Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021

Bottas on pole in Portugal as Verstappen loses quicker lap time

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix qualifying

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Valtteri Bottas took pole position for the Portuguese Grand Prix after Max Verstappen lost what would’ve been a pole setting lap for exceeding track limits at turn four.

Bottas will line up ahead of Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton and the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Sergio Perez after an anti-climatic end to qualifying with none of the top drivers able to improve on their final runs.

Verstappen’s first flying lap would have been fast enough to see him take the top spot, but his best lap would be deleted for exceeding track limits on the exit of turn four after a snap of oversteer.

Carlos Sainz Jnr will start fifth for Ferrari, ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris.


The skies were clear and sunny over the Autodromo do Algarve as the circuit played host to a Formula 1 qualifying session for only the second time ever.

Wind speed had crept up to 15km/h as the cars ventured out onto the circuit.

Lando Norris’s first lap on the medium tyre was compromised by the Haas of Mick Schumacher as the pair rounded turn three, but it was not enough on an impediment to warrant an investigation from the stewards

Hamilton was the early pace setter, but his time of 1’18.726 was deleted for exceeding track limits at the fast first corner. It proved only a minor blip for the world champion, who was able to follow up with a legitimate lap immediately after.

Sergio Perez went faster than Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen after their early runs, but Perez found himself in trouble after spinning on the exit of turn four and having to slowly crawl out of the gravel.

With time ticking down, Lando Norris briefly jumped to the top of the times, while McLaren team mate Daniel Ricciardo was on the bubble in 15th. As the chequered flag flew, Ricciardo was unable to improve his time, leaving him vulnerable to Esteban Ocon, who duly eliminated Ricciardo from the session, much to the Australian’s frustration.

Lance Stroll was also a surprise elimination in 17th, with Aston Martin team mate Sebastian Vettel safely through in eighth place.

Nicholas Latifi was also knocked out in 18th, with the Haas pair of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin resigned to the back row of the grid.

Mazepin was briefly held up by Latifi at the end of his lap, the Williams driver complaining to his team that he hadn’t been warned about the Haas. Latifi then predicted Mazepin would spoil his start to the next lap, and was.

“I couldn’t get out of the way,” said Latifi. “He’s probably going to block me. Yeah he’s going to block me. I got blocked, of course. What a dumb idiot.”

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.839
17 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’19.913
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1’20.285
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1’20.452
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1’20.912

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The medium tyres were the choice for most of the field as the second session began. Max Verstappen was the first to set a quick lap on the yellow-walled rubber, but his 1’19.099 was beaten comfortably by the two Mercedes and Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez.

Only Charles Leclerc opted to stick on the medium tyres for the final run of the session as the field took to the track for their final runs in Q2. His time of a 1’18.769 was ultimately faster than his Ferrari team mate on the softs by the time the chequered flag dropped.

Hamilton set the fastest time of the session, ahead of Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, with Lando Norris repeating his strong pace in the McLaren by finishing the session third ahead of Esteban Ocon and the Red Bull of Verstappen.

Yuki Tsunoda could not improve by enough at the chequered flag and was eliminated in 14th, with Fernando Alonso also failing to make it through as team mate Ocon comfortably did.

The two Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were also knocked out, with Raikkonen significantly slower than the rest of his rivals in 15th.

George Russell was within half a tenth of dragging his Williams into Q3 for the first time in his career, but had to settle for 11th on the grid after another impressive qualifying performance.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1’19.109
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’19.216
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’19.456
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1’19.463
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’19.812

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The final shootout for pole position looked to be another close-fought battle between Mercedes and Red Bull.

Max Verstappen’s first attempt was the quickest of the session, but his chances for pole were ruined when he had a snap of oversteer at the apex of the fast turn four, running wide and having his time deleted for exceeding track limits.

It was Bottas who sat on provisional pole after the first runs, with Hamilton only seven-thousandths of a second behind his Mercedes team mate with Verstappen third.

