Bottas on pole without being fastest at Portimao

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Bottas set his fastest lap right before the checkered flag on Saturday and was able to hold off a late charge from teammate Vettel for the spot. Vettel, who had the fastest lap of the weekend, was timed at 1:37.400 in the final practice session. Bottas was only .66 of a second behind his teammate in the final practice, but he put in a 1:36.736 that was just faster enough to take pole position.

The highly anticipated qualifying session of the 2017 Formula 1 Championship was dominated by Mercedes, but not in the way you might have predicted. Valtteri Bottas, who will start Sunday’s race on pole, was not the fastest driver on the track, but a technical glitch for the top-starting Red Bull car allowed him to be atop the time sheet.

1. May 2021

  • Lawrence Edmondson


F1 Publisher

– At ESPN since 2009

– F1 journalist accredited by the FIA since 2011

  • Nate Saunders.


F1 Deputy Editor

– He was previously involved in rugby and British Superbikes.

– Studied history at the University of Reading

– Member of ESPNF1 in February 2014

After a disappointing Emilia Romagna Grand Prix two weeks ago, Valtteri Bottas returned at the first opportunity to take pole position for Saturday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

But it was an unusual qualifying session in which the battle for pole position was dictated by a small lead and a small mistake by one of the 2021 title contenders.

Bottas beats Hamilton and Verstappen

Qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix went so unusually that Valtteri Bottas took pole position with his third fastest lap of the day.

His teammate Lewis Hamilton was 0.380 seconds faster in the second qualifying session before the time was reset for Q3. Max Verstappen was 0.139 seconds faster in Q3, but his time was negated as he went over the track in Turn 4.

But when the pressure was on and pole position was at stake, Bottas set a lap in which he stayed between the white lines, beating team-mate Hamilton by 0.007 seconds.

It was Bottas’ first pole position since the Sakhir Grand Prix last year and it worked out well for the Finn, who lost 28 points to Hamilton in the first two races of this season.

Valtteri Bottas grabbed his first pole position since the Sahir Grand Prix last year. Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Many of those lost points were a result of his poor performance two weeks ago at Imola, where he qualified eighth and had to drop out of the race ninth as he struggled with George Russell’s Williams.

It certainly put a smile on my face, because in the first two races of the season qualifying was not the strongest of mine, at least in the Q3 session, Bottas said.

I was struggling to get the most out of the tyres, to make them work well, but now I feel it’s starting to go in the right direction and I felt strong all weekend.

So I knew it was possible and of course I am very happy to have everything together in Q3 and be on pole.

The disappointment for Hamilton and Verstappen was clear, as pole position was within reach for both drivers.

Hamilton set the fastest time of the day in Q2 – 1:17.968 – on the middle tyres, but when he tried to repeat it at the end of Q3, a number of factors meant he was 0.7 seconds off his best time in Q2 and 0.007 seconds off his teammate.

On the second lap of Q2 I felt confident and I thought we were in the right corner, but it’s the weather, it’s gusty, so you can be unlucky and have the wind at your back, which doesn’t normally happen in some corners, Hamilton said.

So it’s a combination of things, and then it wasn’t the best lap from me, so I only had one good lap in Q2.

Verstappen was the fastest driver on soft tyres in Q3, which would have given him first place on the grid had his car not gone sideways in Turn 4.

To Red Bull’s disappointment, Verstappen went wide in the corner and his time – 1:18.209, good enough for pole position – was dropped.

It was all the more frustrating because this mistake cost him time instead of giving him an advantage.

Verstapen’s second attempt, which earned him third on the grid, was similar to his time in the first two sectors, but he lost almost 0.5 seconds to Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin in the final sector of the lap.

I didn’t enjoy a single lap this weekend, simply because of the track conditions, Verstappen said. The layout is great, but I’m not comfortable with the pulling power we get.

I know it’s the same for everyone, but for me personally, I don’t like driving.

I had a little moment in turn 4 on the first lap in Q3. In the end it turned out to be the fastest lap, but ….. It turned out to be really difficult to get grip on the track because this corner is flat and suddenly, without warning, the car went off the track and I went a bit wide.

I thought I could do that lap again, so I started and was within a tenth of a lap and lost all my time in the last sector. Yes, it’s disgusting – but it is what it is.

The good news is that Sunday’s race will be just as competitive as Saturday’s qualifying. And just like in qualifying, the driver who performs best at the right time will probably win.

— Lawrence Edmondson

Ricciardo still looking for his mojo

Daniel Ricciardo didn’t make it past the first qualifying session. Andrea Diodato/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We know how good Daniel Ricciardo is, but so far he hasn’t been able to prove it at McLaren.

