This year, Lewis Hamilton just keeps on proving to Max Verstappen that he’s worth those 7 World Titles. There are 3 Grand Prix that have happened so far in 2021. In 2 of them, Hamilton played incredible skill and achieved wins that he actually really needed to work hard for. There was the season opener, the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix. And Hamilton did the same in this race, the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix, Round 3 of the 2021 F1 Season.
After an exciting & unorthodox Qualifying, the F1 world was geared up and ready for the Portuguese GP. The Mercedes cars were looking clearly superior to the Red Bulls, although Red Bull was looking to have both their drivers challenging the Mercs. But Red Bull definitely didn’t expect Lewis Hamilton to have this much pace.
As soon as Hamilton got his tires working, Verstappen couldn’t stop him. Valtteri Bottas struggled his way to P3 with technical problems. Sergio Perez finished in P4, the best he’s finished in a Red Bull. Perez pulled off a MONSTER strategy with a CRAZY long stint on the medium tires to finish the race on the softs and secure P4.
The midfield teams’ championship battle took many twists at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Alpine had a great race, jumping from P7 to P5 in the constructors’ standings. McLaren maintained their 3rd place in the standings, mostly because of Daniel Ricciardo‘s strong recovery drive. Ferrari had a tough race, with Carlos Sainz struggling a lot in the race and dropping out of the points. Ferrari got his strategy completely wrong; Sainz started the race on the Soft tires and pitted at Lap 21, which is pretty early. Instead of pitting onto the hards, he pitted onto the medium tires, which DEFINITELY couldn’t maintain their pace to the end of the race.
Behind Alpine in the standings are AlphaTauri, with their rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda struggling in Portugal. Tsunoda’s teammate Pierre Gasly had a solid weekend, and he finished in P10 to bring home a point for the team. This weekend, Aston Martin’s struggles continued, as Sebastian Vettel dropping out of the points and finishing in P13. The 4-time World Champion out-performed his car in qualifying, but he couldn’t defend his position in the race.
Alfa Romeo and Williams both had a terrible race. Despite a stellar qualifying, George Russell finished in 16rh; he just had no pace in his tires. As for Alfa Romeo, Kimi Raikkonen hit Antonio Giovinazzi’s rear-right tire on the main straight at the end of Lap 1. That resulted in damage for Raikkonen, and Raikkonen was out of the race, while Giovinazzi finished 12th, bringing home no points. The mistake was a surprising one since Raikkonen is a driver with so much skill and experience.
Although Haas still scored no points, Mick Schumacher had a great race. He finally showed some pace and he could compete with his rivals. Schumacher also showed a considerable difference in pace between himself and his teammate.
First up in this Race Review, we’re going to be talking about the Mercedes-Red Bull battle. In that segment, we’ll also see how each driver performed in this race, and which of the 2 teams have better chances of winning in Spain. And lastly, in this Race Review, we’re going to look at Daniel Ricciardo’s impressive comeback drive. Let’s get into it!
Mercedes Were Clearly Superior At Portugal – And They’re Going To Be Even Stronger At Spain
At the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix Mercedes were clearly much better than Red Bull. The Algarve International Circuit (which is located in Portimao in Portugal) is a circuit where you need a lot of grip and downforce, yet you need a powerful engine. The circuit has a very long main straight and has reasonably long stretches of full-throttle driving between every couple of corners. Red Bull clearly didn’t have enough speed in the engine at Portugal, as was proven during the race. However, Red Bull did manage to make the most of their tires and they maximise the grip in the corners, and the team did make improvements compared to their pace at Portimao last year.
Mercedes finished 1st and 3rd, while Red Bull finished 2nd and 4th in this race. Mercedes qualified in 1-2, while Red Bull qualified 3rd and 4th. This race was a situation where Lewis Hamilton, who started in 2nd, just needed a couple of laps to get in the right groove. Hamilton re-passed Verstappen and made a great move at Turn 1, down the inside of Verstappen. On Lap 20, Hamilton charged down the main straight. Bottas defended the inside line at Turn 1, but he defended too much because his turning angle into the corner was way tighter than Hamilton’s. Hamilton could power past Bottas, while Bottas had to lift off to make the corner.
Early on in the race, it looked like Hamilton might not do as well in this race. But then when he got the right momentum and enough pace, Hamilton waltzed his way to victory at Portugal.
Valtteri Bottas, who started on pole position, struggled quite a bit in this race. He just couldn’t get the performance out of his car and his tires the way his teammate could. Also, a considerable part of Bottas’s struggles was because of an exhaust sensor issue on Bottas’s car. That sensor issue meant that Bottas had less engine power than he should’ve. As I mentioned earlier, Portimao definitely requires a good engine, so Bottas had a disadvantage with that technical issue. However, he managed to set the fastest lap of the race at the end of the race. Bottas pitted for a fresh set of soft tires, and then charged to the fastest lap of the race.
One catch is that Verstappen would’ve achieved the fastest lap on a used set of soft tires. Verstappen was clearly faster than Bottas. A track limits violation is the only thing that stopped Verstappen from getting that extra point. Max Verstappen had really high hopes for this race, and with good reason. The Portuguese GP was the 3rd race of the most promising start to a season that Red Bull has seen since 2013. At the Bahrain GP and the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, Red Bull was clearly superior to Mercedes, even though Mercedes pulled off a win at Bahrain. What Verstappen was hoping to do was to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix, or at least take the championship lead.
