The Finn took the first pole of the Formula 1 season, the 17th of his career, and it was eagerly awaited after two disappointing first qualifying sessions.
He will have to wait a little longer: Briton Lewis Hamilton’s pole position counter remains stuck at 99, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas having deprived him of the 100th Saturday at the Portuguese Grand Prix. The symbol would have been strong, however, 27 years after the death of the idol of Hamilton, the Brazilian Ayrton Senna. For the Finn, it is the first pole of the Formula 1 season, the 17th of his career, and it was eagerly awaited after two disappointing first qualifying (3rd in Bahrain, 8th in Emilia-Romagna).
In Portimao, Bottas did the job and it “makes him smile”. “It’s been a while,” since the Sakhir GP in early December 2020, he recalled. “Things are finally going in the right direction. Qualifying has been one of my weaknesses this season but I worked a lot this weekend and it pays off. ” This is all the better as the previous round turned into a nightmare for him, put out of the race by a collision with the Williams of Briton George Russell.
Embarrassed like his cronies by gusts of wind on a track with an already slippery surface, Hamilton can only admit that his session was “disorderly”, “not the cleanest”, with “only one good lap” during the second part. (out of three) qualifications. But the main thing is except for the seven-time world champion. Sunday at 4 p.m., he will start ahead of his main rival, Dutchman Red Bull Max Verstappen, relegated to the second row alongside his Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez.
“We did not expect to monopolize the first row” of the third GP of 2021, admitted the Briton. “We must be satisfied.” It is not his boss Toto Wolff who will say the opposite. “I’m not sure we had the fastest car, but we’ve made a lot of progress,” he says. We are catching up (Red Bull) in qualifying, maybe we are at the same level, and I think we have a good car for the race. ”
In a particularly tight start to the exercise, any progress is worth making. With one success (and one pole) each, Hamilton and Verstappen are almost level with the world championship, with a small lead for the first thanks to the point of the best lap at the GP of Emilia-Romagna. However, it was the Dutchman who set the best time in qualifying, canceled because he overstepped the limits of the track by giving himself a “little scare” at turn 4. “I did not enjoy a single lap this week. -end ”, swept the person, who also suffers from the lack of grip and the wind.
“Not ideal” for Verstappen
“It’s not ideal (because) it is not easy to follow another car here but, if we have a good pace (during the race), we will put the pressure on them,” he promises. “It’s good to go ahead,” abounds Bottas. But it will undoubtedly still be a close fight with Red Bull and you never know in advance how things can turn out. ”
Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) and French Esteban Ocon (Alpine) will start from the third row, ahead of Briton Lando Norris (McLaren) and Monegasque Charles Leclerc (Ferrari). The second French, Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), set the 9th qualifying time and the German Sebastian Vettel the 10th, in what is by far his best qualifying session since his debut at Aston Martin this season. Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who left Renault this winter for McLaren, only signed a “disappointing” 16th time, failing to “complete a good lap” during the first part of qualifying.