Valtteri Bottas takes F1 pole for Portuguese GP, denies Lewis Hamilton 100th

F1 Portugal pole Bottas
GABRIEL BOUYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
0 Comments

PORTIMAO, Portugal — Valtteri Bottas took the F1 pole position for the Portuguese Grand Prix and denied Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton a record-extending 100th Formula One pole Saturday.

Bottas clinched a much-needed 17th career pole after crashing in the last race and scoring no points.

“It’s a good feeling to be on pole, it’s been quite a while,” Bottas said. “I’ve worked very hard this week.”

He was 0.007 seconds ahead of Hamilton and 0.34 ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, making him the third different pole-sitter in three races. Hamilton and Verstappen earned the others.

“It definitely puts a smile on my face. I’ve been strong all weekend and it makes me really happy to put it all together,” Bottas said. “Qualifying hasn’t been my strong point in the first two races.”

Hamilton is aiming for his 97th win Sunday, while Bottas goes for his 17th victory, and Verstappen his 12th.

Verstappen looked in contention to clinch a fifth career pole after impressively topping the third and final practice earlier Saturday, but he made a small mistake in the last part of qualifying – known as Q3 – when he went outside of the track limits and failed to set a time. That meant his lap time was deleted and gave him only one more shot at the two Mercedes cars.

“It was a really difficult session to get grip, the car just snapped away from me and went wide,” Verstappen said. “It’s been really hit and miss anyway, the whole weekend. The layout of the track is amazing but the grip is not good.”

Hamilton also said the track, which was relaid with new tarmac for last year’s race, was very awkward to negotiate.

“It was a difficult session for everyone, it’s windy here and quite slippery,” the British veteran said. “Valtteri did a great job.”

As late afternoon temperatures cooled in Portugal’s Algarve region, it was a bad qualifying run for McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has seven career wins but was among the five drivers eliminated from Q1, while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez went off track at Turn 4 and into gravel but had already done enough to get into Q2.

Hamilton led Q2 from Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris, while two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso was among the five to go out.

Earlier, Verstappen posted the fastest time in the third and final practice, followed by Hamilton, Bottas, and Perez.

Mercedes topped the first two practices Friday, through Bottas and then Hamilton.

The Portugal GP is the third race of the season.

Hamilton leads the championship by one point from Verstappen. 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.

Bottas needs to find form after a poor race two weeks ago at Imola, where he was involved in a crash with Williams driver George Russell after an overtaking move went wrong. Bottas dropped to fifth place in the standings behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in what could be his final season with Mercedes.

“For the mental process, I just put those mistakes to one side,” Bottas said.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds