Lewis Hamilton beat Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by a tenth of a second to take pole position for the Portuguese Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen claiming third place on the Portimão grid for Red Bull Racing.
With tyre preparation key to lap time on the recently resurfaced Algarve circuit, Hamilton utlitised an extra flying lap on his final run in Q3 to edge his team-mate and take his 97th career pole position.
“Valtteri has been so quick this weekend. As you’ve seen, he’s topped every session,” said Hamilton. “So I’ve just been digging and digging and digging to find that extra time. At the end there I chose to do three laps, to give me a chance to have a stab at beating his time. I think he decided to do one, so I was like ‘OK, this could provide me an opportunity’ and it worked. That last lap it got better and better as I went through it.”
The start of qualifying was delayed by 30 minutes due to track repairs being carried following an FP3 incident with a loose drain cover and when Q1 finally got underway it was Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez who set the early pace, but Verstappen soon bypassed the Mexican’s best time to take P1 with a lap of 1:17.700. Perez responded and edged that benchmark, but then Bottas emerged to stake Mercedes’ claim to top spot with a lap of 1:17.064, which he then lowered to 1:16.945.
Verstappen was finding more pace, however, and he again roared to top spot with his best lap of the session, a 1:16.897. That seemed good enough to hold P1 but Hamilton was already on another flyer and edged the opening segment with a lap of 1:16.828.
At the other end of the timesheet, Williams’ George Russell, who had started the final runs in P18, was the only man in danger to pull off a great escape and his lap of 1:17.931 was good enough to push him up to P15.
That meant that excluded at the end of Q1 were 16th-placed Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi.
In Q2, Bottas set the pace for Mercedes on medium tires with the Finn posting a time of 1:16.466 with Hamilton in P2, five hundredths of a second behind. Verstappen took third place with a lap of 1:17.096.
In the drop zone ahead of the final runs of the middle segment were Renault’s Esteban Ocon followed by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat and Russell. This time though there was no escape for any of those at risk, with only Russell improving his position, at the expense of Vettel who opted for medium tires on his final run.
At the top, Bottas’ early table-topper was good enough to hang on to P1 ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen held third with an improved final lap of 1:17.038 that left ahead of Leclerc, Pérez and the second Red Bull of Alex Albon. Renault’s Ricciardo who had a spin on his final run. The Australian lost grip at Turn 11, going wide around his Renault team-mate Ocon, and slid into the gravel. Despite a brush with the barriers he was able to keep going and headed back to the pits, lucky to have made it through to Q3 in P10, though with a damaged rear wing he would be forced to sit out the final session.
Verstappen opened his Q3 account with a solid time of 1:17.107 to lie in P3 behind provisional pole sitter Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. In the final runs it looked like Verstappen might have a chance of splitting the Silver Arrows as Bottas set a time of 1:16.754 and Verstappen edged to within two tenths of the Finn. But Hamilton put in a second timed lap and his final flyer yielded a time of 1:16.652 to jump from P3 to his 97th career pole position.
Leclerc finished in fourth place ahead of Pérez and Albon. Behind them Alex Carlos Sainz was seventh and Lando Norris eighth for McLaren while Pierre Gasly took ninth ahead of Ricciardo.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.652 8 218.530
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:16.754 0.102 6 218.240
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:16.904 0.252 8 217.814
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:17.090 0.438 8 217.288
5 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:17.223 0.571 7 216.914
6 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:17.437 0.785 8 216.315
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:17.520 0.868 6 216.083
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:17.525 0.873 6 216.069
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:17.803 1.151 5 215.297
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:17.614 1.148 8 215.821
12 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:17.626 1.160 10 215.788
13 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1:17.728 1.262 10 215.505
14 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:17.788 1.322 6 215.339
15 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:17.919 1.453 10 214.977
16 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:18.201 1.373 12 214.201
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:18.323 1.495 12 213.868
18 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:18.364 1.536 12 213.756
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:18.508 1.680 10 213.364
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:18.777 1.949 11 212.635