Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas pace Portimao practices for Portuguese GP

F1 Mercedes Portugal practice
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PORTIMAO, Portugal — Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the second F1 practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix, giving Mercedes a 1-2 after his teammate Valtteri Bottas topped the first session on Friday.

The seven-time F1 champion was 0.143 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and 0.344 clear of Bottas in warm but slightly cloudy and windy conditions in Portugal’s Algarve region.

Hamilton, who is aiming for his 100th pole and 97th win, said the conditions made it difficult to get proper grip on the track.

“Everybody was struggling with balance and sliding around,” he said. “This afternoon it got warmer and windier so it seemed to make it harder for people to find time and work on their balance. I think it’ll be a close one this weekend.”

In the first practice, Bottas was fastest followed by Red Bull drivers Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

“Whoever finds more lap time overnight gets pole,” said Bottas, who is seeking his 17th career pole. “It will be close between us and Red Bull and could swing either way.”

Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest for Ferrari, followed by Hamilton.

A bizarre incident saw Leclerc’s former Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel, parking his Aston Martin in McLaren’s space in the pit lane. He mistakenly stopped in the spot allocated to Ferrari during last year’s championship.

“Sorry for that, had to happen at some point,” the four-time F1 champion joked while laughing over the team radio. “I was wondering why there’s nobody there.”

There is a third practice on Saturday morning followed by qualifying.

The Portugal GP is the third Formula One race of the season.

Hamilton leads the championship by one point from Verstappen with both drivers having won one race and taken one pole position each.

Hamilton’s lead is courtesy of him taking a bonus point for the fastest lap at an incident-packed Emilia-Romagna GP, which Verstappen won.

Hamilton won the season opener in Bahrain.

“It has been (close) the last couple of races, so I’m sure it’ll be an exciting qualifying and race in store,” Hamilton said.

Bottas needs to find form after a poor race at Imola two weeks ago, where he was involved in a crash with Williams driver George Russell after an overtaking move went wrong and scored no points.

He dropped to fifth place in the standings behind Leclerc in what could be his final season with Mercedes.