GUEST COLUMN: Playing Poker for Pole in Portimao!

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

By Carol M. Creasey

The weekend of the Portuguese Grand Prix 2020 has already got off to an exciting and nail biting start. Valtteri Bottas led the way with great confidence through all of the practice sessions, showing everyone what good pace he had.

Lewis Hamilton was just behind him FP1, but his FP2 was as he described it “messy”, due to a slide and red flags preventing him from posting a lap any higher than eighth. Max Verstappen looked very close in his Red Bull, so it seemed as though Mercedes were not going to have it all their own way in qualifying.

By the time FP3 took place, there was still no change in position. Bottas led, but the difficulties Lewis had suffered before appeared to be diminished, as he was much closer to his team-mate, although Bottas appeared to be the most confident and had the edge.

There was some drama at the beginning of qualifying when it was announced that drain covers needed mending, so the start was delayed by thirty minutes. Needless to say, it was a necessary and essential repair, as if not done, running could have been very dangerous.

When qualifying started, Lewis led the way in Q1, Verstappen was second and Bottas third, all separated by the tiniest of margins. When it got to Q3, Bottas was on top again and, because he had been so consistent all weekend, it looked promising for him in Q3.

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During Q3 Bottas did one lap and posted the fastest time, which gave him provisional pole. But Lewis decided to fight back. His reasoning was: as it had been hard to get heat into the tyres, he might stand a chance of beating his team mate if he did three laps.

His first lap was not fast enough, the second wasn’t either, but by the time he did his third one, he could feel his tyres were responding, and he knew he was getting faster. The third effort put him one tenth of a second ahead of Valtteri, which was enough to clinch his 97th pole position and 9th of 2020.

But the hard work is not over yet. On race day it will be cooler, with a possibility of rain showers. Lewis, Valtteri and Max all qualified very closely together, and there is still a lot to play for. Strategy and tyres will also play a big part. Lewis knows that another win will make him the most successful Formula One driver ever, which adds pressure. Valtteri and Max want to win too. So, who will prevail?

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