Welcome to the Sports Obsessive F1 report on the Portuguese 2021 Grand Prix! A steady race saw dominance from Mercedes and Red Bull, some good overtakes—especially from Hamilton—and the ever-important tyre strategies came out to play. However, the race did seem somehow predictable from the outset; inevitable almost. The Mercedes—in the hands of Hamilton—is just too fast for the others.
After a good Qualifying session, the two Mercedes took the front row followed by the Red Bulls, who just didn’t have the same pace on the straight. Off the line pole man, Bottas got a good start, keeping teammate Hamilton at bay. Verstappen remained third but Perez got a poor start, dropping to Fifth. Some wheel to wheel jostling between Ocon and Norris eventually saw the Brit come out on top in sixth position.
Down the pit straight onto the second lap, and Raikkonen seems to get pulled into the slip-stream of his teammate and ends up colliding with Giovinazzi. The Finn breaks his front wing in the process and pulls up at the end of the straight. A safety car is called out to clear up the debris.
The safety car comes in and Bottas got a great restart, catching Hamilton slightly off-guard—something Verstappen immediately capitalises on, passing the Brit to take second position.
The race then falls into a steady pattern, the top three pulling away from the rest. Norris is unable to keep up with the front runners, and Perez—behind the Mclaren—therefore lost time too. Bottas in the lead can’t quite drop Verstappen in second, who in turn definitely can’t drop Hamilton. The Brit is repeatedly within DRS and soon Hamilton is able to retake second position from Verstappen. Five laps later, Hamilton executes the overtake of the race around the outside of teammate Bottas in turn one to take the lead of the race. The Mercedes do pull away little from Verstappen but are unable to drop him completely.
Perez finds his way past Norris into fourth, but the time has already been lost. Behind them, the mid-pack run with small but steady gaps between the drivers.
A one-stop strategy is the fastest for this race, most cars doing a shorter first stint, pitting between laps 25-30. In the mid-pack, Ricciardo, Alonso and Stroll opt for a longer first sting, a later pit stop giving them fresher rubber for the end of the race. Upfront, the top three wait to see who’ll blink first with regards to taking a pit stop. At just over half distance, Verstappen comes in from third position. To defend against the undercut, Bottas pits on the next lap, and although he returns to track in front of the Red Bull, Verstappen on his warmer tyres manages to get past the Finn. Hamilton pits, giving Perez the lead, but comes out in front of Verstappen and Bottas. Perez—last of the late stoppers—eventually pits with fourteen laps to go, coming out in fourth position.
At times in the latter third of the race, it looks like Bottas may catch Verstappen but this never materialises, and steady gaps form between Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas.
Further down the running order, there is a little more action—although, similar to the top, there seem to be steady gaps between most of the drivers. Alonso’s late pit stop strategy pays off and he really connects with his new tyres, putting in times not far off that of the front runners in the latter part of the race. The Alpine driver overtakes Gasly and Ricciardo—who have their own on-track battle at one point—to come in eighth.
On the flip side, for Sainz, who stopped early, the old tyres just can’t maintain pace and after a great start—moving into fourth place with his 44 lap old tyres—he drops down the order, eventually finishing just out of the points.
Back up at the front, with a safe 30 seconds back to Perez, Bottas—and then Verstappen—pit for fresh tyres to go for the bonus point which comes with getting the fastest lap of the race—providing you finish within the top ten. This may not sound like not much, but in a close season, every point counts. Going into this race, Hamilton leads the drivers’ championship by a single point thanks to getting the fastest lap at the previous race. Hamilton crosses the line first, Verstappen second—with a disallowed fastest lap after he exceeds track limits, and Bottas third with the fastest lap and extra point.
Mercedes, therefore, take a bucket load of points home with them to retain their lead in the Constructors’ Championship, and Hamilton extends his lead over Verstappen by a further seven points.
Red Bull I think will be happy with second and fourth at a track where Mercedes did seem genuinely faster than them.
Behind the top two teams, Lando Norris in the Mclaren came fifth. With some great moves in the opening part of the race, things then became increasingly lonely for the Brit, without the pace to catch the top two teams but faster than his mid-field competitors. Teammate Ricciardo recovered from a poor qualifying session—starting 16th—making the long first stint work for him and finishing in ninth position. Overall not a bad result for the Mclaren team.
Similar to Norris, Leclerc had a reasonably quiet race. The Ferrari driver was able to retain pace in the hard tyre after an early pitstop to come in sixth. Teammate Sainz moved onto the softer medium compound tyres, which were unable to last. Unfortunately, the Spaniard dropped down the order in the latter part of the race into eleventh—Gasley pipping him to the final point on the last lap.
Mclaren and Ferrari do seem to be the best of the midfield teams currently, with Alpha Tauri and Alpine behind. As the season progresses and moves from circuits that suit one team slightly more than the other, keep an eye on these two developing rivalries.
Alpine had a good weekend and showed great pace throughout. A good qualifying session saw Ocon start sixth, and he treated us to some wheel to wheel action throughout the race, with Norris at the start and later on Gasly and Sainz, the Frenchman committing some good overtakes in the race to finish seventh. Teammate Alonso finished behind Ocon in eighth position with some blistering pace towards the end of the race. I can’t help thinking Alonso could have taken more points if he’d qualified better. Alpine can take confidence from this weekend though and with the next race only a week away, hopefully they can keep the momentum of this race weekend going.
The final point went to Gasly, who had a very quiet race. Alpha Tauri never quite showed as much pace this weekend as they had in the previous two races of the year, Tsunodo suffering even more, struggling with track limits at the beginning of the race and only managing a fifteenth position finish.
Giovinazzi had another solid weekend, and—despite being hit by teammate Raikkonen—finished in twelfth. Raikkonen was the only non-finisher of the race. It seems the Alfa’s are showing some decent pace, but not quite enough to get them into points, which must be a frustrating place for them to be.
Aston Martin had quite a forgettable race and came in a pointless 13th and 14th, though Vettel did seem more comfortable in the car, especially on Saturday.
The Williams’ really struggled in the windy conditions, and Russell—who qualified in an electric eleventh—soon dropped down the order in an almost undrivable car. The Brit came in sixteenth and teammate Latifi eighteenth after Schumacher hunted him down, overtaking him in the closing stages, in what was a promising showing from the young German. The other Haas of Mazepin rounded off the results in nineteenth.
So, perhaps not the most exciting race overall, but I think it was quite representative in showing the teams paces and where they fit into this year’s Constructors. Today, Hamilton displayed his characteristic class coming out on top, but in only a week’s time we race again and the Mercedes—Red Bull rivalry continues.
Driver of the day- Hamilton.
Honourable mentions- Verstappen, Norris, Alonso.
Numpty of the day- Mazepin—oblivious to blue flags and completely blocked race leader Perez.
Portuguese Grand Prix Results 2021
- Bottas (Fastest Lap)
The Spanish Grand Prix in one week’s time! A very short gap before the next race, the cars hop over the border to the classic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya—can’t wait!
Where to Watch
USA: Sunday 9th May Live on ESPN race start at 10:00 am EST
UK: Sunday 9th May Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 2:00 pm GMT
Highlights on Sky One at 5:30 pm and Channel Four at 6:30 pm Sunday 2nd May.