Lewis Hamilton pips Valtteri Bottas to Portuguese pole position

Lewis Hamilton tamed the Portimao roller coaster to start his bid to become Formula One's most victorious driver from pole position in Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix.

After drawing level with Michael Schumacher's all-time tally in Germany a fortnight ago, Hamilton stands on the brink of sporting history as he sets about converting his 97th pole into a famous 92nd win.

The evidence of practice, and much of an unpredictable qualifying session, pointed towards a Valtteri Bottas pole before Hamilton completed his final lap 0.102 seconds faster than his Mercedes team-mate. Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished third ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc.

The sport is back in Portugal for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, and staging a grand prix at Portimao – 2.89 miles of raw, undulating asphalt nestled in the Algarve hillside – for the first time ever.

"I can't tell you how hard that was," said Hamilton in front of tens of thousands of spectators – a throwback to the pre-coronavirus era.

"Yes, we've got a great car, but you have to drive the nuts off it to pull out a lap.

"It's a really hardcore circuit because there are places where you can't see where you're going and you're looking at the sky for periods of time.

"When you are looking at the sky, there are no reference points as to where you should be braking so it really is one of the most challenging circuits I've been to."

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PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 25: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his record breaking 92nd race win on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 25, 2020 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain after his record breaking 92nd win at the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, right, is congratulated by his father Anthony Hamilton after his record breaking 92nd win at the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 25, 2020 in Portimao. (Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain jumps out of his car after his record breaking 92nd win at the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton adjusts his protective face mask in the parc ferme after the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 25, 2020 in Portimao. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain waves after winning the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, left, jubilates after his record breaking 92nd win at the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy, left, and Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France steer their cars during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain holds up the trophy on the podium after his record breaking win during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Fans sit behind a fence as they watch the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Crew cheer on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain as he crosses the finish line to win the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen of Denmark, left, steers his car during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy steers his car followed by Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Rudy Carezzevoli, Pool via AP)
Mclaren driver Carlos Sainz of Spain is followed by Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, center, steers his car during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Red Bull driver Alexander Albon of Thailand, left, steers his car during the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car back to the parc ferme after the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 25, 2020 in Portimao. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll and McLaren's British driver Lando Norris crash during the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 25, 2020 in Portimao. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 25: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his record breaking 92nd race win in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 25, 2020 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland, left, steers his car during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands at the finish after clocking the third fastest time during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gives the thumbs up after clocking the fastest time during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Hamilton will take pole position for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix which takes place on Sunday. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gets out of his car after clocking the fastest time during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Jose Sena Goulao, Pool via AP)
Haas driver Romain Grosjean of France, left, steers his car during qualification for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Jorge Guerrero, Pool via AP)
Stewatds check a manhole on the track during the third free practice session for the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (Rafael Marchante, Pool via AP)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the third practice session prior to the Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao, Portugal, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. The Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Armando Franca, Pool)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates in the parc ferme with his team after taking the pole position after the qualifying session at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 24, 2020 in Portimao ahead of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris drives during the qualifying session at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 24, 2020 in Portimao ahead of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by Armando Franca / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ARMANDO FRANCA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Track marshals watch Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel during the third practice session at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 24, 2020 in Portimao ahead of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Alfa Romeo's Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi drives during the third practice session at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on October 24, 2020 in Portimao ahead of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Portimao's inaugural qualifying session was delayed by 30 minutes following repair work to a dislodged drain cover at the penultimate corner.

Officials laid down fresh tarmac in the hope of keeping the loose metal in place, and scoured the rest of the track for additional ill-fitting drains.

Race director Michael Masi observed the patch-up job at Turn 14 and was satisfied enough to give the green light for qualifying to begin.

Hamilton, 35, added: "I don't think it is an issue. They have not had a grand prix here before and no car can replicate what a Formula One car can do.

This car. 🖤❤️ 12 races. 12 poles. Let's hear it for W11 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/kKnUjFrRQs

— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) October 24, 2020

"We didn't put anyone in harm's way. It was a surprise because I don't think many drivers ran over that kerb so it is nothing major."

In an unusual twist, Hamilton completed one more lap in Q3 than Bottas, and it was his final effort which saw him usurp his team-mate.

Explaining the strategy, Hamilton, who holds a 69-point lead over the Finnish driver with six of 17 rounds remaining, said: "The tyres are very hard this weekend, and getting them to work is very difficult.

"That's why I wanted to have an extra run, just in case the first run wasn't that great, and it worked perfectly."

Away from Hamilton's record-breaking bid, George Russell's future has been the source of much speculation in Portugal after it emerged that he could be replaced by Sergio Perez at Williams next year.

Williams have recently been acquired by Dorilton, and the thought is that the new owners want drivers who bring cash to the British team, putting Russell's 2021 seat in danger.

Here, the 22-year-old Mercedes junior delivered another fine one-lap performance to extend his undefeated qualifying streak over his team-mates – Robert Kubica in 2019 and Nicholas Latifi this season – to 33.

The Briton sealed his passage through to Q2, lapping a full second faster than his team-mate, before finishing 14th, one spot ahead of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

The German, who will head to Aston Martin in 2021, starts Sunday's race 13th in the championship, a staggering 213 points behind Hamilton in the championship.

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