Lewis Hamilton missed out on his 100th Formula 1 pole position by a mere 0.007 of a second, but he is not perturbed as the man next to him, in top spot, is Valtteri Bottas making it the 75th front-row lockout for Mercedes in this modern era.
Number 100 will come sooner or later for Hamilton, but not on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Autodromo do Algarve where conditions in Qualifying challenged all the drivers. However, Mercedes did show the type of form that has made them invincible for the past decade or so.
Reporting at the end of qualifying, Hamilton said: “Not that enjoyable of a session because I couldn’t get that many good laps in but I’m not too frustrated, I only did one good lap and that was in Q2.
“Of course I’d have loved to put more good laps together but it was tricky out there. It’s a slippery track, the tyres are hard so you need to do multiple laps to put temperature into them and it’s quite a peaky balance – it works for a second and then falls away very quickly, it’s on a knife-edge.
“It wasn’t meant to be but Valtteri did a great job today and I’m just focused on the race. Now is the time to understand the strategy for tomorrow and work out where the opportunities lie. It’s not an easy track to follow but we shall see – I hope we have good enough pace to fight for the win, tomorrow we’ll go all in,” promised Hamilton, who is hunting his 96th Grand Prix victory.
Mercedes trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin said in the team report: “It was a fairly difficult session; it wasn’t clear whether the medium or soft would ultimately be the faster tyre and we also had to understand whether a preparation lap was better than going straight for lap one.
“By final qualifying, no one had come close to matching Lewis’s time on the medium from Q2 so we decided to hedge our bets by running both compounds. As it happened, the track got much slower in the final minutes so tyre choice wasn’t important but we were just grateful that we’d done enough to secure the front row.
“We had wanted both cars on the medium tyre to start the race and on balance, we’re happy to have Red Bull on the same start-tyre given that we have track position. Our main concern will be the warm-up on that compound, the soft runners on the third row and behind will have a grip advantage that could last a lap or two so that may might things tricky,” added Shovlin.