Portimão 2021 Race Review – Monumental Mercedes Resurgence

An image of Lewis and Max congratulating each other with Portimão Race Review overlaying the image.

After another long two week break, Formula 1 returned. This time the drivers were racing around the Algarve International Circuit in Portimão, Portugal. As a newly revived circuit, and after a reasonably forgettable race last year, no one knew quite what to predict. This was probably a good thing, as having no expectations led to less disappointment when another uneventful race in Portugal this year.

The start:

Bottas started well from pole, leading into turn one, with Hamilton and Verstappen following a little further behind. The gap was quickly reduced to nothing however, after Räikkönen brought out the safety car. The Finn collided with his teammate after a surprisingly rookie-esque error from the world champion, ruling him out of the race on Lap 1.

Following an oddly long safety car stint, Bottas got away quickly to keep his lead but Hamilton did not have the same luck behind. He lost his place to Verstappen on the restart who was brave around the outside to take P2. The Dutchman started hunting down Bottas in P1 but was never quite able to get there. After a “little wobble” from Max, Lewis was able to begin to claw back the time.

Hamilton’s dominance:

The seven-time world champion was able to fly past Verstappen going into turn 1. Max was simply unable to fight back, with the Brit able to push on in pursuit of the lead. And that he did. Lewis performed what was easily the moment of the race, with an extraordinary overtake of Bottas to take the lead. Just take a look for yourselves!

Teammate tactics for Red Bull:

With Hamilton in the lead, and with Norris giving 4th place back to Perez following track limits confusion, the Red Bull teammate strategy became clear for the first time this year. Following the pit stops, Verstappen managed to overtake Bottas using his warmer tyres, having stopped one lap earlier. The Dutchman was then immediately pushing to catch Hamilton and battle for the lead. While almost every other driver pitted, Red Bull kept Perez out for an extraordinarily long stint. With such strong tyre preservation skills, it was hoped that Perez would stay out in front of Hamilton and hold him up, allowing Max to catch up. This was not the case though. Checo’s tyres were so old by this stage that Lewis simply drove straight past him, with Max no closer.

The results:

Hamilton drove an almost flawless race from beginning to end to take his 97th win in Formula 1. No one can argue that this wasn’t completely deserved. One year on from taking his record breaking 92nd win in Portimão last year, the Mercedes driver was once again unstoppable around this track.

With Bottas struggling with technical issues towards the end, Max remained in P2. Bottas then rounded out the top 3 that we’re so used to seeing. Perez’s long stint and another quick pitstop from the Red Bull team kept him in P4, with Lando Norris in P5 after another strong weekend from the young Brit.

Daniel Ricciardo, in the other McLaren, did an amazing job to come back from his horrible qualifying, starting P16 and finishing P9 and in the points. The two Alpine drivers also performed strongly at Portimão, finishing P7 and P8, showing much more strength than we saw in the opening two rounds of the championship.

Disappointing finishers:

After a reasonably strong start for the Ferrari drivers, it wasn’t a hugely successful weekend. Although Charles Leclerc finished in P6, two places higher than he had started, Carlos Sainz fell back to a disappointing P11, outside of the points.

George Russell was hoping to finally get some points for Williams, starting in P11 but remarked that the car was ‘undrivable’ behind others and he ultimately finished a disappointing P16, in front of just his teammate and the two Haas drivers.

The Aston Martin drivers had another poor weekend in Portimão. For the first time this year, neither driver even finished in the points. and even more questions are being raised as to why they are so poor in 2021, having been so successful last year. Finishing just ahead of three rookies and the two Williams drivers is a poor performance, particularly for a 4-time world champion like Vettel. Hopefully Sebastian will finally pick up some points in Spain, where qualifying position is likely to be more important.

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