Bottas Strikes Gold At Portuguese GP, Delays Hamilton The Glory Of A 100th Pole!
Early Glory For Valtteri!
Twenty gutsy drivers contending for the third time this year under azure skies and gusting winds but it was one man, in particular, who made strong headlines on not exactly a balmy Portuguese evening, someone who’s often drawn flak for falling flat to beat the ultimate challenger on the grid.
Some call him the second-in-command at Mercedes. Others regard him as just not being that good enough. But it must be said in no uncertain terms that in setting a commanding 1:18:348, Valtteri Bottas secured a spectacular pole position, the seventeenth of his career, on a day where to keep the four wheels of a marauding racecar on the road became quite an ominous challenge for even the best drivers on the grid.
The key question, on Sunday, will surely be whether Bottas can strike in good groove and keep the threat of a very challenging Lewis Hamilton at bay, the Briton all set to begin the 2021 Portuguese GP right behind the other Mercedes.
Meanwhile, the winner of the 2021 Emilia Romagna GP, Max Verstappen, a driver who many had expected to fire vicious threats at the twin Mercedes, keeping up his good speed had to settle for a third at the Algarve International circuit.
But in doing so, he aced the teammate battle against Perez, who, despite capturing a not-so-bad P4, found himself swiveling wide into the gravel trap during Q2.
But the Mexican’s effort was enough to keep ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who in complete contrast to the two qualifying runs he’s had thus far, kept the nose of his SF 71 H comfortably ahead of the more experienced Charles Leclerc, who had to settle for a lacklustre P8.
Esteban Ocon, meanwhile, among the more quiet and subdued competitors this season continued with his good work as he put his Alpine on a very respectable P6, though landing just a millisecond ahead of the charging McLaren of young Lando Norris.
Norris’ P7, you ought to remember, was identical to his qualifying performance at the Imola GP, but nonetheless an effort far better than that of McLaren newcomer Daniel Riccardo who endured quite a horrid run at the 2021 Portuguese GP.
Meanwhile, following Leclerc (P8), was the Alfa Male of Alpha Tauri, famous Monza winner (2020) Pierre Gasly who, it could be said, matched the speeds of the McLaren and the Aston Martin for the better part of the qualifying run.
Stacked on tenth, arguably speaking, was the biggest surprise of the evening with Sebastian Vettel finally making it to Q3, his first entry into the final quali run since the 2020 British GP, an effort so spectacular that it must have invoked standing applause from half a million German Formula 1 aficionados, who’ve seen their darling driver struggle in the quali battle against Lance Stroll.
What happened in Q2?
The man described as “Mr. Saturday,” George Russell drove a fantastic quali lap once again, beating Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi for the third successive time this season, as the young Briton would set a competitive 1:19.109.
This was to be an effort that was to prove a bit too much for the twin Alfa Romeos, with Antonio Giovinazzi managing a P12, a fine improvement, truth be told, vis-a-vis his seventeenth at the Imola qualifying.
Down in thirteenth was the returning Spaniard Fernando Alonso, once again struggling to match the raw pace of Ocon, in quite the fashion wherein Riccardo has struggled to put up an answer to Norris on a challenging Saturday.
Following the other Alpine machine was rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda, whose P14, by his admission wasn’t the best nor the worst start considering he’s hardly had any experience whatsoever of getting the measure of a track as challenging as Portugal.
Further down in fifteenth was the very man who managed to race up to sixth by the end of lap 1 in 2020, having started from sixteenth on the grid- Kimi Raikkonen. Beaten fair and square by his Italian teammate, what might Kimi do on a Sunday is a question his doting Kimsters would love to see!
That said, the biggest disappointment, by far, was Daniel Riccardo, in P16, who was found trundling for the better part of Q2.
Where might he end up at the checkered flag is something McLaren fans would anticipate with nail-biting anticipation.
Meanwhile, Latifi in P18, ended ahead of Mick Schumacher in P19, who once again beat Nikita Mazepin, who made up for the rear-end of the field in twentieth.
But the key battle for Sunday would be between the twin chargers: the Mercedes of an under-pressure Valtteri Bottas who would be so keen to secure a win versus the man who contends with marauding pace and proves every time he’s down and out that, “Still I Rise!”
That said, what can Max Verstappen do to spice up things on race-day?