He is clearly trying to get used to his new car and admitted it was a difficult moment when he was asked to replace teammate Lando Norris at Imola two weeks ago – he accepted and Norris took the podium.

Ricciardo’s pace on Friday suggested he was turning the corner and he said after practice that everything was falling into place, but on Saturday afternoon he dropped out of qualifying in Q1.

There was almost nothing in it, Ricciardo was 15th. 0.042 seconds behind, but he was a second slower than Norris in Q1.

Ricciardo was visibly angry with himself when he spoke to the press after the session.

A big, big disappointment, Ricciardo said. I’m still a little shocked at how the session went. Starting in Q1 is truly a racer’s worst nightmare.

There was obviously some time on the table in the last sector. It was messy.

The first sector was also… the first lap on soft asphalt didn’t do much because of the light traffic. It’s just disappointing.

The 1. It’s a sad neighborhood, it goes by fast, it’s like we’re here from nowhere. Yesterday was a positive day. I wouldn’t bet on it today.

Face it, sleep it off and wake up tomorrow ready for more success.

He added: The sixteenth is dark. I’m not happy with the result.

Ricciardo said traffic did not help him during his test laps, although he could not explain why he could not find the pace he wanted. Norris qualified seventh, proving the potential of the car.

According to McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl, the session looked worse for Ricciardo than it actually was and gave the seven-time F1 winner confidence that things would soon change.

I think in the end it’s about small things that will probably be exaggerated in conditions with a lot of grip, like here and in Imola when the track is dry, Seidl said.

It’s important to stay calm and analyze. I think he has made a good step forward, looking at yesterday’s and today’s training sessions.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with the qualification. He just needs more turns, more time. I have no doubt this will happen.

Ricciardo will start from last place, but he will not lack confidence on the brakes, which always helps to regain positions quickly during a Grand Prix.

But driving in the right order on the tight and twisty Portimao circuit may not be as easy as he would like.

Ricciardo certainly seems to be on his way out at this stage of the season, but given the performances he’s put in since 2014, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a driver having a slip up with a new team.
– Nate Saunders


Vettel is back in Q3

Sebastian Vettel ended a run of 15 races without reaching Q3. Dan Istiten – Formula One via Getty Images

Prior to Saturday’s qualifying session, Sebastian Vettel had not participated in a Q3 session for 15 consecutive race weekends.

He spent the vast majority of those qualifying sessions in a relatively slow Ferrari, but when he arrived in an Aston Martin this year and continued to struggle, the list of excuses for the four-time world champion dried up.

Fortunately, things went well in Portugal, and on the day his teammate Lance Stroll was eliminated in Q1, Vettel qualified tenth.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the last lap, I think the conditions changed a bit, he said. Maybe one lap with worn tires didn’t help the pace, but overall it was definitely better and starting to work a little better.

When qualifying, don’t think about your circles, just do your job. I felt a bit better already, but I think I can still improve a bit.

At the end of the day, you don’t get many laps in qualifying, with the engine running, with new tyres, with little fuel, so it’s only about a few laps each weekend. But it definitely helped me understand what the car needs, where I need to put the car to be faster.

Vettel was able to overtake his teammate, despite the fact that the only set of Aston Martin upgrades were used on Stroll’s car due to his higher position in the driver standings.

He obviously felt much more comfortable with the car than I did, so it made sense [for him to get the upgrades], he said. In the end there is a big gap between the cars in terms of qualifying position, only compared to the previous races it is the opposite.

Ideally, they should be brought closer together so that they also work together more in the race. We should always want to improve. We’re still looking at the machine.

We will see, of course, the season will be long, but these few races now are very important to be at the top. We still change a lot of things from session to session, just to push the boundaries.
— Lawrence Edmondson

Alpina improves, but Alonso misses

After a slow start to the season in the first two races, Alpine took the lead in Portugal: Esteban Ocon qualified sixth behind the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and ahead of the McLaren of Norris.

But the partner of two-time world champion Alonso could only finish 13th. Take the first place in the starting line-up.

In FP3, Alonso set a time that would have been good enough for third on the grid had he repeated it during qualifying.

The lap was dropped for violating the track restriction in Turn 1, but he didn’t gain much time at the expense of the wide track, and a slightly quieter approach would likely have produced a similar result.

What happened to Alonso’s speed between the last practice session and qualifying?

If we knew that, it would be easy! Alonso said on Saturday night.

We still have some work to do, the cars are still in the parkfarm, so we need to find out if there are any aerodynamic features, what tyre preparation we did differently between free practice and qualifying.

But I don’t care about the qualifying position, the race is tomorrow.

If we can be happy on Saturday and not Sunday, I’d rather take the points tomorrow.
— Lawrence Edmondson

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