What a race it was, with Bottas starting at pole ahead of teammate Hamilton and RedBull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez where he manages to lead through 20 laps of the race until Hamilton take a phenominal overtake on turn 1, eventually coming home for his 97th F1 victory. An early Safety car was deployed after Kimi Raikkonen had crashed into his Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Like in Imola, in Portimao also Verstappen manages to pass Hamilton in the first lap but couldn’t go ahead much as Hamilton brilliantly passes him back to third at lap 7. Mercedes then after till the 30th lap leading the race when the Dutchmen was able to pull away from Bottas after the Finn suffered a sensor issue on his power unit. Meanwhile, after late stops for both Bottas and Verstappen to try and claim the fastest lap bonus points, it was ultimately Bottas who got the job done, after Verstappen has a faster lap deleted for a track limits infringement.
Portimao serves well for Sergio Perez attaining driver of the day title and his best position of the season so far, even he was leading for few laps in the middle but couldn’t hold the champion to go ahead finishing the same place he started.
Norris in fifth led the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in sixth, while the Alpine pairing of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso completed the team’s fine weekend with P7 and P8 – Alonso in particular having driven brilliantly in the race’s latter stages. After starting a “grim” P16, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo fought back to P9 at the chequered flag, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly taking 10th after a late pass on Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. At the front though, the story of 2021’s fascinating Red Bull vs Mercedes battle had another chapter added to it at Portimao – with the wind now in the sails of the Silver Arrows.
Starting the grid, Mercedes Polesitter Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were at the front followed by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of RedBull. as the light went out, Bottas manages to lead, with Verstappen 3rd behind Hamilton. Sergio been followed by Ferrari’s Carlo Sainz and McLaren’s Norris and Alpine’s Ocon were in fight for 6th, which the Britton claimed the position with a sweet move around the outside of the Frenchmen at Turn 11.
The Safety car was deployed after Kimi Raikkonen was slipstreaming his Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi for P12 down the main straight when hi simply ran into back of the Italian, Raikkonen loosing his front wing as he speared into the Turn 1 gravel. But this crash felt good for McLaren’s Daniel Riccardo, as he was able to climb over from P16 to p13. also a good chance for Verstappen to get pass Hamilton immediately around the outside of Turn 1 for second place.
Perez had complained about Norris Safety Car restart pass on him, saying the Briton had completed the move outside of the track limits but the mater was closed when Perez was allowed to pass Norris for Fourth on turn 16. Hamilton also has taken revenge on Verstappen when the Mercedes DRS passed the RedBull on main straight on Lap 11, complaining Max to race engineer GianPiero lambiase – “we’re a sitting duck”.
Hamilton again manages to surpass teammate Bottas at the start of Lap 20 on turn 1. here till now the order was, Hamilton from Bottas and Verstappen – who was lurking close at hand – with Perez a further 8s adrift. Norris led the midfield in fifth, ahead of Sainz, Leclerc, Ocon, Pierre Gasly and Ricciardo, who’d passed his former Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel for P10 on Lap 18.
With Verstappen making no impression on Bottas as Hamilton built a 3s gap at the head of the field, Red Bull brought their man in for new hard tyres on Lap 35, with Bottas mirroring him a lap later. Bottas was held a second longer than Verstappen had been, though – and despite emerging just ahead of the Dutchman, Verstappen was more confident out of Turn 4, using the DRS to move ahead of the Finn.
Hamilton was having no such dramas, meanwhile, retaking the net lead after his stop for hards on Lap 37 (albeit behind actual leader Perez, who had yet to pit) 4s clear of Verstappen. Having climbed to P5, meanwhile, Ricciardo finally stopped for hards on Lap 41, but missed his marks in the pit box and was stopped for 4.8s, the Australian emerging P10 and behind Gasly, as Norris made it back to fifth, the 21-year-old beginning to come under pressure from Leclerc.
Meanwhile, having been sharking behind Sainz for a number of laps, a hard-charging Ocon was passed for P7 on Lap 44, the Alpine driver enjoying strong race pace on his own hard tyres. Perez at the front found himself held up by the Haas of backmarker Nikita Mazepin, with the Russian handed a five-second penalty for his transgression as Perez eventually pitted for softs with 15 laps to go, emerging in P4. By that time, Hamilton had built up a five-second gap to Verstappen, who was given some breathing room from Bottas when the Finn suffered a power loss – with Mercedes tracing the issue back to an exhaust temperature sensor failure, which was quickly reset.
With Hamilton clear at the front, Verstappen and Bottas had time in hand to make late stops to try and take the fastest lap. But although Verstappen ultimately did the quickest one of the pair on his final tour, it was Bottas who would take the bonus point after Verstappen was deemed to have left the track during his effort, and had his lap deleted. Up at the front though, Hamilton had everything covered, deciding not to bother getting involved with the fastest lap shenanigans and instead easing across the line at the end of Lap 66 to take win number 97 – a fact which more than made up for not having taken pole number 100 the day before.
Behind, Verstappen had a clear run to second, while Bottas was left lamenting a “tricky” race, after seeing his pole position turn to P3 – with Toto Wolff having been moved to try and boost the Finn’s morale over team radio midway through the race. After the travails of Imola two weeks previously, however, the Portimao podium would have at least been something of a tonic for the Finn. Sergio Perez never looked like getting involved in the fight at the front, but at least came home P4, his best result as a Red Bull driver, but with Mercedes stretching their lead over Red Bull from seven to 18 points.
Lando Norris’ status as one of the stars of the season was shored up by another excellent drive to P5, with Leclerc’s attack having been kept at bay in the latter part of the Grand Prix, as the Monegasque came home sixth. One of the stars of the race’s final stages, however, was Fernando Alonso, who passed Ricciardo and Sainz in quick succession to come home P8 behind team mate Ocon – Alpine having enjoyed by far their strongest weekend of 2021 so far.
Ricciardo put in a solid recovery to take ninth after his own late move on Sainz, with Gasly doing the same to take the final points-paying position, as Sainz could only claim 11th. Giovinazzi recovered from his contretemps with a disappointed Raikkonen on Lap 2 to take 12th, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll – the two Aston Martin drivers having struggled for race pace around Portimao, after Vettel had brilliantly put in his first Q3 performance in 15 races on Saturday.
It was a quiet race for Yuki Tsunoda in the second AlphaTauri’s, the Japanese coming home 15th and ahead of Williams’ George Russell, who’d started a promising P11 but complained of his FW43B being “undriveable” at points in the race, as he finished 16th. A strong outing from Haas’ Mick Schumacher saw him pull a late pass on the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi to claim P17, Latifi taking 18th as Mazepin rounded out the order – with Raikkonen the only retiree from the Portuguese Grand Prix.
So, it’s Hamilton who stretches his lead to eight points in the title fight over Verstappen. Is the tide beginning to turn towards Mercedes? Or can Red Bull fight back in Spain? There’s only seven days until F1 fans will find out.
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