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Max Verstappen qualifies third fastest at Portuguese GP: 'A lot to play'

Published on 24 October 2020 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen qualified third fastest for the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Dutchman did a 1:16.904 during qualifying in Portimão which made him secure a second row starting position. Lewis Hamilton scored his 97th pole position and kept his team mate Valtteri Bottas, who pushed the Briton to the brink, a tenth of a second at bay. Tomorrow the Mercedes-duo will start the race, together with Charles Leclerc (P4) on the medium compound tyre. They all drove their fastest Q2-time on the yellow walled rubber.

“This track with the new tarmac at the moment is quite difficult to bring the tyres in”, says Max after qualifying. “It’s a bit hit and miss. I am happy with Q3, I think the lap itself was pretty decent, but it’s very difficult to get the front and rear tyres to match. That’s because they're are a bit too hard, that has been done for safety reasons of course. Nobody has any experience here at all. It also has to do with the new tarmac, not a lot of driving has been done on it yet and that’s why it’s so slippery.“

It’s a pity, says the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-driver: “It really is a top circuit, one of my favourites, but it is a pity that you’re not really able to put the pedal to the metal because the tyres are not there and there is no grip at all.”

Asked on the possiblity of overtaking at the first corner, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing-driver says: “Turn one is not really a place to dive in. The start is going to be important of course even though we don’t really have a lot of information on how the tyres are going to hold up. So we’ll feel our way in the race and see what’s going to happen. We are not too far behind of Mercedes so a lot to play for tomorrow. Hopefully we can stay close of course.”

Prior to qualifying it is announced that the start of the session will be postponed by at least half an hour. A drain cover that came loose in Turn fourteen, at the end of the third free practice, needs to be secured back again.

After thirty minutes the work has been completed and the lights at the end of the pit lane turn green. Max Verstappen heads out, just like the rest of the field, on a set of softs and does a 1:17.700 in his first flying lap. After a cool down lap, the Dutchman goes at it again. In Turn one he runs wide forcing him to make another attempt one lap later. He then does a 1:16.879, after the first couple of runs it's good enough for the second spot. The gap to Lewis Hamilton (P1) is merely half a tenth. Valtteri Bottas is third fastest behind of Verstappen.

The top positions on the time sheet remain unchanged during the closing stages of the first part of qualifying, which enables Max to make it through to Q2. Kimi Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi fail to make the cut and are sent packing.

Max Verstappen ventures out on a set of softs at the start of the second part of qualifying. In his first run the Dutchman does a 1:17.332, dropping him down to seventh fastest. Not much later Max takes P3 when he betters his time by two-and-a-half tenths to a 1:17.096. Striking is that Mercedes and Ferrari are the only ones running on the yellow walled mediums.

In the closing stages of Q2 we see Verstappen head back out again. And once again he has the softs strapped on to his RB16, he manages to pull out a 1:17.038 which makes him tighten his grip on third place even more. In the dying seconds Mercedes is still running the show and together with Charles Leclerc the threesome in the top ten, will be starting tomorrow’s race on the medium compound tyre. Despite a spin, Daniel Ricciardo makes it to Q3 by the skin of his teeth. Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat, George Russell and Sebastian Vettel fall short and are forced to take their leave.

After this, the remaining twelve minutes are for the final part of qualifying. After the first runs Valtteri Bottas (1:16.986), Lewis Hamilton (+0.047), Max Verstappen (+0.121), Charles Leclerc (+0.470), Sergio Pérez (+0.488) and Carlos Sainz (+0.534) are the top six.

The drivers pay a brief visit to the pits and head back out again for a final flying lap. Both Mercedes opt for the medium compound tyre as oppose to Verstappen who chooses to remain on the softs. Valtteri Bottas appears to have pole after his final run (1:16.754), but Lewis Hamilton straps in and barely manages to pip his team mate by a mere tenth. Max does a 1:16.904 and firmly grasps third place. Ferrari-driver Charles Leclerc is also on the second row, next to the Dutchman, in fourth. Sergio Pérez and Alexander Albon round out the top six.

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Results qualifying Portugal:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:16.8281:16.8241:16.652
2Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:16.9451:16.4661:16.754
3Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:16.8791:17.0381:16.904
4Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:17.4211:17.3671:17.090
5Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:17.3701:17.1291:17.223
6Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda1:17.4351:17.4111:17.437
7Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:17.6271:17.1831:17.520
8Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:17.5471:17.3211:17.525
9Pierre GaslyGASAlphaTauri Honda1:17.2091:17.3671:17.803
10Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:17.6211:17.481
11Esteban OconOCORenault1:17.7751:17.614
12Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:17.6671:17.626
13Daniil KvyatKVYAlphaTauri Honda1:17.8411:17.728
14George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:17.9311:17.788
15Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:17.4461:17.919
16Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:18.201
17Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:18.323
18Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:18.364
19Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:18.508
20Nicholas LatifiLATWilliams Mercedes1:18.777