Valtteri Bottas has snatched a surprise pole position in a bizarre qualifying session in Portimao, after Max Verstappen had his fastest lap deleted – with Lewis Hamilton splitting the pair in second.
Bottas set at 1:18:348s, with Hamilton just 0.007s behind his team-mate – with Verstappen in the Red Bull 0.398s off the pace.
Verstappen decided against an extra prep lap in Q3 which gave him clear running for a flying lap at the start of Q3, however the Red Bull driver ran slightly wide at Turn 4 and had his lap deleted, which would’ve been enough to take pole.
Clearly frustrated after the session, Verstappen was seen refusing a cameraperson a shot as he spoke with his team-mate Sergio Perez, and after his interview sat behind the podium with his head in his hands.
“Qualifying was very difficult to drive, I was struggling a lot with the grip,” explained a clearly frustrated Verstappen.
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“That first lap in Q3 was decent, but I just had a big moment at 4, so went a little bit off track, but I was quite confident we could do another good lap, but in the last sector there was a car in front, in the last two corners it just disturbs you.
“Especially with the low grip we already have, and the tough wind out here, basically it cost me a lot of lap time, but it is what it is.”
And speaking of the two Mercedes out in front of him at the start of the race, Verstappen added that it’s “not ideal” but “will try to fight them tomorrow.”
“Hopefully everything stabilises a bit more because up until now, it’s not been a lot of fun to drive here.” concluded the Dutchman.
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Hamilton remains stuck on 99 pole positions as his team-mate racked up his 17th ahead of the race, with both Mercedes drivers starting on the medium compound of tyre, the same as Verstappen.
Conditions changed throughout the final part of qualifying, with no one able to better their time, however Hamilton seemed content he’s ahead of his title rival.
“Great job by Valtteri and a great job by the team,” said the seven-time world champion.
“Surprised to be on the front row, definitely not expected this weekend – so we’ve got to be happy with that.
“Max obviously pulled something out towards the end, but not sure where they [Red Bull] were earlier on, but not the perfect lap.
“I don’t think we can ever be satisfied, that’s what we exist to do, to continue to push forward. But I’m definitely happy with the work we are doing and the steps that we are taking.”
Red Bull seemed to struggle throughout qualifying, with Sergio Perez taking a trip through the gravel during Q1, but will line up P4 behind his team-mate.
Carlos Sainz out-qualified his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc and will start P5, with Leclerc starting P8.
Esteban Ocon comprehensively beat his team-mate Fernando Alonso to make it through to Q1, and will start P6 with Alonso starting P13.