Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead with victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, making up a podium we have seen plenty of times over the past couple of seasons.
Valtteri Bottas started from pole position, his first since Sakhir 2020, and led from Hamilton and Verstappen from the start when an early Safety Car, triggered by Kimi Raikkonen running into the back of his Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, saw Hamilton drop to third behind Verstappen.
Hamilton fought back and retook the lead from Verstappen with a brilliant move and then chased after teammate Bottas, taking the lead on lap 20, where he remained for the rest of the race. This victory was Lewis Hamilton's 97th in Formula One and saw him extend his lead in the championship over Verstappen to 8 points.
Behind the podium finishers, Sergio Perez finished a season-best fourth place as he continues his wait for a debut podium finish as a Red Bull driver, after staying out for the vast majority of the race on medium tyres, before a late switch to softs to try and nab the fastest lap, which eventually went to Valtteri Bottas. Lando Norris continued his excellent start to the season by coming home in fifth, ahead of Charles LeClerc in the Ferrari. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso crossed the line in seventh and eighth, ensuring Alpine scored double points finish. Daniel Ricciardo fought back from 16th and a Q1 exit to finish ninth for McLaren, whilst Pierre Gasly took the final point for AlphaTauri in tenth.
Back To Familiar Racing
After a very exciting opening couple of races to the 2021 season, Portugal felt more like a return to the races we became so accustomed to last year, with Mercedes leading away and Hamilton eventually pulling out a sizeable lead over the rest of the field.
The racing behind him was good, with Verstappen and Bottas fighting over second place and plenty of squabbling over the rest of the points places. Red Bull’s interesting strategy to keep Sergio Perez out for most of the race saw him take and hold the lead for multiple laps, but he quickly fell behind Lewis Hamilton and finished off the podium. He was voted as the Driver of the Day, but I feel that the honour could have gone to Lando Norris or Daniel Ricciardo for his brilliant fightback from 16th. Perez did drive very well but didn’t really set the world alight.
Hopefully, the next race in Spain will be a bit closer and we can see a good fight for the lead of the race like we did back in Imola and Bahrain earlier in the year.
Bottas Fades Again
it’s getting rather familiar, isn’t it? It started so well for Bottas, responding from the previous race’s crash with George Russell to take pole position, seven-thousandths of a second ahead of his Mercedes teammate Hamilton, and led away from the start.
As the race went on, Bottas’ pace seemed to disappear and he was passed easily by Lewis Hamilton after offering minimal defense and was soon passed by Max Verstappen. This was a good opportunity for Valtteri Bottas to take the win and reignite his championship challenge, but he currently finds himself in fourth in the standings, behind Lando Norris, and has won just once in the last 19 races.
This could well be Bottas’ last season at Mercedes, and he needs to work hard to prove he deserves to keep the seat for next season, especially with drivers like George Russell breathing down his neck.
Those who watch the F1 Fans Show every Monday will know that we have a regular segment called ‘Bemoaning Bottas’. For those who think I don’t like Bottas, I do as a whole, but he just constantly seems to let himself down and offer little resistance to challenges. I would have loved nothing more than for him to have followed up his pole position with a race victory, but he just did his usual routine of fading as the race went on. Hopefully, he can find his race-winning form soon.
It started so well for Williams. Although Nicholas Latifi dropped out in Q1 yet again, George ‘Mr Saturday’ Russell made it into Q2 and put his Williams in 11th on the grid. His best starting position for the team, and Williams’ best position since the 2018 season.
Points seemed a real possibility in Portugal, especially after the promising display in Imola. It wasn’t quite the same this weekend though, as even though Russell held the position during the opening laps, he soon dropped rapidly down the order, passed by plenty of drivers on his way to a 16th place finish. He said that the car was ‘undrivable when they were racing anybody, indicating that the car is incredibly unsteady in dirty air. There is plenty of work to do on the FW43B if the team wants to get points.
It was even worse for Latifi, as he spent the majority of the race running around nearer the back and found himself in a battle with Haas’ Mick Schumacher, who eventually finished ahead of the Williams driver in 17th.
A weekend to forget for the fallen giants.
McLaren Solidify Third Place
It’s been a great season for McLaren so far, with Lando Norris currently sitting in third in the standings. He finished a fine fifth in the race, showing some impressive pace and racecraft and further proving that he is one of the stars and talents of the future.
It didn’t start so well for Daniel Ricciardo, who was taking part in his third race weekend for McLaren. He, unfortunately, dropped out of qualifying in the first session and started 16th, but some excellent driving, a good strategy, and some solid race craft saw him cross the line in ninth.
It’s evident that Ricciardo is still getting up to speed with the McLaren, and it’s obvious that the car is very different from the Renault he was driving in 2020. I have faith in him though and I’m confident that he will work hard and get the hang of that car over the coming races to be up there with Norris and challenging for the third place that the team wholeheartedly deserves.
They have probably one of the most talented and exciting line-ups on the grid and I’m looking forward to seeing how the season goes for them.
Mazepin Causes Trouble Again
Oh dear, he’s really not getting himself any fans, is he? Following a quiet and subdued race in Imola (which included a spin & crash in practice), Haas’ Nikita Mazepin was back irritating drivers in Portugal.
It started in Q1, as Latifi accused Mazepin of deliberately blocking him as an act of revenge after the Williams had unintentionally impeded the Haas, after Latifi wasn’t told that the Haas was coming up behind him until it was too late for Latifi to move.
The usually unflappable and calm Latifi called Mazepin ‘a dumb idiot’ and a ‘dumbass’, before being told to talk about the matter back in the garage.
Mazepin was again in trouble on Sunday, as he unintentionally blocked Red Bull’s Sergio Perez as he exited the pits. Perez had to lock up to avoid a collision after Mazepin ignored the blue flags shown to him and he still took the apex at turn 3. Mazepin was given a five-second penalty for the incident, which was a pretty pointless penalty as he was running dead last anyway.
He eventually finished a minute behind his teammate Schumacher, who was having a far more enjoyable weekend racing Latifi in the Williams.
Where Are We Heading Next?
Well, it’s race week already! We head to Spain and the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. Hopefully, we’ll see a much closer race than Portugal was, but the Spanish circuit doesn’t have a reputation for providing brilliant races. We shall see!
Tank you as always for reading, and remember; you can catch the F1 Fans Show Live every Monday at 7:15pm with Martin, Neil and myself as we chew over all things F1. We hope to see you there and getting involved!
As always, take care and stay safe!