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Valtteri Bottas has earned pole for the Portuguese Grand Prix, depriving Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton of his 100th Formula One pole.

Bottas earned his 17th pole of his career, a much-needed victory after crashing and scoring no points in the previous race.

“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 .007 seconds ahead of Hamilton and .34 ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

“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 on 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 on Saturday, but he made a small mistake in the last part of qualifying — known as Q3 — when he went outside 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.”

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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.”

’16th is grim’: Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren had a poor qualifying run as the temperatures in Portugal’s Algarve area cooled in the late afternoon. Despite having seven career victories, the Australian was one of five drivers to be eliminated from the first round.

Ricciardo finished sixth in each of the first two races of the season, but he has struggled to adjust to his new machine after switching from Renault to McLaren.

He was left frustrated after being knocked out early, his 16th place coming from a time more than a second slower than teammate Lando Norris.

“I don’t really know at the moment, it happened so quickly,” he said afterwards.

“I guess Q1 you get a few laps and certainly the laps were tricky, especially going toward the last sector it was really hard to hang on. But why we struggled, or why it was hard to put a lap together, is not so clear at the moment.

“There’s something for sure, some tenths left on the table, but it was tricky. [Coming] 16th is grim. Certainly not a result I feel good about at all.”

Sergio Perez of Red Bull went off track and into the gravel at Turn 4, but he had already completed enough laps to qualify for Q2.

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Hamilton led Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris in Q2, with Fernando Alonso, a two-time Formula One winner, among the five drivers eliminated.

Verstappen was fastest in the third and final practice session, led by Hamilton, Bottas, and Perez.

Mercedes dominated the first two practice sessions on Friday, with Bottas and Hamilton leading the way.

The third race of the season is the Portugal Grand Prix.

Hamilton is one point ahead of Verstappen in the championship. Hamilton holds the lead thanks to a bonus point for the fastest lap at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, which Verstappen won. Hamilton won the first race of the season in Bahrain.

After a bad race two weeks ago at Imola, where he was involved in a crash with Williams driver George Russell after an overtaking attempt went wrong, Bottas needs to regain his form. In what might be his last season with Mercedes, Bottas has fallen to fifth position in the standings, behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Source: ABC World News

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