Hamilton sensed extra Q3 lap would be key to claiming Portimao pole

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Lewis Hamilton sensed his decision to do an extra lap at the end of Q3 would make the difference after claiming pole for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

In a more strategic qualifying than usual, both Mercedes opted to complete their final runs on the medium compound rather than the soft, which had been unpredictable in its performance during practice.

But whereas Bottas stuck with the usual single flying lap run, Hamilton opted to complete two, enabling him to respond to his teammate's final attempt.

“I can’t tell you how hard that was today,” said the world champion after his 97th career pole. “Yes, we’ve got a great car, but you have to drive the nuts off of it to pull out the lap.

“Valtteri’s been so quick this weekend, he’s topped every session, so I’ve just been digging and digging and digging and trying to find that extra time.

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“At the end there, I chose to do three laps to give me chance at having a stab at beating [Valtteri’s] time.

“I think he decided to do one and I was like, this could give me an opportunity and it worked. That last lap, it got better and better as I went through it.”

Explaining why there was not the usual pace difference between the soft and medium compounds, Hamilton pointed to the newly laid tarmac at Portimao.

“It really is one of the most challenging circuits that I think I’ve ever been to," he said.

“And the surface is strange, I’m not sure if the fans know but each surface definitely is different that we go to.

“This is a very closed, very smooth surface and it doesn’t work the tyres the same as Barcelona for example, so that’s made it incredibly challenging to get not only the front tyres in but also the rears in.


“We’ve had times during free practice when the front tyres were working but the rears weren’t, and then we’ve had times when none of the tyres were working, so today has been better.

“But the team have just continued to keep their heads down and do a fantastic job, so a big big thank you to them.”

While the focus was on Hamilton seemingly outsmarting Bottas to take pole, Max Verstappen was also a threat as he was briefly ahead of the Briton before Lewis' eventual pole lap.

“In qualifying, they’ve had a good upgrade at the last race or the one before that and they’ve been getting closer and closer through the weekends,” he said of Red Bull’s recent gains.

“This is the closest we’ve been. We’ve not brought any upgrades to our car for a bit of time now, but hopefully that continues on this trend as these next races go and then when we get to the race they’re a lot closer.

“The last race I was having to seriously push to keep Max at a distance and not get into my DRS zone, so we should have a good race with these six left.”