What the teams said – Qualifying in Portugal
Bottas started the day in fine fashion, picking up where he left off yesterday. By contrast Hamilton was scrappy, running through the gravel as he looked uncharacteristically off the pace. Even at the start of qualifying it was all Bottas as the Finn sailed through to Q3 without any issues, while his team mate had to do a second run in Q2 after locking up and thus starts the race on older medium tyres. But right in the final moments of Q3, Hamilton’s decision to go for a second flying lap paid dividends, as he snatched pole at his team mate’s expense.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st, 1:16.652
"I can't tell you how hard that was today - we've got a great car, but you have to drive the nuts off it to pull out a lap and Valtteri has just been so quick here this weekend! I've been digging and digging and trying to find that extra time. They communicated well with us and gave us the option of what to do at the end - I chose to do three laps to give a chance at beating his time and he chose to do one. I thought that might give me an opportunity and it worked out, getting better and better on the final lap. This is a hardcore circuit, with places where you can't see where you're going because you're just looking at the sky, so there are no references for braking points for example. It's among the most challenging circuits I've been to, especially with this new surface that makes it hard to get the tyres switched on and working on both axles. It's a big thank you to the team for the work this weekend, and to the fans who were able to come out today - it's great to see their flags out there on track."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd, 1:16.466
"That was a strong session for me until the final run. Based on the feeling from Q2, we decided to go for the medium for the last run, then it was a question of one timed lap or three timed laps of fuel in the car. It's always a balance: with one lap, you carry less fuel weight but might have a challenge with the warm-up of the tyre; that's what I went for as it had worked for me in Q2. It has been tricky to get clean laps this weekend and the final one for me was decent but not perfect - that's the challenge of a track and a surface like this. So of course, a little disappointing not to be on pole after topping the times most of the weekend, but I will be fighting for the win from P2 tomorrow."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a fantastic qualifying session, coming right down to the very final laps in Q3. We gave both drivers the choice of tyre and run length for the last outing in Q3 - they went for the Medium and Valtteri went for one timed lap, Lewis for three. In the end, it came down to just a tenth of a second between them in a great battle, with Lewis taking pole on his final lap and Valtteri running a little wide in the second sector at Turn 8, until which point he had been slightly ahead on the delta time. In any case, it's set for an intriguing battle tomorrow: we don't have too much information on how the tyres will behave, and both our cars will start on the medium compound; Verstappen on the other hand starts on soft, and has a fresh medium tyre for the race, which will give him some different strategy options. It's looking like an exciting Grand Prix, especially with some rain showers in the forecast too."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"Well done to the drivers on securing another front row for the team and to Lewis on a great lap for pole. It was a really tight session where Max clearly had the pace to fight for pole although he didn't seem to be getting laps together as consistently as we were. The session was also pretty hard to read as getting the tyres in the right window wasn't straightforward, nor was it easy to know whether the medium or the soft was ultimately quicker. The changes that we made overnight seemed to take us in the right direction and we'd also added a bit of downforce which has helped balance and grip at the expense of some straight line speed. The big unknown will be the long runs tomorrow. We'd decided to start both cars on the medium tyre as it gives us a bit of flexibility on the strategy and we'd found the soft tyre to be quite fragile on the long run this morning. However, we're expecting it to be cooler, windier and with a risk of rain which makes it hard to predict how things will go. In recent races we've seen Red Bull getting closer and closer to us on pace so the big question in the first stint will be whether we can build any kind of a gap, assuming we're still in front. After that it's a case of understanding how the tyres are behaving in the different conditions and what to do on strategy. There are many more unknowns than normal but that should help keep it interesting."
Verstappen put yesterday’s messy moment behind him and after running strongly on the medium tyre in FP3, looked to be in contention for pole. But the RB16 didn’t look the same car on the softs, and with the track slowing down as the wind picked up, he couldn’t find the pace to challenge Mercedes. Starting on the softs and on the cleaner side of the track though, the Dutchman could be a handful at the start. As for Albon, he wound up sixth – with a somewhat surprising four-tenth deficit to Leclerc’s Ferrari, with the Thai driver struggling to nail a lap in the changeable conditions.
