By James Galloway
Valtteri Bottas delivered a crucial bounce-back pole position after a tough start to his season as he outpaced championship front-runners Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in Portuguese GP qualifying.
Making Mercedes team-mate Hamilton wait for his 100th pole for at least seven more days in Spain, Bottas came to the fore in Q3 after the seven-time world champion had appeared to emphatically move clear of the pack in the second stage.
The Finn has made his worst start to a season at Mercedes and crashed out of the last race at Imola after a collision with Williams’ George Russell.
Bottas will head an all-Mercedes front row for the first time this season after Red Bull delivered a subdued Saturday performance with Verstappen four tenths away from pole in third, despite the team running the theoretically quicker softer tyres in Q3 while their title rivals favoured the mediums.
Sergio Perez took fourth in the second Red Bull, recovering from a spin into the gravel in Q1, with Carlos Sainz fifth to outqualify new team-mate Charles Leclerc (eighth) for the first time in his third outing for Ferrari.
Esteban Ocon was a fine sixth for Alpine but team-mate Fernando Alonso missed out in Q2 again and will start 13th.
Lando Norris was seventh in the lead McLaren on a day team-mate Daniel Ricciardo suffered big disappointment, surprisingly knocked out in Q1 down in 16th.
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