The medium abrasive track of the Algarve circuit saw the top two championship contenders leading one session apiece, FP2 for Hamilton, FP3 for Verstappen, with Bottas as their referee, having the FP1 to his name.
The track temperature looked to be hotter than saturday morning, which made the tyres’ warm up absolutely critical for whoever driver wanted to have a real shot at the pole position. The windy conditions were another parameter for the drivers to factor.
And it’s Valtteri Bottas who pipped his teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole. The Finn scored the 17th pole position of his career. Hamilton will have to wait for the next race before scoring that century of poles.
The Haas drivers led the way of the session with Mazepin the first out, while McLaren sent their drivers on the medium compound tyres. Hamilton and Bottas also started on the mediums but could not get them up to temperature. Both were overtaken on the first lap by Sainz, who was on the softs.
With 10 minutes to go, Hamilton went fastest in 1:18.726, only for his time to get deleted for exceeding track limits, Sainz setting the early pace . The Briton in another attempt locked his tyres at Turn 3 and had to go again. Ultimately, Hamilton's next effort was good enough for fifth. Meanwhile, Tsunoda, Russell, Schumacher, Latifi and Mazepin were in danger of elimination.
Alonso spun at Turn 14 at but managed to get back on track.
Perez triggered yellow flags, as he lost his rear due to a snap of oversteer and went into the gravel trap at Turn 4. But managed to get his car out of it and resumed his session. He's third position meant he will make the cut for Q2 anyway.
Into the final two minutes, Sainz, Perez and Verstappen chose to stay in their box, despite how close the times between all drivers were. with safety by staying in. Hamilton and Bottas went out but on the same set of soft tyres, while everyone else were on fresh rubber.
Mazepin improved, but stayed P20 and that's his session done and dusted while Russell improved up to 12th! Schumacher’s lap was unfortunately not enough to make the Q1 cut.
Stroll couldn’t improve, when Ocon went fourth. The Frenchman knocked out his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo out of Q1. These are very contrasted fortunes for the McLaren drivers, as Lando Norris ended the session in P2.
ELIMINATED: Ricciardo, Stroll, Latifi, Schumacher, Mazepin.
The session started with both Mercedes drivers, the Alfa Romeo pair, the Red Bulls and the Ferraris opting for the mediums compound, as did Russell also going for the yellow-marked rubber.
In his first attempt, Hamilton blitzed his way round to be the first driver down into the 1m 17's, as he laps half a second quicker than his team mate in P2. Norris joined the top three, only a hundreths behind Bottas in P3 as Ocon slotted into fourth, both on the soft compound tyres. Red Bull cars looked to be struggling to warm up their tyres, as Verstappen’s two attempts were only good enough for fifth place.
The drivers at risk at the moment were Russell, Tsunoda, Sainz, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. A bold strategy from Ferrari put their drivers on the medium compound. Unfortunately as it stood, they looked to have few other choices than swapping Sainz to the softs tyres. Leclerc on the other hand chose to stick to the mediums.
Into the final two minutes, Tsunoda was on a hot lap, the rookie trying to make Q3 for the first time. But he went only 12th. Giovinazzi also improved, but stayed P11. And Alonso standing only 12th, got knocked out of Q2.
Russell,Mr. Saturday, made another absolutely blistering lap in his Williams to reach the P11 spot. It is not a Q3 appearance, but it was really close.
ELIMINATED: Russell, Giovinazzi, Alonso, Tsunoda, Raikkonen.
For the final shootout, all drivers went out on the yellow-marked rubber, Used soft tyres for Norris and Gasly, shiny fresh red-marked boots for everyone else for their opening runs.
Leclerc’s engineer reported on the radio: “Everyone’s doing prep laps”, as it looked like all drivers would need double warm up laps. Verstappen however was the only driver to go for one warm up, and the first to set off on a flying effort. But he ran wide coming up the hill to Turn 4. Despite him clocking, the stewards wiped it from the timing sheets for track limits infringements. The Dutchman was only fuelled for one flying effort, so he returned to the pits.
For the Mercedes drivers first attempts, Bottas grabbed a provisional pole, as he laps in a 1m 18.348s. Hamilton couldn’t match it! He was trailing his teammate by a 0.007s margin. Perez the provisional top 3.
Behind the top three, Sainz was fourth ahead of Norris and Leclerc, with five minutes to go.
For the ultimate shootout, Mercedes have bolted on the mediums for their last run, with the rest of the top 10 sticking with softs. The wind picked up, at a Wind 21,9 KmH speed.
Ultimately, Verstappen’s effort was good enough for third, as none of the Mercedes drivers were able to improve their times. Valtteri Bottas kept the benefit of the 17th pole position in career, with Hamilton in second. The Red Bulls will occupy the second row of the grid.