Max Verstappen, 3rd, 1:16.904
“I’m happy with qualifying, my Q3 lap was pretty decent and third is a good starting position. This weekend we have seen the new tarmac make it quite difficult to get the tyres in the right window, which was the same for everyone, so it was a bit hit and miss but we are not too far behind Mercedes and there’s a lot to play for tomorrow. I think the start is going to be important as I’m on the soft tyre while the others around me are on the medium but nobody has a lot of information about how the tyres are going to hold up. We’ll just feel our way into the race and push hard as always and sometimes a bit of unpredictability from the tyres makes things more interesting. If it is also windy and raining then it will be even more of an unknown but I hope that whatever the conditions we can be in a good position to push Mercedes tomorrow.”
Alex Albon, 6th, 1:17.437
“I would have liked to be further up there but we can work from P6. I was pretty happy with my lap but the hardest thing for us was switching the tyres on as the track has been weird all weekend with the new surface and changing wind conditions. In Q3 we decided to run out of sync compared to everyone else and I think I would’ve gone quicker with one more push lap on the medium tyre. We opted to change to the soft for the final run which is a very different compound in terms of how you maximise it so you have to readjust and change your driving style which does affect your rhythm slightly. The weather is mixed for tomorrow and the rain is meant to be coming, so anything can happen. It’s a long run to Turn One and no one has really completed a proper long run yet so we’ll discover as we go along and make the most of the opportunities.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“I think we can be pleased with third and sixth with Max and Alex today in what turned out to be an unusual qualifying session with regards to track conditions. Heading into qualifying there were many unknowns at this new circuit in terms of tyre performance and track evolution but both drivers showed good pace throughout and Max was unlucky to just miss out on splitting the Mercedes, who opted to qualify on the medium tyre. Alex also progressed well throughout each session and with alternating tyre strategy between runs in Q3 he did well to respond and adapt to the changing conditions to secure sixth on the grid. I think tomorrow’s race will be very interesting with the possibility of inclement weather and difference in tyre strategies from those around us but I’m confident both drivers can progress well and produce a good result for the Team.”
The upgraded package continued to work well for the Scuderia, with both drivers seemingly in contention for Q3. Leclerc made it through to the top 10 on the medium compound tyres, and once there grabbed a very impressive ‘best of the rest’ P4 slot. But Vettel found himself in the drop zone in Q2 having also run the mediums, and then was sent back out to try again on the same compound. Would the soft tyre have seen him safely through, given his Q1 time was good enough for Q3? Either way, he now starts a lowly 15th on the grid.
Sebastian Vettel, 15th, 1:17.919
"I’m not happy with today as I struggled a lot to put the laps together. It was very difficult to get the tyres to work and find a good rhythm. In practice I was happy with the mediums but in quali I had too many issues, probably because of the difficulty of getting the tyres up to temperature.
"Starting at the back of the grid is not ideal, as the traffic at this circuit will probably be a big problem. However it will be a similar situation to what we have experienced at some of the recent races. Unfortunately there’s not much we can change on the car and we will have to do our best from the back."
Charles Leclerc, 4th, 1:17.090
“I am very happy with my lap and I think we managed to get everything out of the car today. Congratulations to the whole team for the great job they have done, both in Maranello and here at the track. The latest updates we introduced here have also added a bit of performance to our car and the last few qualifying sessions show we are heading in the right direction.
"Already yesterday, I had a good feeling about Saturday, while there are still various things we need to look at before the race. But I am very happy to have got through Q2 on the medium tyre, because I’m sure it's the ideal tyre for the start of the race. In Germany we suffered on the soft tyres in the low temperatures, while here it’s not as cold and we have the mediums. I need to get a good start and if I manage that, I can be in the fight for a strong result.”
