Portuguese GP: Lewis Hamilton denies Valtteri Bottas pole position
Watch Sunday's Portuguese GP live only on Sky Sports F1 from 1.10pm on Sunday when Hamilton will bid to set a new record for the most wins in F1
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 24/10/20 6:45pm
Lewis Hamilton seized pole position from Valtteri Bottas with a brilliant final lap in an exciting Portuguese GP qualifying session that went to the wire on F1's debut at Portimao.
A 92nd F1 victory for Hamilton on Sunday would see him take the record for the most grands prix wins outright, two weeks after equalling Michael Schumacher's long-standing milestone.
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Hamilton had dropped to third behind Bottas and Red Bull's Max Verstappen mid-way through his final lap of Q3 but was going quicker than both of them behind on the track and hit the front with a time of 1:16.652, one tenth clear of the sister Mercedes.
"Cue one broken heart for Valtteri Bottas," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle after the Finn had topped all three practice sessions, Q2 and the first runs of the pole shootout.
"Every lap he's been supreme, but when it matters most Lewis Hamilton has knitted it all together beautifully."
Out of keeping with the usual thinking in Q3, Mercedes switched their cars to the supposedly 'slower' medium tyres for the final laps of the session - and the move paid handsome dividends.
The world champions had held an advantage of just a tenth of a second over Verstappen when they all ran on the theoretically faster soft tyres in the first Q3 laps, but their advantage grew on the mediums to secure yet another front-row lockout ahead of Verstappen in his perennial third place in 2020.
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It was a 97th pole in Formula 1 for Hamilton, who also perhaps crucially made the decision to go for two timed laps on the final runs whereas Bottas went for one.
"I can't tell you how hard that was today," said Hamilton. "Valtteri's been so quick this weekend, he's topped every session. So I've just been digging and digging and digging to find that extra time."
And Bottas admitted: "I went for one lap [on mediums], it was my decision as it worked well in Q2. But it might be that doing the two timed laps like Lewis was better."
Mercedes still ahead, but gaps continue to close
Verstappen briefly held a front-row position but was shuffled back to a more familiar third, although his 0.252s deficit to pole means Red Bull have again closed the gap on a Saturday to Mercedes.
The same is true for Ferrari, as the in-form Charles Leclerc impressively got within half a second to take fourth on the grid for the second successive grand prix.
Sergio Perez was a strong fifth for Racing Point ahead of Alex Albon, who this weekend was effectively given two races by Red Bull to prove he deserves to keep his seat for 2021. But he lapped nearly 0.5s slower than team-mate Verstappen in Q3, with two cars between them.
McLaren locked out the fourth row, with Carlos Sainz a tenth ahead of Lando Norris, on a day Renault appeared to underform after recent strides up the order.
Daniel Ricciardo made Q3 but did not take part after damaging his RS20 in a spin at the end of the second phase, when Esteban Ocon was knocked out in 11th.
The start of qualifying was delayed by 30 minutes while officials worked to repair and check drain covers around the Algarve circuit after one at Turn 14 had worked its way loose in the earlier final practice session.
Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari had dislodged it after running wide over the kerb.
Vettel went on to endure another fairly torrid qualifying with the four-time champion the slowest driver in Q2 after several small mistakes and starting 15th.
While Leclerc continues to star, Vettel has now missed out on Q3 for eight consecutive races and trails his team-mate 10-2 in their qualifying head-to-head this year.
Portuguese GP Qualifying result
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
4. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5. Sergio Perez, Racing Point
6. Alexander Albon, Red Bull
7. Carlos Sainz, McLaren
8. Lando Norris, McLaren
9. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
10. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
Knocked out in Q2
11. Esteban Ocon, Renault
12. Lance Stroll, Racing Point
13. Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri
14. George Russell, Williams
15. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
Knocked out in Q1
16. Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
17. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
18. Romain Grosjean, Haas
19. Kevin Magnussen, Haas
20. Nicholas Latifi, Williams.