Lewis Hamilton misses out on pole to team-mate Valtteri Bottas at Portuguese GP
Lewis Hamilton was denied his 100th pole position by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas ahead of Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix – as a ruffled Max Verstappen aimed a foul-mouthed rant at British driver Lando Norris.
Bottas secured his first pole of the season after beating Hamilton to top spot by just seven thousandths of a second in Portimao, with Verstappen only third.
Verstappen, who heads into Sunday’s race trailing Hamilton by one point in the standings, was furious with Norris for getting in the way of his one shot at pole.
The Dutchman’s first effort in Q3 was deleted after he made a mistake at the left-handed fourth corner and exceeded track limits.
As he geared up for his final run, Norris, ahead of him on the track but not on a quick lap, was told by his McLaren race engineer, Will Joseph: “Don’t do him [Verstappen] any favours because he doesn’t have a time yet.”
Verstappen was forced to pass Norris, and the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, before crossing the line a disappointing third, almost four tenths behind Bottas.
“F*** sake,” the Dutchman fumed over the radio. “Why do these guys not move? I am on a fast lap. They are f****** d*******s.”
Responding, Norris, who qualified seventh, said: “I don’t know what I did wrong.
“When I let him pass I was on the opposite side of the track, in second gear and as slow as I can go. I tried my best to get out of his way. I didn’t block him or anything like that.”
The result leaves Verstappen facing an uphill battle to claim back-to-back wins following his masterclass at a rain-hit Imola a fortnight ago, particularly with not one but two black machines in his way.
Hamilton headed into qualifying in search of a century of poles but his wait will go on for at least another week after Bottas spoilt the world champion’s party.
Hamilton finished his first run behind his team-mate. Ahead of his final attempt he ditched the softest rubber for the medium tyre, but the Briton was unable to improve and had to settle for second.
“It was a difficult session,” the seven-time world champion said. “It is not that easy here because it is windy and slippery on this surface. It was a messy session for me. Q1 wasn’t good, Q2, I had one good lap, and Q3 was pretty poor too.
“It probably wasn’t the right decision to take the mediums but it was just tricky. The tyres are too hard here, they don’t work very well with the surface so we have to do extra laps to get the temperature into them, and at the end I didn’t have great grip so I couldn’t do the greatest job.”
Bottas’ 17th pole of his career will come as some relief to the Finn following his 200mph crash with George Russell in Imola.
Bottas, who could be replaced by Russell at Mercedes in 2022, is already 28 points behind Hamilton after just two rounds.
“It definitely put a smile on my face because qualifying at the first two races hasn’t been the strong point,” he said.
“Now, it feels as though things are going in the right direction. I have felt strong all weekend so I knew it was possible and it makes me happy to put it together and to be on pole.”
Russell did his hopes of taking the keys off Bottas next year little harm with another supreme qualifying display in uncompetitive Williams machinery.
The young British driver finished just 0.057 sec shy of making it through to Q3 and lines up 11th in a best one-lap finish for Williams.
Sergio Perez finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.