Portuguese Grand Prix Review
Could Max make up for the disappointment on Saturday?
Once again, we got a race full of overtaking, with the DRS zones being the right length this year, leading to many close moments into Turn 1. However, it was tyre warm up which was so crucial in the race, and helped to shape how the race would finish!
The headlines may say that Lewis won comfortably, but there is so much more to the race than that, this was a race he really fought for, although he did have the fastest car! He may have let Max through at the restart, due to being distracted, yet he was able to put pressure on him, pass him, and then chase after his teammate, who sadly could not keep the pace up from Saturday. It was probably best not to pit Hamilton for the fastest lap, as whilst he has lost out on what could be a crucial point, it could have gone so wrong! His second win of the year does put him safely up front in the title race, however the threat from Red Bull is still clear, and he will need to keep on top form to hold them back! You do have to feel for Bottas slightly, he is trying his best, but he just can’t match the two drivers, who are easily up there as greats of this era!
They may not have had the fastest car in the race, however when you look at the progression from 2020, where Mercedes were dominant here, the improvements are clear to see! Obviously, they would have wanted to win, but as we head to circuits later in the year where the gap last year was more marginal, they could be fastest! Verstappen did all he could in the race, made the most of the restart, yet a small mistake as he tried to stay with Bottas, let Hamilton get a run on him, and he couldn’t fight back from there. The undercut on Bottas worked brilliantly, as would have the pitstop for fastest lap, but once again this weekend, he couldn’t keep it on the track! Considering their lack of straight line speed, Perez had an incredible race, as holding off those behind on both the start and restart was impossible on mediums, and with Lando’s Mercedes engine, he didn’t have much chance. Once he did get past though, he matched the leaders for pace, and only lost time when they undercut him, whilst he stayed out hoping for a Safety Car, and to hold up Lewis, otherwise it was really solid, and should build confidence in the car for him!
Yet again, Norris maximised his race, even when he was left out on mediums for so long, which teams like Ferrari really struggled on. I must say he was lucky though, to not be told to give the position back to Checo after the restart, as he went wide out of Turn 4, which you can argue allowed him to carry more speed and pass the Red Bull, but it didn’t matter much in the end. He really is one of the best drivers this year, close to Lewis and Max, given their mistakes! Ricciardo probably did all he could today, grabbing some points for the team, as he grows with them, and settles into the car. At this point, and I hope I don’t jinx them, it would be a disaster almost, if they didn’t finish third in the constructors!
It was a race of two halves for Leclerc, as on the mediums he couldn’t make much progress, and stayed near the bottom of the top 10. We were surprised that he pitted so early, but now looking back it was smart, as he was instantly gaining on his teammate, and then kept Lando under pressure for the rest of the race, adding to the team’s points tally. It was the same story for Sainz, with the halves switched around. However, because the second stint was longer, it really hurt him, and he dropped out of the top 10. This if anything speaks more as to how good Norris drove, to keep the tyres under him, especially as Carlos was chasing him early on! Nevertheless, Ferrari should be pleased with the pace, as attention has already turned for them to 2022!
When I said that Alpine looked good in practice, I was doubtful that it would translate into anything when it mattered, for qualifying or the race. However, I was proved wrong, as one car reached Q3, and both were storming through the field at the end of the race, especially Alonso. This was very much needed, after they struggled to get many points up until now, only helped by other people’s penalties! Their pace turnaround is a mystery to the paddock, but apparently good straight-line speed helped, which could be useful down the line. Once again though it is Ocon on top in the team, which I am sure Fernando is not used to!
Alpha Tauri were struggling all weekend, obviously the unusual conditions here did not suit their car, which after all the preseason hype, has not really delivered on the potential it has. It will come for them though I am sure! Tsunoda, after starting the year really well does seem to be struggling a bit, which can’t be surprising, given his lack of experience! Gasly did well to get some points, but 5 points does not show the pace they have!
With a more normal race, compared to the chaos at Imola, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo did not have much of a chance of scoring points! Although for Giovinazzi to beat both Astons’, really shows the gains they have made, as well as the step back for the Silverstone based team. Vettel is getting used to the car now seemingly, and apparently with updates coming, there could be light at the end of the tunnel for them! Kimi’s mistake of crashing into Antonio was clumsy, although with the complexity of the modern steering wheels, you can’t blame him much!
The ‘peaky’ car at Williams was not seeing many heights on Sunday, as Russell said it was horrible in dirty air, which caused him to drop like a stone in the early part of the race, from his amazing starting spot! So, it was a tough day for the team, however with the form they showed at Imola, there is at least hope of points this year! Haas should be pleased with the pace that Mick showed, as he held on to the pack pretty well, and was able to pass Latifi late on in the race. He is doing so well currently in that car, and given how he usually struggles in the first year in a new series, we could see even better things in the future!
This weekend has shown that Mercedes are not as bad as they claimed to be this year, and it will be all about making the most of opportunities that come each team’s way, as a couple of points could be crucial come Abu Dhabi! This means that points for fastest lap and sprint races, cannot be underestimated, in the longest season in F1 history!