Laurent Mekies Sporting Director
"This afternoon’s qualifying went well, with Charles securing the same position as at the previous round, albeit in very different weather. We brought some more updates here for the SF1000 and, from what we have seen so far, they appear to have delivered a bit more performance. We know it’s nothing major, but it’s enough to be fully in the very close fight for the places right behind the top three drivers. The important thing is that it shows our development work is going in the right direction, for the end of this season, but more importantly for the next.
"The team worked well, trying to give the drivers everything they needed on a difficult track that we have never raced on before. For that reason and also because the weather forecast is uncertain, there are a lot of question marks over tomorrow’s race. Considering our difficulties on the softest compound, we aimed to get out of Q2 on the mediums and we managed it and that will be an important factor in terms of strategy. Sebastian was right on the limit after his first run and in these situations, the driver’s feel for the car is vital, which is why he stuck with the Mediums for his second run in Q2, but it was not enough to improve and so he will start from the eighth row."
Perez has looked the pick of the two drivers all weekend and so it proved, with the Mexican not only making Q3 but running Leclerc very close for fourth on the grid. With tyre wear such an unknown, he is well placed to make inroads tomorrow given his history of exceptional tyre management. As for Stroll, he fell away in Q2 as he adjusted to life back in the cockpit after missing the last race in Germany.
Sergio Perez, 5th, 1:17.223
“I think we got the maximum out of the car today – and P5 was the best result we could secure. It’s a real credit to the team too because we were struggling to find the optimum set-up on Friday and then we turned the car upside down this morning and improved the package a lot. You could really see how difficult the conditions were out there because we were slower in Q3 than we were in Q2 as the wind picked up a lot and the track became slower. We could see that in the final sector times. It’s been a challenge out there because it’s tricky to get the temperature into the tyres - and it’s about not overheating them either - so it sometimes took a few laps to get it right. Every lap was different to drive, but we picked up a good rhythm in Q1 and Q2 and carried it into Q3. It’s clear that Mercedes and Red Bull are well ahead, but there’s a real close battle behind and we’re right in the mix. We’re starting P5 and on the cleaner side of the grid, so if we can get a good start tomorrow, there’s a lot to play for and good points on the table.”
Lance Stroll, 12th, 1:17.626
“I’ve had better Saturdays and it was a tricky qualifying. I’ve been struggling with the car balance and it was a little bit inconsistent out there. At times I was able to get a good lap out of the car, as I did in Q1, and that gave me a good basis to work from, but then in Q2 I found the car a bit snappier and the balance more difficult. The conditions were also changing, which I think was due to the track surface and wind conditions, which didn’t help the lap times. We will go away and look at the overall picture and come back stronger tomorrow. On my side, it’s also been a little while since I was in the car after missing last weekend, so I’m still getting back up to speed. I expect it will be a track position race tomorrow, but if we can get a good start and have a strong first lap, we can aim for points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Despite the 30 minutes delay, the first qualifying hour on this track was pretty much as we expected with the low grip surface combining with the wind to create some challenging conditions. We changed a lot of things to improve the car overnight and Checo was happier today, which helped secure P5 on the grid. He couldn’t quite match his lap time from Q2, but starting fifth means we are very much in the mix for a strong result tomorrow with equally strong race pace. Lance was on course to make Q3, but a gust of wind ruined his best lap and caused a big snap of the rear in turn 13. He lines up P12, but I’m confident he can score points in the race.”
McLaren made the best of the changeable conditions to get both cars into Q3. There was very little to separate them in the end, with Sainz pipping his team mate to seventh by 0.005s. Those starting slots give the team a great chance of a double points finish tomorrow, a feat they haven’t managed since Monza at the beginning of September.
Carlos Sainz, 7th, 1:17.520
"A challenging qualifying for us trying to figure out the tyres and especially tricky as the wind picked up through each session. Compared to the lap time in Q2 we simply got slower as conditions changed and the session went by. Nonetheless, we managed to put the two cars in Q3 again, which is a good result for the team. We aren’t in a bad position to fight tomorrow and we’ll try to bring the maximum points home."