With the provisional pole time significantly slower than the ultimate pace Mercedes had shown in Q2, the world champions opted to send both cars out on medium tyres for their second and final run of the afternoon. Verstappen, meanwhile, chose to remain on the softs.

Verstappen was able to put in a legal lap time with his second effort, but he could only manage third place, almost four tenths of a second behind Bottas.

With Mercedes seemingly under no threat from the Red Bulls, the question became which of the team’s drivers would take pole. But with neither driver able to find any improvement, it was Bottas who secured pole position in a rather underwhelming climax to qualifying.

The two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez will line up behind the Mercedes, with Carlos Sainz the leading Ferrari in fifth.

Esteban Ocon will line up sixth in the Alpine, ahead of Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly. Sebastian Vettel will round out the top ten for tomorrow’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

Top ten in Q3

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’18.348
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’18.355
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1’18.746
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1’18.890
5 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’19.039
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’19.042
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’19.116
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’19.306
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1’19.475
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’19.659

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2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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35 comments on “Bottas on pole in Portugal as Verstappen loses quicker lap time”

  1. Weird session.

    1. My thoughts exactly… With a perfect lap we could have seen Hamilton, Perez, Verstappen maybe even Norris or a Ferrari on pole but no-one managed to do so. A bit disappointing that a laptime 4/10 of a second slower than the best time of the day secures pole position.
      But congratulations to Bottas (and Vettel too!) anyway. If anybody needs a good weekend it’s them.

  2. Anti climatic session, but it was clear that who would make the less mistakes would get pole.

  3. As everybody was saying the last few weeks, Bottas really has no place in that Mercedes, slow, not getting the results in etc.

    1. It’s not Saturday what counts

    2. ian dearing
      1st May 2021, 16:51

      I don’t agree with those comments aimed at Bottas, but today was the luck of the draw as to which of the three came out on top.

      1. Off course it was, but going on all those comments, you would expect Bottas to be 1. messing up at least as much as any other driver and 2. not have any pace for the first 2 rows even then.

        1. someone or something
          1st May 2021, 17:22

          But you did watch the Imola weekend, no?

          1. Who is asking? Someone must have watched.

          2. In Imola: Hamilton on pole in Italy as Verstappen and Perez lose quicker lap?

    3. @bascb Yeah! Really showing his new found dominance there with 7/1000ths advantage. What’s this now? v4.34 Porridge Ultra Fortified Edition?

      Or was it Hamilton could have/should have spent maybe 4 seconds longer in the loo before the session?

      1. Well, if you want dominance, we already have Hamilton for that @psynrg.

    4. @bascb
      I bet that he will be pathetically slow right from the start till the end of the race especially with the tyres ,his weakest point so far, are the talk of the weekend.

  4. What is going on with Ricciardo? This isn’t the performance of someone getting used to the car. This is someone struggling with a car. The gap between him and Lando is getting bigger.

    1. He seems just plain slower, he made a little mistake during his final Q1 lap but that didn’t add up to a second lost. Norris is able to brake the tiniest bit later, get on the power the tiniest bit earlier, tuck the front into the corner the tiniest bit tighter. It all adds up

    2. Shocking by Ricciardo. Wasn’t even a disturbance or issue. Just driving errors.

  5. So Lewis takes the lead at the start tomorrow and drives into the sunset?

    I hope not but it seems very likely to me…

    1. Yep. Lewis will either get past Bottas right at the start or will stay within 2 seconds and use the first pitstop to overtake….. and then drive into the sunset at approx 0.3 sec a lap

      1. ian dearing
        1st May 2021, 21:21

        Nope, Bottas is so concerned with covering off Ham, that Max grabs a double tow and sweeps into the lead at turn one.

        1. It will be interesting to see how Bottas reacts to Hamilton as in how hard he might squeeze him at the start

      2. If Bottas does keep the lead, he will be asked to move over for Hamilton at some point I reckon. They can’t afford Bottas taking points away from Hamilton in such a close championship fight. The same thing applies to Perez if RBR are in that situation.

