Valtteri Bottas took his first pole position of the 2021 Formula 1 season following a tight battle against Lewis Hamilton, while Max Verstappen was frustrated with his third place after his best lap was deleted for exceeding track limits.
Further behind, Daniel Ricciardo endured a torrid day when he was knocked out in the first part of qualifying for the first time since Japan 2019.
Bottas strikes back
Bottas has had a poor start to his 2021 campaign and has bounced back in style from a disappointing Imola weekend which ended in a high-speed collision with George Russell.
The Finn has looked strong for most of the weekend and capitalised on a slightly messy lap from Hamilton to take the top spot.
One lap pace has never been a major issue for Bottas, so the question is whether he can deliver on race day which has been his main weakness.
Verstappen slams Portimao track surface
Verstappen set the quickest time of Q3 but will start third after his best lap was deleted for running wide at Turn 4.
His disappointment was clear to see as he missed an opportunity to beat Hamilton and Bottas. It's the second consecutive event where Verstappen has failed to take pole position when he had the car to do so.
The Red Bull driver strongly criticised the tarmac which was resurfaced last year.
"I didn't enjoy one single lap this weekend just because of the state of the track," Verstappen told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press.
"The layout is amazing but the grip we are experiencing is not nice. I know it's the same for everyone but for me personally it's just not enjoyable to drive."
Ricciardo's dismal day
It was a difficult day for Ricciardo who was shocked to qualify in 16th. Ricciardo believes the conditions and traffic did not help his performance but ultimately blamed himself.
"It's certainly a bit of a shock," Ricciardo told RacingNews365.com and other select members of the press. "I don't really know what to say at the moment, it was just one of those sessions that happened so quickly."
Ricciardo is still finding his feet at McLaren and has had a clear deficit to Norris at each of the three rounds so far in 2021.
Sunday's race will be a case of damage limitation for Ricciardo and just as he said, it can't get much worse.
Vettel shows first glimpses of form
Sebastian Vettel made Q3 for the first time in his Aston Martin career, showing some signs of strong speed. Teammate Lance Stroll is using Aston Martin's newer package but Vettel navigated the tricky conditions to qualify in 10th.
Without a doubt, it's been a tricky start to the season for Vettel and he will be hoping his qualifying result in Portimao is the start of a good patch of form.
It will be fascinating to see whether his one lap pace translates into good race on Sunday.
Ocon outpaces Alonso once again
Esteban Ocon's sixth place went under the radar and he executed the normal qualifying strategy of an outlap followed by a flying lap to perfection.
It's one of Ocon's best qualifying performances in the last 12 months and it showed that Imola was not a one-off.
Alpine had big concerns after the Emilia Romagna GP but Ocon's Q3 lap will be a massive relief for the team.
Russell responds well to Imola mistake
Similarly to Bottas, Russell struck back with a strong qualifying performance to continue his excellent one lap form.
Russell qualified 11th, seven places ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi and his result shows he has a good head and has not let a costly error put him down.
Can the Williams driver finally score his first points for the team?