Lando Norris, 8th, 1:17.525
"A tough quali — I'm struggling a bit with the car this weekend, due to the difficult conditions of grip and wind. Maybe not as much as the others it seems, because we did a good job, but it’s been pretty difficult. I haven’t had good balance the whole weekend and we struggled to feel confident going into any session, but I think we made the most of it and we do have a competitive car. Maybe if we'd had another chance we could've improved, but it was tricky to get a lap together in the first place with the traffic. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow where we can fight for points, let's see what we can do."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
"That was a tricky qualifying session in tricky conditions. Getting the tyres in the correct temperature window was a challenge in every part of quali, as was finding the right gap on track in which the drivers could put together clean laps. In addition to that, it got more and more windy throughout qualifying which was an additional challenge. The drivers and the team executed the run plan very well and ensured once again we had both cars in Q3.
“We’ve had a competitive car all weekend here and starting tomorrow’s race from P7 and P8 keeps us in the battle with our direct competitors for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship. The target for tomorrow is to score good points with both cars. We’re looking forward to a great race on this exciting, intriguing Portimão circuit."
Gasly’s pit crew had a late night repairing his car after yesterday’s dramatic fire, but the Frenchman paid them back in style today. Fourth in FP3, he fell back slightly in qualifying, which he has identified as a weakness for the team, but nonetheless made Q3. As for Kvyat, he couldn’t find the pace to make the top 10 but does have the bonus of free tyre choice, which has been working for the team of late.
Pierre Gasly, 9th, 1:17.803
“The team did an amazing job to get the car ready today. They barely slept last night as they had to rebuild the chassis, and everything worked fine, so a big thanks to them for their effort! We were very competitive in FP3, but I’m a bit disappointed with qualifying because we were fast all weekend. We saw that when there is no wind the car is working very well, but when it picks up it becomes more difficult, which was the case in Q2 and Q3. I’m happy with P9 but I think we could have been slightly higher up on the grid. It’s a new track to race on tomorrow, the last time we were on a new track in Mugello a lot of things happened, so it will be important that we grab the opportunities that come our way because there might be a few – it should be exciting!”
Daniil Kvyat, 13th, 1:17.728
“It was a difficult qualifying session and I don’t think I had much more confidence to push the car more today, it was moving around a lot and it was sensitive to the wind. Every time I tried to push a bit more I was going off the line, so I didn’t have much more than that. I haven’t driven in difficult conditions like these in quite a while, I think it will be an interesting and complicated race, so there will be opportunities for us to get into the points again.”
Claudio Balestri, Chief Engineer - Vehicle Performance
“During Friday practice we were not really able to optimise our cars due to the track being quite green and slippery. The balance was hard to find, so we started today with many unanswered questions. As a result, we planned a very busy FP3 with an intense programme targeted to evaluate different loads and compounds across both sides of the garage to prepare our cars for quali and the race in the best possible way. During this morning's session, our efforts were repaid and we were able to set some competitive lap times on the Options, gathering useful data regarding tyre degradation which are very important for Sunday’s race.
"Our qualifying session this afternoon was not an easy one with a lot of traffic, especially in Q1, and an increasing wind throughout Q2 and Q3, but despite these difficulties, we have shown a good level of performance. Pierre was able to make it to Q3 finishing in P9 and Daniil qualified P13. Our attention now moves on race preparation, expecting it to be not an easy one as it's the first time Formula 1 races on this track. However, our target remains very clear: to get into the points with both cars.”
Renault had a surprisingly tough day, considering they’ve looked the pick of the midfield in the past few races. Ricciardo spun off at the end of Q2 but that didn’t make a difference to Ocon, who had already failed to find enough time to improve. It did mean a rear wing change was needed on the Aussie’s car though in Q3, with the team narrowly failing to get him out in the last segment. That meant a disappointing P10 starting slot for him, with Ocon potentially marginally better off in 11th with free tyre choice.
