualifying got underway, it was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who came out on top.
Storming to a 97th career pole position, besting team-mate Valtteri Bottas who had topped every session until that point.
Lewis: “I saw that Valtteri topped every session, and I’ve just been digging to find the time. I chose to do three laps laps to have a chance to beat his time.”
A rapid final run, and a 9️⃣7️⃣th pole for @LewisHamilton ?
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2020
Conversely to traditional qualifying sessions, the track’s grip level depreciated throughout the afternoon.
Prompting Mercedes to make a bold call to opt for the Medium compound on their final runs.
Despite ultimately working in the British outfits favour as they secured yet another lock-out.
Valtteri Bottas said the late switch and settlement to only do one flying lap to Hamilton’s two was the deciding factor.
“Ultimately I should have gone for two timed laps,” said the Finn.
“It would have been nice to start from the clean side, but we’ll see what we can do from second.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen once again was Mercedes closest rival, with the Dutchman putting his RB16 into third place.
Verstappen: “I’m happy with third, the lap was pretty decent. We’re not too far behind.”
“The start is going to be important. We’ll feel our way into the race and see how we go from there.”
Verstappen’s team-mate Alexander Albon has been given an ultimatum by Red Bull, who have said they will look outside their driver pool shall the Thai not improve in the coming weeks.
Albon who finished half a second behind Verstappen in sixth was more than displeased with the team after being asked to tow Verstappen for multiple laps.
“That wasn’t very fair,” said Albon.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc impressed once more, as the Monégasque strangled his SF100 into fourth place.
The Scuderia, like Mercedes, also opted to progress to Q3 on Mediums.
As uncertainty looms regarding race degradation, that tyre decision could prove vital in the grand prix.
Sergio Pérez was the lone Racing Point in the top ten, claiming himself fifth place and adding to his resume as he attempts to secure a seat for 2021.
Trial & Error
Following Pérez and Albon was the McLaren’s of Carlos Sainz Jr. & Lando Norris. The duo ending qualifying in seventh & eight respectively.
Sainz who had been trialling new parts throughout practice, hoped for more in Portimão.
“Tricky qualifying,” said Sainz.
“We prepared the tyres before our push laps and the wind picking up at the end of the session didn’t help us. Not a bad result but I feel it could have been better looking my time from Q2.”
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly will start in ninth place, ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in tenth.
“Spin Me Round, Right Round”
The Australian who claimed his first podium with Renault at the Nürburgring last time out, hit the barrier as Q2 concluded, denying him a lap in Q3.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2020
Ricciardo: “The team got very close to getting me back out on track for Q3. One more minute and we were on track.”
“It’s a shame, I could see them working hard in the mirrors, trying to make it work for me, so it was a bit of a let down for them, but we’ll make it happen tomorrow and move up.”
George Russell who heading into Portugal saw concern grow regarding his seat for 2021 made a statement at Algarve.
Progressing his Williams into Q2 for the seventh time of the season, beating team-mate Nicholas Latifi by close to a second and out-qualifying Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to take fourteenth on the grid.
With his performance in Portugal, Russell’s qualifying record now sits at 33-0 against team-mates.
Vettel who to his own admission is not on Leclerc’s level in this season, will start in fiftheenth place.
“Again no good quali,” said the German.
“The race will be tricky. I had a good feeling after the first run, but didn’t get temperature into the tyres in the last run. I have no idea why the car behaves so different every lap.”
The four-time world champion on his chances in tomorrow’s grand prix,
“It’s gonna be difficult. This is not the best circuit for overtaking. I think we’re faster than the cars in front of us but we’re stuck in the back so it’s gonna be a tough race.”