After a half hour delay due to a broken drain cover, Formula One qualifying kicked off in cool temperatures at Portimao for the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix. And despite his teammate’s dominance of every other session, Lewis Hamilton pulled out a quick lap where it mattered most, securing his 97th career pole position of his career.
“I can’t tell you how hard that was today, Hamilton said. “Yes we have a great car, but you have to drive the nuts off of it. Valtteri has topped every session, and I’ve just been digging to find that extra time. I chose to do three laps to have a stab to beat his time. He chose to do one, and I was like, this could provide me a chance.”
It certainly did.
During practice, 125 laps were cancelled as a result of drivers exceeding track limits, which saw the FIA ease up on the restrictions. That said, the pit entrance essentially just appears off the final corner, which is one of the more difficult sections of the track. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was cancelled because he didn’t merge in time.
Vettel also ran over a drain embedded in the concrete section lining the track during practice—he was the one who jarred the loose drain. The drain was repaired and drivers were sent out to qualify.
Despite the eased track limits, several drivers still fell foul of them.
16. Kimi Raikkonen
17. Antonio Giovinazzi
18. Romain Grosjean
19. Kevin Magnussen
20. Nicholas Latifi
Q2 was a relatively relaxed session, especially compared to some of the qualifying chaos that has taken place during the 2020 season—until the end, that is. Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, who was sitting on the cusp of elimination, lost control and slid through the gravel as the session was wrapping up.
He must have thanked his lucky stars that it was the end of the session, because Ricciardo still slid into Q3 by the skin of his teeth.
Ferrari opted against sending Vettel out on soft tires, which resulted in his poor qualifying position.
11. Esteban Ocon
12. Lance Stroll
13. Daniil Kvyat
14. George Russell
15. Sebastian Vettel
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas led nearly every session this weekend and held provisional pole until his teammate Lewis Hamilton pipped him. Bottas was able to respond with a final flying lap that set him on pole yet again. After the clock ran out, Hamilton quickly responded to the times set by his teammate. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc both leaped up to to top of the time sheets, lining up behind Bottas.
But Hamilton had saved his best for last. He pipped Bottas as the last driver to cross the line and took his 97th pole position of his career.
“The whole weekend, the track with the new tarmac is difficult to bring the tires in. It’s hit and miss,” Verstappen said after qualifying. “I’m happy with the lap in Q3,
“I think the start is going to be important, but we don’t have a lot of information about how the tires are going to hold. We’re going to feel our away into the race and see what happens.”
Second place starter Valterri Bottas admitted that he was the one who opted for the single lap qualifying.
“At the end, we had to go to the medium,” he said, regarding tire choice for Q3. “Previously in qualifying, the medium felt a tiny bit quicker than the soft. Then we had to decide between two timed laps and one timed lap. With the one timed lap, it worked in Q2. But doing two laps for Lewis was better.
“[My lap] was a decent lap but not perfect. It’s been tricky to get really clean laps because of how the track is. I think it would be nice to be on the clean side on P1, but I’ll do whatever I can in P2.”
Hamilton added to that sentiment, noting how difficult the track is:
The team communicate really well with us and gave both of us the option. We both chose to go on the medium. He chose to do one lap. I chose to do three. The medium tire is the hardest of the compounds this weekend and believe it or not, it’s really really hard here. But it worked perfectly.
It’s a really hardcore circuit. There’s places that you can’t see where you’re going. You’re looking at the sky for period of time. Understanding where your braking points are, you can’t tell looking at the sky. And the surface is weird. This is a very closed, smooth surface and it doesn’t work the tires the same way as Barcelona, for instance. It’s really hard to get both the front tires in and the rear tires.
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Valtteri Bottas
3. Max Verstappen
4. Charles Leclerc
5. Sergio Perez
6. Alex Albon
7. Carlos Sainz Jr.
8. Lando Norris
9. Pierre Gasly
10. Daniel Ricciardo