NÜRBURG, Germany (AP) — Valtteri Bottas ended Lewis Hamilton's run of five consecutive Formula One pole positions by claiming first place on the grid at the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday.
Hamilton briefly sat atop the time charts after toppling Max Verstappen 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 his final run was “spot on.”
Bottas' time beat Hamilton by .256 seconds 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 practices, leaving only one hour on 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.
Sunday's race could be held in temperatures of just 8 degrees Celsius (47 F), making it easily one of the coldest races in recent years.
“If it’s any colder than this, I’m going to have to race with my scarf on," Hamilton joked after qualifying.
The cold makes it hard to get heat into the tires, which can cause understeer. Driving slowly behind the safety car if there's an accident will cause the tires to cool down even more. However, the weather could also allow drivers to use the same set of tires for longer.
“We’re all in the same boat. I don’t really know how far the tires will go, but when it gets a bit cooler, generally they can go a bit further,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton will have to overtake his teammate on 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 woke up on Saturday expecting to be a pundit on German TV for qualifying. He ended up driving for Racing Point after Lance Stroll felt unwell.
He was in the nearby city of Cologne and joked it was like “a heart attack” when he got a call from the team. Hülkenberg missed practice and had just four laps in qualifying as he placed 20th and last.
“It was going to be super difficult to get a really good result out of this," he said. “I had to kind of find my feet again, find my rhythm, which is obviously in that short amount of time is very hard. So I'm happy with those four laps, even though it's last.”
The German previously stood in for Racing Point’s other driver, Sergio Perez, in August when Perez tested positive for the coronavirus.
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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