Hamilton had clinched all of the previous six pole positions heading to the Nurburgring and sat on provisional pole before a blistering Bottas lap of 1:25.269 saw the Finn go two tenths faster than the Brit.
Verstappen had been hoping to thwart Mercedes’ dominance with Bottas and Hamilton having clinched all of the previous 10 poles this season before the Eifel Grand Prix.
But the Dutchman suffered from tyre grip issues in the final session of qualifying in the cool temperatures and slipped behind the duo after running strong in Q2 and Q3.
Yet despite finishing in third, Verstappen thinks that Red Bull are making up steady ground on their title rivals.
The 23-year-old sits 77 points behind championship leader Hamilton and 33 behind second-placed Bottas but believes his team are making progress with still another six races of the season to go after this weekend’s race in Germany.
“It was an interesting qualifying. After missing the whole of yesterday for everyone, it was very busy today,” Verstappen said.
“Overall I think a decent in qualifying. It’s just in Q3, where it really mattered I started understeering a bit too much and when it’s so cold when you’re understeering you’re graining the front tyres and basically eating up the rubber when that happens.
“That cost me a bit of lap time. Overall I think we are getting closer to Mercedes which I think is very positive.
“In a way I’m a little bit disappointed, I was expecting a little bit more but it is what it is. I think overall I can still be happy.
“It’s going to be even colder tomorrow so it’s going to be even more interesting what the tyres are going to do and how they are going to behave.
“It’s a fun track so let’s see. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, let’s see what we can do.”
Pole-sitter Bottas was victorious in Russia last time out and is looking to trim the gap to Hamilton, who sits 44 points ahead of his Mercedes team-mate in the driver’s standings.
“I’m sure when I look at the data there will be plenty of time [missed], he’s two-tenths ahead. Valtteri did a great job so congrats to him,” Hamilton said.
“It’s an amazing circuit, it’s one of the historic circuits that we have so it’s great to be back here.
“I don’t really know [what the biggest challenge will be tomorrow] if I’m really honest, I guess I’ll find out tonight.
“Naturally the graining, certainly in these conditions with it being this cool and how the tyres behave and whether it’s a one-stop or two-stop, how long the tyres will go, we’re all on the softs to start with, whether or not there’s a Safety Car, going round behind a Safety Car in these conditions will be tough in these temperatures.
“There’s a lot to play for tomorrow so I need to get my head down.”
Eifel Grand Prix qualifying results in full
1 – Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes – 1:25.269
2 – Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 1:25.525
3 – Max Verstappen, Red Bull – 1:25.562
4 – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 1:26.035
5 – Alexander Albon, Red Bull – 1:26.047
6 – Daniel Ricciardo, Renault – 1:26.223
7 – Esteban Ocon, Renault – 1:26.242
8 – Lando Norris, McLaren – 1:26.458
9 – Sergio Perez, Racing Point – 1:26.704
10 – Carlos Sainz, McLaren – 1:26.709
Knocked out in Q2
11 – Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari – 1:26.738
12 – Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri – 1:26.776
13 – Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri – 1:26.848
14 – Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo – 1:26.936
15 – Kevin Magnussen, Haas – 1:27.125
Knocked out in Q1
16 – Romain Grosjean, Haas – 1:27.552
17 – George Russell, Williams – 1:27.564
18 – Nicholas Latifi, Williams – 1:27.812
19 – Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo – 1:27.817
20 – Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point – 1:28.021
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