Daniel Ricciardo, 10th, No set time in Q3
“The track is hard to find a good balance on and I think the temperatures and wind changed quite a bit from this morning so that was also challenging. We had the small issue with DRS at the end of Free Practice 3, and I think our one lap pace wasn’t the best this weekend. We got through Q1, but it was really tight between a number of cars in Q2 and then I had my spin at the end of the session. I do think there was still a bit more in the car, so it’s a shame we didn’t get out and have a go in Q3, but the guys did their best to try get me back out. It’s all to play for tomorrow, so let’s see what we can do.”
Esteban Ocon, 11th, 1:17.614
“It’s a shame to be out in Q2 today, we seemed to have struggled a little bit with the car all weekend. We managed to get some decent laps in this morning, but it’s tricky to find a good balance here and it seems to be the same for everyone. The wind also picked up and the weather changed a little bit from this morning, so I think that added to the challenge today in qualifying. Let’s see what is possible for tomorrow, we have the free tyre choice and if we can get a good start we can still do well.”
Alan Permane, Sporting Director
“Obviously we are a little disappointed today with only Daniel into the top ten and Esteban just missing out on Q3. We’ve struggled for grip all weekend and tyre temperatures have been difficult to manage. But that doesn’t mean all is lost, and tomorrow is a very different set of circumstances with high fuel loads so this should help us a lot. We are very much looking forward getting both cars well into the points tomorrow.”
Russell excels on Saturdays and he pulled another brilliant lap out of the bag to make Q2 for the seventh time in the last 11 races, quite a feat considering that Williams is still arguably the slowest car on the grid. Once there, he even out-qualified a Ferrari for good measure. Latifi couldn’t extract the same pace from his FW43 and wound up propping up the field.
George Russell, 14th, 1:17.788
"It is an amazing track and the car was feeling good. In the end I think we were only a tenth and a half from P11 which is extraordinary for us. We are all pushing as hard as we can to get everything we can out of this car, we are making good progress and the hard work is paying off. We have a car that is more optimised for the race tomorrow, but we will have to wait and see how it unfolds as nobody knows how the tyres are going to handle this new circuit as FP2 got cut short. It will be exciting, potentially with a bit of rain on the way, and I will be giving it everything I have got."
Nicholas Latifi, 20th, 1:18.777
"I didn’t put my laps together and I am quite frustrated with myself. There was definitely much more pace in the car. I had a laptime deleted due to track limits which was my mistake on the first set and then I just couldn’t put it together on the second set.
"There are a lot of unknowns for the race tomorrow, as yesterday’s FP2 running was quite compromised with the red flags. We made some big changes overnight and straight away this morning the car was feeling much more in the window and gave me more confidence. I hope that will translate into race pace, so I am looking forward to tomorrow."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"George made the most of the car and the conditions this afternoon and drove very well to achieve a good grid position. The team got his car working well, the tyres in a decent window and found him some excellent positions on the track, which wasn’t always easy as different drivers followed a variety of run plans. His lap in Q2 was a very well-constructed lap and allowed him to beat the Ferrari of Vettel and get very close to P11.
"Nicholas had a change of chassis overnight and his crew did an excellent job of getting his car ready for FP3. He had a good session this morning and felt quite comfortable in the car. In qualifying Nicholas had a strong opening run and was unfortunate to have his quickest lap deleted due to a tight call on track limits. His second run was hurt a little by the change in wind conditions but nonetheless he prepared the tyres well. A snap of oversteer in the middle of his last timed lap cost him crucial laptime and damaged the tyres.
"With the time lost due to red flags in FP2, there is likely to be a range of strategies tomorrow. We think we are in a good position for both of our drivers to attack the cars ahead and hopefully the length of the ‘straight’ from T14 to T1 will provide some overtaking opportunities."
