Lewis Hamilton beats teammate Valtteri Bottas for Portugal pole position with final lap

Lewis Hamilton Portugal pole
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PORTIMAO, Portugal  — On his final lap of the Lewis Hamilton edged Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to take pole position Saturday for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Having secured a record-extending 97th career pole, Hamilton can make Formula One history if he wins Sunday’s race with a 92nd win to move one clear of Michael Schumacher.

The runaway championship leader’s victory two weeks ago at the Eifel GP in Germany tied Schumacher’s F1 record of 91, in a season where he is odds-on to equal the German great’s record seven F1 titles.

Bottas, who had topped the previous three practice sessions, had the leading time after his lone qualifying lap, but Hamilton did three laps in Q3 and squeezed through on his last attempt to beat him by 0.1 seconds.

“It’s amazing. I can’t tell you how hard that was today,” Hamilton said. “Valtteri has been so quick this weekend, he’s topped every session, so I’ve just been digging and trying to find that extra time. That last lap got better and better as I went through.”

Mercedes has taken all 12 poles this season with Hamilton up 9-3. Bottas seemed close to getting another until a small mistake toward the end of his lap.

“Mine was a decent lap, not perfect and it has been tricky to get really clear laps,” Bottas said. “I will do what I can from (second place).”

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was 0.25 seconds back in third place and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified in fourth.

Former F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen was among the five drivers eliminated from Q1, the first part of qualifying, and four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel was slowest in Q2 and starts from 15th.

Right at the end of Q2, Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault and went off into the gravel. With this rear wing damaged, the Australian driver was unable to take part in Q3 and starts 10th. Hamilton topped Q1 ahead of Verstappen, while Bottas led Q2 from Hamilton.

Earlier, Bottas topped the third and final practice session. After leading Friday’s two practices, he was .03 seconds quicker than Hamilton and .16 ahead of Verstappen.

Hamilton damaged the front wing after sliding off into gravel on a track hosting its first F1 race that has caused numerous drivers problems because of its lack of grip. Leclerc again spun his car, as he had done on Friday.

Near the end of the session, a confused Leclerc asked his team over radio what was happening with his own, because he could hear Hamilton’s radio messages. Leclerc was sixth fastest.

Meanwhile, Williams driver George Russell escaped with just a warning after going through a red light at the end of the pit lane.

There were mask-wearing fans sat in the stands around the undulating 4.6-kilometer (3-mile) circuit in Portimao, which has frequent elevation changes. It is the second new track on the coronavirus-hit calendar after the Tuscan GP in Mugello last month.

“The track is hardcore, there are places you can’t see where you are going. It really is one of the hardest circuits I’ve been too,” Hamilton said. “The surface is strange. This is a very smooth surface and doesn’t work the tires the same as, say, Barcelona.”

With one minute left, the session was stopped because of a drain cover that came loose when Vettel drove over it on Turn 14. It delayed the start of qualifying by 30 minutes while repairs were carried out.

Portugal last hosted a race in 1996, when three F1 champions made the podium after Jacques Villeneuve won ahead of Damon Hill and Schumacher in Estoril.

Supercross: Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll and Malcolm Stewart out with injury

Swoll Stewart injury
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Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.

“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”

The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.

Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.

Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.

He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.

Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.

Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.

Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.

Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.

The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.

Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.

Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.