  6. Don’t count your chickens yet! The conditions today were anything but normal. I mean, it’s not like Mercedes just miraculously found a second to RB in two weeks and without bringing any major upgrade. Whoever thinks that can gladly come by my house and pick up some tinfoil for their hats.

    The wind conditions were so tricky in qualifying, so it was less about pure performance and more about coping with the wind, minimizing the damage in the affected corners (especially T14).
    The wind picked up by more than 10 kph from the end of FP3 to Q3 and came out of unpleasant directions for the drivers: Head wind on the start/finish-straight, tail wind into turns 3, 4, 5, 8, 10 & 13 plus cross wind into turns 14 & 15.
    The S3-times alone got progressively worse with every run since Q2 (up to 0.5 compared to Q3). Norris and Ocon seemed to suffer the most in Q3, loosing about 0.5 compared to their runs in Q2.
    Ferrari also seemed to suffer more with the wind in qualifying. Their best times in S3 were about 0.3 slower than in FP3. Very strange to see.

    I wouldn’t make any predictions, regarding the competitive order after today’s qualifying. I highly doubt the Mercedes will just disappear into the distance tomorrow. I expect Verstappen to give them at least a good fight, if not beat them. We’ll see tomorrow.

    1. Mercedes didn’t miraculous find a second. They have just found out how to set up there car. Mercedes have struggled at bahrain so it isnt the best place to test for the. So it isnt a surprise to see Mercedes find its pace on at a track that is similar to Spain.

  7. Sebastian Vettel seems to be getting his mojo back, and whatever is happening to Ricciardo and Alonso!!!

    1. @lems Yeah was nice to see Vettel dragging the Aston to Q3, (even without the nice upgrades Stroll had that was rumoured to be worth 0.5s).

      1. Yes, this was a good performance from vettel, I guess a couple more of those coming before the season ends!

        Indeed shocking that alonso and ricciardo can’t find their usual performance, I mean, alonso seemed like he never left at the first race, then got outperformed by ocon.

        1. Davethechicken
          1st May 2021, 21:02

          I for one am really pleased to see Seb in the top 10.
          I fear years are taking their toll on Alonso. Riccardo won out against Ocon easily last year.
          Riccardo is a mystery. Clearly there is something in the Mclaren he has mastered. As yet.

          1. Davethechicken
            1st May 2021, 21:03

            Should have been an ‘nt after has

          2. Yes, obviously years pass for everyone, but the thing is alonso was actually very competitive the first race, he seemed to have no come-back or age issues, then they started in the 2nd race, he usually always beats team mates with margin, and I don’t think ocon is a particularly impressive talent. Ricciardo still is nowhere near old enough to see a decline on average, and yes, maybe it’ll take him some more time, he wasn’t immediately performing well at renault either.

  8. I was going to suggest a new drinking game: Every time one of the lads on Sky F1 says the words “track limits”, you take a shot.
    However, I’m afraid we’d lose half the population to alcohol poisoning so I’d better refrain.

    I swear, I think the boys are secretly running a pool to see who can say it the most.

  9. Racingdave
    1st May 2021, 19:55

    Is any one else worried about tyre prep?
    How many times did a full speed F1 car pass an almost stationary one? I fear we’re a Radio call away from a major smash!

    Time for Pirelli to bring a tyre to s season that isn’t made of cheese – best way to describe them. Freshly sliced no grip, trip to the grill needs to be just melting any thing over it becomes bubbly and loses grip – not more delicious like normal cheese!

    1. Yeah, it’s dangerous.

      The problem is that the tyre pressures are way too high (takes longer to warm). It’s a freak accident waiting to happen. The high pressures are also causing the time delta between the compounds to be not big enough.

  10. 77 – 44 = 33
    44 – 33 = 11
    11 × 5 = 55

    1. 33+11+55=99…

      I’m betting Giovinazzi for the win tomorrow! ;)

  11. After practice and Qualifying, Norris is my early leader for DOTW so far. Vettel and Russell are also on the shortlist.
    Surprisingly, I think I have to take Schumacher into account too. He’s destroying Mazepin.

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