Initially in the race, things were looking pretty good for Verstappen. As I mentioned earlier, Hamilton only became unstoppable once he got the right momentum. In the early stages of the race, Hamilton was much more vulnerable. After the aforementioned incident with the Alfa Romeo cars, Race Control deployed the Safety Car, so that the marshals at the track could clear the debris from the accident. On Lap 7, at the Safety Car restart, Bottas played it perfectly, and he slowed down Hamilton a lot. Bottas had not only secured his lead, but he had also backed Hamilton up into Verstappen, and then Verstappen could make a move and take 2nd place from Hamilton.
However, as I mentioned earlier, Hamilton just needed a couple of laps to get in the groove. On Lap 11, Hamilton re-overtook Verstappen for P2. This is where Verstappen complained to his engineer and clarified Red Bull’s biggest problem in Portugal. Red Bull simply had no straight-line speed. This is the part of the race that proved that the Honda engines the Red Bull cars were using were not able to match and beat the Mercedes engines.
Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was practically out of the equation because he couldn’t come near challenging the Top 3 for a podium place. Lando Norris in the McLaren had enough straight-line speed from his Mercedes engine to get past Perez on Lap 7, yet it took Perez another 8 laps to re-overtake the McLaren. In the end, Perez still pulled off a FANTASTIC race. He managed to stay on the medium tires for 53 of the 66 laps in this race! Once again, Perez lived up to his reputation of being amazing at managing tire wear.
This engine issue that Red Bull had in Portugal means that Red Bull and Honda are going to have to work really hard to beat Mercedes in Spain. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a high-speed track that requires a very powerful engine for a car to be competitive. Mercedes have the upper hand in terms of the strength of their engine, so it looks like Red Bull might be in a little bit of trouble. However, the circuit is not a good circuit for overtaking, meaning qualifying will be even more important. So far in 2021, Red Bull has been really powerful in qualifying. Anyways, only time will tell whether Mercedes or Red Bull will emerge victorious in Spain.
Daniel Ricciardo’s Incredibly Notable and Impressive Comeback Drive
Daniel Ricciardo was a driver who was charging through the field at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. This race was a reminder from him to the F1 world, a reminder that the Aussie is not done yet, and that he still holds the nickname as “the last of the late brakers”. After a disastrous qualifying, Ricciardo started the race in 16th place. He was looking to make some serious inroads during the race. Ricciardo wanted redemption, and that’s EXACTLY what he got. Starting the race in P16 makes the start of the race very difficult, especially when the first few corners of the Portimao track are as narrow as they are. Ricciardo had 15 cars ahead of him, all in double file. Somehow, he had to overtake a few cars and make it into at least the Top 10.
At Turn 5 on Lap 1, Ricciardo lost a position to Lance Stroll, which demoted the Aussie to P17. However, Ricciardo re-overtook Stroll at Turn 7, before making a divebomb down the inside of Yuki Tsunoda to take P15 through Turns 10 and 11. Then, at the end of Lap 11, around the final corner, Ricciardo overtook Fernando Alonso for P14. And into Turn 1, Ricciardo gained a position because of Raikkonen’s incident. At the Safety Car restart on Lap 7, Ricciardo overtook Giovinazzi and Russell at Turns 5 and 8. Ricciardo was now in P11, just at the edge of the points-paying positions. Then finally, on Lap 18, Ricciardo overtook Sebastian Vettel for P10.
Ricciardo gained 5 positions when the drivers who were running soft tires ahead of him pitted. When Ricciardo pitted himself on Lap 41, he lost those 5 positions again. He dropped back down to P10, which was partly because that’s how pitstops work, but also because of a mistake Ricciardo make coming into the pit box. 8 laps later on Lap 49, Pierre Gasly made a mistake at Turn 3, which allowed Ricciardo to power past the Frenchman through Turn 4 and down to Turn 5. To be fair to Gasly, he did give a good fight, but Ricciardo played it calm and smooth and got the position. On Lap 51, the charging Alpine of Fernando Alonso overtook Ricciardo on the main straight. On Lap 65, the penultimate lap of the race, Ricciardo finally overtook the struggling Ferrari of Carlos Sainz to finish the race in P9.
In total in this race, Daniel Ricciardo made 13 overtakes to finish the race in P9. INCREDIBLE. He was confident, courageous, and he played it all smartly. He certainly got redemption for qualifying. There were 2 main reasons behind this performance: pure skill, and the right mentality. Daniel Ricciardo is a great driver who we all know for his overtaking moves. But behind those overtakes was motivation. The Q1 exit from qualifying was a nightmare for Ricciardo. He was incredibly embarrassed and was in deep pain.
But then he said to himself: I certainly still woke up frustrated this morning; you’ve got to clear it from your mind and obviously what’s done is done. Yeah, I should be starting wherever but I’m not. Get on with it and stop sulking.” That mentality and that drive are certainly admirable, and that explains why he did so well at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix.
That’s the end of this 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix Race Review! I hope you guys enjoyed my analysis on this quite exciting and memorable race. Let me know in the comments below: Who do you think will win the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix? Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!