Bottas denies Hamilton taking 100th pole

Published May 2, 2021
FERRARI’S Charles Leclerc takes a curve followed by Mercedes’ pair of Valtteri Bottas (top) and Lewis Hamilton during the qualifying for the Portuguese F1 Grand Prix on Saturday.—AP
FERRARI’S Charles Leclerc takes a curve followed by Mercedes’ pair of Valtteri Bottas (top) and Lewis Hamilton during the qualifying for the Portuguese F1 Grand Prix on Saturday.—AP

PORTIMAO: Valtteri Bottas took pole position for the Portuguese Grand Prix and denied Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton a record-extending 100th Formula One pole on Saturday.

Bottas clinched the 17th of his career and a much-needed one after he crashed in the last race and scored no points.

He was .007 seconds ahead of Hamilton and .34 ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, making him the third different pole-sitter in three races. Hamilton and Verstappen earned the others.

Hamilton is aiming for his 97th win on Sunday, while Bottas goes for his 17th victory, and Verstappen his 12th.

Verstappen looked in contention to clinch a fifth career pole after impressively topping the third and final practice earlier on Saturday, but he made a small mistake in the last part of qualifying known as Q3 when he went outside of the track limits and failed to set a time. That meant his lap time was deleted and gave him only one more shot at the two Mercedes cars.

As late afternoon temperatures cooled in Portugal’s Algarve region, it was a bad qualifying run for McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has seven career wins but was among the five drivers eliminated from Q1, while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez went off track at Turn 4 and into gravel but had already done enough to get into Q2.

Hamilton led Q2 from Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris, while two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso was among the five to go out.

Earlier, Verstappen posted the fastest time in the third and final practice, followed by Hamilton, Bottas, and Perez.

Mercedes topped the first two practices on Friday, through Bottas and then Hamilton.

The Portugal GP is the third race of the season. Hamilton leads the championship by one point from Verstappen. Hamilton’s lead is courtesy of him taking a bonus point for the fastest lap at an incident-packed Emilia-Romagna GP, which Verstappen won. Hamilton won the season-opener in Bahrain.

Bottas needs to find form after a poor race two weeks ago at Imola, where he was involved in a crash with Williams driver George Russell after an overtaking move went wrong. Bottas dropped to fifth place in the standings behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in what could be his final season with Mercedes.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

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