Portuguese Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton’s quick final run denied his practice topping teammate, Valtteri Bottas, from taking pole in Portugal.
Hamilton’s decision to run three laps at the end of the final part of qualifying was enough for him to snatch pole position from his teammate’s grasp. Q1 was the first time Hamilton had set a faster lap than Bottas all weekend but the Finn was back in front in Q2 and seemed to be able to respond to every fast lap his teammate put in.
“I can’t tell you how hard that was today,” said Hamilton after qualifying. “Yes, we’ve got a great car, but you have to drive the nuts off of it to pull out a lap. Valtteri’s been so quick this weekend, you’ve seen he’s topped ever session, so I’ve just been digging and digging and digging trying to find that extra time.
“At the end, 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 “okay, this could provide me an opportunity” and it worked. That last lap it got better and better as I went through.”
After their first runs in the top ten shootout, Mercedes gave their drivers both the choice of tyres and how many laps to for their final run. Hamilton’s decision to go for the extra laps gave him the chance to cover himself if there were any errors on his first lap and mean that Bottas, who beat Hamilton’s penultimate lap time, could only watch as the Brit went a tenth faster than the rest of the field.
“The team were communicating really well with us and gave us the option basically, to both of us, so we had the choice of going onto the soft or to the medium. We both chose to go to the medium, he chose to do one lap, I chose to do three because we had the time.
“So I got out there nice and early, the medium tyres, the tyres are very hard here this weekend. We’ve got the hardest of the compounds and getting them to work here, believe it or not, it’s very, very difficult. That’s why I wanted to have an extra run just in case the first one wasn’t that great and it worked perfectly.”
Hamilton admitted that the Portimao track is very challenging given the undulations make braking points difficult to see and that the resurfacing means optimal tyre windows are elusive.
“[The track] it’s hardcore, it’s a really, really hardcore circuit. There’s places that you can’t see where you’re going, you’re looking at the sky for periods of time so understanding where your braking points are, there’s no reference when you’re looking at the sky.
“It really is one of the most challenging circuits that I think that I’ve been to. The surface is strange, it’s very closed, very smooth surface and it doesn’t work the tyres the same as Barcelona, for example. So that’s made it incredibly challenging to get, not only the front tyres in, but the rears in.
“We’ve had times in practice where the front tyres were working but the rears weren’t, and then we’ve had times where none of the tyres were working. Today has been better but the team have just continued to keep their head down and do a fantastic job so a big, big thank you to them.”