Another team that just didn’t quite have the pace to advance were Alfa, with Raikkonen pipped in the final moments of Q1 by Russell. The Finn at least finished ahead of his team mate to tie their qualifying at six-all, and both seem to be enjoying the challenges this track brings. But they could have a long afternoon tomorrow if reliability issues don’t hit their rivals, with the ease of overtaking here an unknown quantity.
Kimi Raikkonen, 16th, 1:18.201
“The car felt really good this morning after the changes we did overnight, but when the wind picked up we started to struggle. Overall, the car behaved nicely but the moment we got a tail wind it was a really painful experience. We tried to get through, we did what we could but it wasn’t enough today. In different conditions it would have been a completely different story, but in the end it’s the same for everyone. Obviously I am disappointed, but we have tomorrow to try and make up some ground.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 17th, 1:18.323
“Grip conditions were a bit better today but they were still quite a challenge. I think we did the most we could once again, but it was not enough to book a place in Q2. To start towards the back is never easy, but we can still do our race tomorrow and see what happens. We need a good start and to make the most of any opportunities, especially if the weather plays a role. The grip levels are still fairly low and everything can happen.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“Finding the perfect balance in these blustery conditions was never going to be easy: a good feeling in the morning can easily turn sour when the wind changes later in the day and that is what seems to have happened today. Not making it out of Q1 is a disappointment but we can harbour some hope for tomorrow: both drivers were happy with the car in the windless morning, so we can aim to make up a few places tomorrow and be in the battle for the positions that matter in the race.”
Haas looked to be short of pace all weekend, and so it proved with both cars tumbling out in Q1. Grosjean just about grabbed the team honours, out-qualifying Magnussen by just over a tenth. Points look to be a tough ask starting so far back, but based on the race at the other new circuit in Mugello, anything could happen tomorrow.
Romain Grosjean, 18th, 1:18.364
“The circuit is pretty cool, it really is a rollercoaster. I would add some gravel in Turn 1 and Turn 4 to get rid of the track limit issue, that would also spice things up on the high-speed corners. Looking at the layout of the circuit here with the low-speed corners, it was always going to be difficult. We’re also suffering from rear overheating on my car on the suspension, the balance was changing lap after lap. I don’t know where we’ll end up in the race. More uncertainty – such as rain, as I said at the Nürburgring, is the best for us. We can maybe pull something out of the hat.”
Kevin Magnussen, 19th, 1:18.508
“Some frustration today. We had a problem with the car that meant we could only do two laps on every run – we had been planning to do three laps, at least on the first set of tyres to learn as much as we could. On top of that I had traffic on my second lap on the first run, so I didn’t learn a lot on that run. We were just on the backfoot for the next outing. Considering all that, I think I did a decent lap, it was the best that I could do. Clearly we don’t have the pace but we’ll do what we can for the race. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“This was not what you’re looking for from a qualifying session - but it is what it is at the moment. We just need to see what the weather does tomorrow. Maybe we get lucky there and get something out of it. Otherwise, we are where we are.”
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"There’s an interesting variation in terms of strategy, with both Mercedes in first and second, as well as the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in fourth, starting the race on the medium tyre: which also set pole. It's going to be fascinating to see which advantage the medium runners can take from this compound. With the gusting winds and blind crests, Portimao is far from an easy circuit. So we could have an unpredictable race tomorrow, where managing the tyres – the three hardest in our range, which was the right choice as today’s action showed – and keeping them in the right temperature window will be essential in the relatively cool and low-grip conditions. We saw in qualifying that the track became a bit slower in the final part of Q3. In these decreasing track temperatures, along with gusting winds, we saw both Mercedes drivers and the Red Bull of Alex Albon opt for the Yellow medium tyres during the decisive qualifying runs. With a relatively unknown circuit and lack of long runs in a disrupted FP2 on Friday, it's tricky to clearly identify the performance gaps between the tyres as well as wear and degradation levels, which in turn makes it hard to predict the optimal race strategies".