Verstappen takes turn at the top ahead of qualifying

Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Verstappen takes turn at the top ahead of qualifying

Formula 1

Verstappen takes turn at the top ahead of qualifying


Max Verstappen led the way in Portugal ahead of qualifying after beating Lewis Hamilton to the top spot in final practice.

The Red Bull Racing driver overcame the cool and gusty conditions on the Algarve circuit to set the fastest lap of the hour-long session with barely five minutes remaining, his lap of 1m18.489s, just 0.236s quicker than the Mercedes immediately behind.

It took Verstappen several laps to hit his stride after his first flyer was disrupted by a virtual safety car to recover a stray advertising board let loose by the high winds, while his attempt on a new set of soft tires nearer the end of the hour was undone by excessive oversteer in the final sector. His final laps of the session were similarly marred by excursions just wide of the track, and the Dutchman complained of driveability over team radio.

It was a reflection of his car as much as the slippery circuit in the cool conditions, with the ambient temperature hovering at around 62 degrees F in the morning.

Hamilton seemed less encumbered by the conditions — a gain compared to his difficulties in the chilly weather on Friday — and reeled off a couple of fastest laps before being bested by Verstappen, though the Briton’s ultimate time featured a third sector some way off his best, hinting at time left on the table for him too.

A comparison of best sector times suggests the two a closer matched than the lap times suggest, with their best combined splits separating the title contenders by less than 0.06s.

Valtteri Bottas was third for Mercedes, 0.331s off the pace, while Sergio Perez was fourth in the sister Red Bull Racing machine a further 0.02s adrift.

An impressive Esteban Ocon for Alpine slotted into fifth and only 0.371s adrift. The Frenchman was similarly quick on Friday afternoon, giving credence to suggestions the Enstone-based team has turned a corner on its difficult first two races.

His teammate, Fernando Alonso, would have joined him high up the order in sixth, but the Spaniard had his best lap deleted for exceeding track limits exiting the first turn. He ended the morning 14th. Instead, Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz moved into sixth and seventh and around half a second off the pace.

Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen rounding out the top 10.

Yuki Tsunoda was 11th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi. Alonso was 14th ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and a tidy Mick Schumacher in 16th for Haas.

Williams teammates George Russell and Nicholas Latifi were 17th and 19th respectively and split by Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin, while Nikita Mazepin brought up the rear of the field in 20th after a spin through the gravel at Turn 8.

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