Portuguese Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton maintained a thrilling last-gasp pole position on Saturday to provide him the perfect launchpad for his bid to win a record 92nd race in Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

In denying his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the last seconds of qualifying Hamilton moved to within three of his 100th career rod. The six-time winner, who had trailed the Finn in three practice sessions and in the two introductory portions of qualifying, reeled off a stunning best lap at one minute and 16.652 seconds at the brand new Algarve International Circuit.

It was sufficient to outpace the Finn by 0.102 moments and, as so often this season, to deliver heartbreak again after the pair had transitioned out of soft to medium tyres for their final runs.

Hamilton had gone ahead of Bottas for the last session and took advantage by taking two flying laps, the next finished following the chequered flag fell making his clincher. Hamilton’s ninth pole of the season puts him up to move clear of Michael Schumacher’s 14-year-old record of 91 that he equaled at the Eifel Grand Prix at Nurburgring last time out.”I can’t let you know how hard that was today,” explained Hamilton.

“Yes, we’ve got a great vehicle, but we have to drive the nuts off of it. I have been digging and digging and digging to find that extra moment.”I did the 3 laps to receive a stab at beating his time and that last lap got better and better”Max Verstappen took third for Red Bull before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez of Racing Point with Alex Albon sixth in the next Red Bull and the McLaren pair of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris in seventh and eighth places.

Pierre Gasly was ninth for Alpha Tauri and Daniel Ricciardo 10th for Renault. A frustrated Bottas, whose efforts produced Mercedes’ ninth front lockout of the year, stated:

“I’ll do all I can, but I would prefer to be on the clean side of the track.”Verstappen, who pushed both black arrows’ to the limit, said he had struggled with his tyres.”It was so difficult to get the front and rear to fit, but we were close – not too far behind.”