Lewis Hamilton on how he pipped Valtteri Bottas to Portuguese GP pole

Lewis Hamilton reflected on the last-lap turnaround that saw him again pip Mercedes team-mate Vatteri Bottas to a Formula 1 pole position, as he spoke glowingly about the respectful “competition” pushing Mercedes on in F1 2020.

Hamilton may have ultimately prevailed for his ninth pole of the season and 97th in F1 but Bottas had mostly led his team-mate on the sport’s debut at flowing Portimao.

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The Finn paced all three practice sessions and the second stage of qualifying, Q2, before holding provisional pole by 0.047s after the final Q3 runs. Bottas then further increased his advantage on his final lap but, behind him on the track, Hamilton once again had other ideas.

“I do love competition. Seeing Valtteri thrive and drive the way he has been all year has been awesome,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.

“As I said in the last race where he was in Turn Two [at the start of the Eifel GP, when Bottas retained the race lead wheel-to-wheel against Hamilton] he’s doing such a great job.

“I really feel I’ve been driving well all weekend but every time I come round he’s first! But I’m like ‘okay, no worries’, I just keep working at it, keep chipping away and I really needed it in that last lap to make it count.”

Speaking immediately after qualifying, Hamilton felt that his decision to go for two timed laps at the end of Q3 to Bottas’ one was decisive for him in overcoming his team-mate. Unusually, both Mercedes cars ran on the theoretically slower medium tyres for the final attempts amid challenging grip levels at Portimao.

“At the end, I chose to do three laps to give me a chance at beating his time,” said Hamilton. “That last lap, it got better and better as I went through it.”

‘We have to drive the socks off that car, I’m telling you’

Amid a season in which he is poised to become the most successful F1 driver of all time – with a record 92nd race win on Sunday now within his grasp from pole – Hamilton has enjoyed a remarkable record in the Saturday shootouts this year.

He has now claimed nine of the campaign’s 12 pole positions and, with five races to go in a shortened 17-round season, he is on course to match or equal his best-ever single-season total of a dozen from 2016, when there were 21 events.

“That’s really been the strength I guess this year,” said Hamilton of his final pole-winning lap.

“It’s once we got to Q3, when it really mattered, more often than not I’ve been able to deliver this year which I’m really happy about.”

“But I tell you what, he [Bottas]’s doing such a great job. Yes, we’ve got a great car, but we have to drive the socks off that car, I’m telling you. We’re pushing that car beyond its limits in order to get the results that we have here.”

Hamilton on ‘great respect’ for Bottas

With Mercedes unbeaten in F1’s pole battle this year, Hamilton leads Bottas 9-3 – but Saturday was the fifth time that the Finn had lost out by less than a tenth and a half.

Explaining the nature of their team-mate partnership, Hamilton said: “That’s really the great rivalry we have in this team.

“We both push in the same direction, there’s no conflict or friction between us. There’s a great respect and so we work with the guys pushing this team. We are rowing in the same boat almost.”

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