Sebastian grew in confidence in the AMR21, continuing to make progress in refining the car during the third practice session.
Both Sebastian and Lance conducted running on the Hard, Medium and Soft tyre ahead of qualifying, with the latter evaluating new aero updates in practice.
High winds throughout qualifying had an impact on the entire Formula One field with a headwind into Turn One and a tailwind later around the circuit proving challenging.
Sebastian would head out early in Q1 on a set of new Soft tyres and became one of the first drivers to set a flying lap when he posted a 1.20.186 effort for a provisional third place.
The German would stay out for three flying laps in his opening stint and continued to find improvements to progressively work towards securing a Q2 slot.
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At the end of his opening stint of six laps, Sebastian lapped in 1.20.077, before a second attempt on the Soft tyres yielded an improved 1.19.403 time.
The changing conditions meant few drivers improved in the final minutes of the session, meaning Sebastian finished Q1 in eighth place.
Sebastian continued to show good pace in Q2 as he took to the track on a new set of Soft tyres.
He would initially post a 1.18.970 effort for fifth place before a repeat of Q1’s conditions meant the field again struggled to improve on their times.
Ninth place ensured Sebastian made Q3 for the first time this season as a result.
He would first take to the track for the 10-minute shootout on a set of used Soft tyres and managed his best lap of 1.19.833 in the three-lap run.
Only polesitter Valtteri Bottas was able to improve on his Q2 time in the final minutes of Q3 and Sebastian secured 10th on the grid for tomorrow’s Grand Prix.
“I am feeling happier after that session. We are starting inside the top 10 and will be in the middle of a big fight for points.
“There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us, but things are starting to click for me and become a bit more automatic, which is helping me focus more on my driving. I am still learning about the car, but today I felt more comfortable.
“The conditions were tricky – despite the sunshine – and the gusts of wind were quite unpredictable and made the car feel quite light. My final lap in Q3 was not the best. The wind direction had changed again, and I lost some time as a result, which is costly when the midfield is so tight.
“Overall, though, it was a better session for me. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Lance proved unlucky in qualifying and wasn’t fully confident in the AMR21, further compounded by the changing conditions and traffic in Q1.
He would initially match Sebastian early in the session as the duo lapped closely within each other’s times.
Lance would be the first driver to set a flying lap in Q1 and posted an early benchmark of 1.22.753 before a much-improved second effort of 1.19.913 had the Canadian comfortably inside the top 10.
While preparing for his second stint, Lance was progressively shuffled down the order, returning in 15th place.
Lance’s final push for a Q2 berth was then affected by both the windy conditions and traffic on track, meaning he was unable to improve on his lap time.
Thankfully, the Portuguese Grand Prix circuit offers plenty of overtaking opportunities and the team is confident it will be stronger in race conditions, so the goal is to move forward and aim for the points on Sunday.
“A difficult qualifying session and we did not manage to build on the performance level we showed yesterday.
“I was not very comfortable in the car today and I could not lean on it as much. The traffic at the end of Q1 also did not help and cost me some time on my second run. It is quite a change from yesterday, so we will go away and understand where we can improve and do better next time.
“Even though today’s result is disappointing, I think we will be stronger in the race. That has been the case in the previous two races.
“It is a track where we saw lots of overtaking last year and I will be pushing hard to make up ground tomorrow. With a strong first lap and a good strategy, I think we can score points.”
Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal
“It was great to see Sebastian getting to grips with the AMR21 – literally – over the twists, turns, uphills and downhills of Portimão this afternoon.
“We made a few set-up changes prior to qualifying, and it seemed they worked well, because he was ‘on it’ throughout Q1 and Q2. In Q3, he was not as competitive, ending up P10.
“Lance was badly affected by traffic in Q1, and the tricky, windy conditions did not help him either; as a result, he just failed to get through to Q2.
“But he has been driving extremely well so far this year, he says he will be striving to score points tomorrow, and we think that is a legitimate ambition despite his P17 grid slot.”
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