NÜRBURG, Germany (AP) — Valtteri Bottas ended Lewis Hamilton’s run of five consecutive Formula One pole positions Saturday by claiming first place on the grid for the Eifel Grand Prix.
Hamilton briefly sat atop the time charts after toppling Max Verstappen later in the third session, but his teammate Bottas sped through seconds later with an unbeatable time, fastest in all three sectors of the Nürburgring track.
“It’s such a nice feeling when you get it done the last lap,” the Finnish driver said, adding that his final run was “spot on.”
Bottas’ time was 1 minute 25.269 seconds, beating Hamilton by .256 and Verstappen by .293. Ferrari recovered a little ground after a miserable run of races, with Charles Leclerc qualifying fourth and Sebastian Vettel 11th.
Teams went into qualifying with much less information about the track conditions than usual after bad weather wiped out both Friday practice sessions, leaving only one hour Saturday to perfect the setups. It was especially hard for teams to get the most grip from their tires in chilly conditions in western Germany.
“It’s been pretty tricky with short practice and these conditions getting the tires in the sweet spot,” Bottas said.
Hamilton will have to overtake his teammate Sunday if he’s to match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins in F1. Bottas is hoping he can stage a comeback in the title race after cutting Hamilton’s lead to 44 points with a win two weeks ago in Russia. Mercedes drivers have taken pole for every race this season, with eight for Hamilton and three for Bottas.
Nico Hülkenberg returned as a late replacement after Racing Point driver Lance Stroll felt unwell. The German previously stood in for Racing Point’s other driver, Sergio Perez, in August when Perez tested positive for the coronavirus.
He was in the nearby city of Cologne and hurried to the track upon hearing he was needed to stand in for Stroll. Hülkenberg missed practice and couldn’t adapt quickly enough in qualifying as he placed 20th and last.
Sunday will see the first F1 race since 2013 at the Nürburgring and is named the Eifel Grand Prix after a nearby mountain range.
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