Valtteri Bottas took pole position by a margin of 0.007 seconds from Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao.
With both drivers failing to improve on their second runs in Q3, Bottas’ first flying lap of 1.18.348 was good enough to secure a 17th pole position of his career.
Hamilton was slower in Q3 than in Q2 and will have to settle for a front row start behind his teammate, with Max Verstappen one spot back in third.
Verstappen had his first lap time deleted for exceeding track limits and could only recover to third, with his teammate Sergio Perez set to start alongside him in fourth, a tenth and a half back from the Dutchman.
The deleted time would have been quick enough to secure pole for Verstappen, but he will be hoping to repeat the trick from Imola on Sunday with a win from third on the grid.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after the session, Bottas said: “It’s a good feeling to be on pole. Feels like it’s been a while. It’s been a weak point for me in the first two races. The team have been working hard all weekend and we have a good position for tomorrow.
“It felt better with the mediums. Like last year, we put the mediums on at the end of qualifying and we tried it again but I think maybe the wind picked up on the last run and I couldn’t quite get the temperature in them, so I’m glad we still had a good result.
“Starting with the medium tyre tomorrow is good, and it opens up opportunities that we can go as long as we want in the first stint. We need to focus on the race start and then go from there.”
Hamilton, who was aiming for a 100th pole position in Formula 1, added: “A great job by Valtteri and our teams for us both to be on the front row, it was not expected. We have to be happy for that, it was not the perfect lap but I gave it everything.
“You can never be satisfied, we exist to keep moving forward but I’m happy with what we’re doing and the steps we’re taking.”
Cutting a frustrated figure following the conclusion of Q3, Verstappen said: “I thought qualifying was very difficult to drive. I was struggling a lot with the grip. That first lap in Q3 was decent but I just had a moment at Turn Four, so I went a little bit off track.
“I was quite confident we could do another good lap but there was a car in front in the last two corners – it just disturbs you, especially with the low grip we already have and the tough wind out here. Basically it cost me a lot of lap time. But it is what it is.
“Of course it’s not ideal but we will try and fight the Mercedes tomorrow in the race. Hopefully everything stabilisers a bit more, because up until now, it’s not been a lot of fun to drive here.”
Carlos Sainz will start fifth, beating new teammate Charles Leclerc in qualifying for the first time, while Esteban Ocon was very impressive in sixth. Lando Norris starts seventh, with Leclerc eighth and Pierre Gasly ninth.
Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10 following his first Q3 appearance for Aston Martin, a timely boost for the German after a tough start to the year.
George Russell narrowly missed out on a surprise Q3 appearance, falling short of a spot in the top 10 by just 0.057 seconds. Russell will start on the sixth row alongside Antonio Giovinazzi, who outqualified his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the second time this season.
Fernando Alonso failed to build on the promise he showed in free practice and starts 13th after being beaten on Saturday by Ocon for a second time in row.
Yuki Tsunoda is one spot further back in 14th after putting in a fastest time of 1.19.684, while Raikkonen is set to start 15th.
Daniel Ricciardo was the biggest shock from the opening part of qualifying, with the Australian out in Q1 for the first time since his arrival at McLaren. Ricciardo was just pipped by Russell, who finished 0.042 seconds quicker, and will start Sunday’s race in 16th.
Lance Stroll will also be disappointed with his showing after he was only quick enough for 17th, setting a best time of 1.19.913. Stroll is running an upgraded AMR21 this weekend but was still beaten in qualifying by new teammate Vettel for the first time.
Nicholas Latifi was 18th, just under five tenths adrift of Russell’s Q1 time, with Mick Schumacher ahead of Nikita Mazepin for a third consecutive outing as the Haas drivers locked out the back row.