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The opening day in Portugal was encouraging for Alpine, as Fernando Alonso claimed fifth place at the end of FP2 fractionally ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon in sixth, as the pair beat Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.
Daniel Ricciardo also had a positive Friday for McLaren after his tricky start to the season adjusting to his new team, with the Australian driver eighth quickest in the second practice session, as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez completed the top 10.
Both Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin endured the biggest off-track incidents during Friday practice, with the Williams driver going off across the gravel at the exit of Turn 8, while the Haas driver locked up and ran off also at Turn 8.
Valtteri Bottas was rightly pleased with his pole – decided by the slenderest of margins – for the Portuguese Grand Prix. It will not bother the Finn one jot but it could not be ignored that he did so in an underwhelming qualifying session defined by the lack of grip at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. If Formula One wants a spectacle to sell on a Saturday afternoon, it must at least give the drivers the right conditions to show off their skills.
Bottas beat his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton into second place, denying the world champion his 100th pole by seven-thousandths of a second, with Max Verstappen taking third for Red Bull.
Yet afterwards all three were singing from the same sheet in their disappointment that such a challenging circuit with its fast and slow sectors, blind corners and swooping elevation changes through the hills of the Algarve has been neutered by its lack of grip after being resurfaced last year, preventing the drivers from pushing to the very limit.
George Russell made the headlines yesterday after achieving his best qualifying position in a Williams.
The British driver will start in 11th and knows a strong showing in Portugal will help impress potential suitors Mercedes.
Valtteri Bottas, on pole today, is under pressure to keep his seat for 2022 and there’s still no news on Lewis Hamilton’s future.
The seven-time World Champion is out of contract at the end of the season and some believe he may choose to retire should he win a record eighth championship.