RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen missed out on his second pole position of the season as his fastest Q3 laptime was chalked off, leaving him third behind the two Mercedes in qualifying at Portimao – and the Red Bull driver said he was struggling throughout on what he called a “hit and miss” weekend.

    It was Valtteri Bottas who took pole for the Portuguese Grand Prix as team mate Lewis Hamilton finished 0.007s behind and Verstappen nearly four-tenths off. The third-place qualifier cut a disappointed figure as he explained how he missed out on pole position on Saturday.

    READ MORE: Bottas denies Hamilton his 100th F1 pole as Mercedes lock out the front row at Portimao

    He said: “It’s been a bit hit and miss anyway, the whole weekend; we’re just struggling a lot to find the balance. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy one single lap this weekend, just because of the state of the track. I mean the layout is amazing but the grip we are experiencing I don’t think is nice. I know it’s the same for everyone but for me personally it’s just not enjoyable to drive.”

    Verstappen’s first Q3 time of 1m18.209s would have been good enough for pole position but he suffered a snap of oversteer at Turn 4 and ran off the road, leading to his lap being deleted for a track limits violation. His next effort was, by his own admission, messy.

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    Neither Hamilton nor Verstappen took pole on Saturday. Instead, it was Bottas's turn

    “I started off in qualifying really slow,” he continued. “I had no balance in the car and we slowly got to a point where I was happier but it was basically just compromising one thing and then also losing a bit of performance in the other thing. It was just not nice.

    WATCH: 2021 Portuguese GP Qualifying – Bottas takes pole position at Portimao

    “And then I had my little moment in Turn 4 in the first run of Q3. At the end, it showed that it was a fast lap, it showed that it was a really difficult session to get any kind of grip in it because that corner is flat and suddenly out of the blue the car just snapped on me and I ran a bit wide.

    “And then I thought ‘I can do that lap again’, so I go out, and I was within a tenth of the lap and then in the last sector I lost all my lap time with an Aston Martin in front, and then taking my tow on the line as well. Messy, but it is what it is.”

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    Verstappen was fastest in FP3 but could not replicate his pace in Q3

    Verstappen enters Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix one point behind rival Hamilton in the standings while pole-sitter Bottas aims to claw himself back into contention after crashing out at Imola. Can Red Bull’s long run pace give the Dutchman a shot at wrestling back the championship lead, after all, he won from third in Imola?

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    “It seemed alright,” replied Verstappen to that notion. “We’ll see tomorrow what we can do. It’s not so easy to follow here but if we have good pace then, for sure, we’ll put the pressure on,” he concluded.

    The Red Bull driver starts the race on medium compounds along with the two Mercedes, with team mate Sergio Perez alongside him on the second row. It's lights out at 1500 local time for round three of this season, on Sunday.