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Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix
Circuit: Algarve International Circuit Portimao
A new addition to Portimao is the second DRS zone between Turns 4 & 5 to increase overtaking, although the trade off is the DRS zone for the pit straight has been reduced by 120 metres:
Duncraig Dan 2021, Chapter 3: Carry Me Caravan Take Me Away, Take Me To Portugal…..
Formula 1’s Iberian adventure began with the Portuguese Grand Prix in the Algarve region, and odd fact, this is the first season since 1991 that the Portuguese GP and the Spanish GP (This coming weekend in Montmelo) are being held on consecutive weekends, after Bernie and the boys split them up to have an Iberian race in both the European Spring & Autumn from 1992-96, before Portugal was removed from the calendar for 24 years.
In between many minor things since Imola, like George Russell being scolded with a hot iron by Mercedes for what he did to Valtteri Bottas during the race, the Canadian Grand Prix being called off and replaced with another visit to Turkey, and social media boycotts, the news had dropped earlier in the week about the trial of three Saturday Sprint races for points taking the place of regular qualifying to decide the starting grid for three different weekends during the season.
The first of these 100km sprint races will be held at the British Grand Prix, and right now nobody has a clue as to where the other pair will be held, although F1 have said it’ll be another European circuit (Believed to be Monza) and a non-European circuit, which could end up being Interlagos, although who knows if there’ll even be any more flyaway races with human society still burning out of control.
This weekend was also the anniversary of Roland Ratzenberger & Ayrton Senna’s fatal accidents at Imola in 1994, while the entire paddock paid their respects to former Mercedes & Haas mechanic Martin Shepherd, who died a few days after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the age of 25, having lived with traumatic brain injuries that he sustained in a motorcycle accident in July 2019.
Haas ran a tribute to Martin on the nose of both their cars this weekend:
The talking point of Q1, at least from ‘our’ perspective, was Daniel Ricciardo’s wet fart of a lap that saw him knocked out of Q1 and starting from 16th, his worst starting position since Japan 2019, when he was also 16th in a Renault.
It’s clear that Daniel is lacking confidence in the McLaren early into his Woking tenure, but this was a rather sudden low after comfortably reaching Q3 at Bahrain and Imola.
Up at the pointy end, Max Verstappen lost pole position he exceeded track limits at Turn 4 thanks to a snap of oversteer that forced him to put all four wheels off the kerb, even though it was an error that didn’t lead to him gaining any time.
For the record, Mad Max’s time was 1:18.209, which, as it turned out, would’ve been the fastest time by a solid 0.14s, but alas, it was struck from the record, and history will show that Valtteri Bottas was the only driver to improve his Q2 time in Q3 to take his 17th career pole position, tying Sir Jackie Stewart and denying Lewis Hamilton what would’ve been his landmark 100th pole position by a mere 7-thousandths of a second!
Further down the grid, Esteban Ocon had Alpine’s best qualifying result since their Renault rebranding with 6th on the grid, Sebastian Vettel appeared in Q3 for the first time since last season’s British GP, the third consecutive race that Aston Martin have started from 10th, and George Russell set his best qualifying performance in a Williams with 11th, only missing Q3 by 0.057s.
This race was also Mercedes’ 128th pole position as a constructor, tying Williams for 3rd on the all-time list behind 2nd-placed McLaren on 158, and Ferrari on 228.
Race (66 Laps)
At the jump, Bottas led from Hamilton and Verstappen, Carlos Sainz rounded Sergio Perez for 4th, Lando Norris rounded Ocon for 6th through the peak of the rollercoaster, and finishing the opening lap, Kimi Raikkonen lost his front wing after a clumsy bit of contact with his Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi on the pit straight, and The Iceman’s race was over and out with the front wing dragging under the wheels, bringing out the Safety Car due to the stricken car and debris on the track, which forced the drivers to cycle down the pit lane.
Starting on the Medium tyres, Daniel Ricciardo made up 3 places on the opening lap, and himself and Fernando Alonso received front row seats, and a face full of carbon fibre shards, to watch the Alfa explosion:
The SC stayed out until Lap 7, and Bottas played the restart perfectly, Verstappen rounded Hamilton for 2nd into Turn 1 as they both ran wide, Norris moved into 4th over Perez, and Ricciardo was up to 11th after moves on Giovinazzi and Russell, who dropped from 11th to 14th.
There’s just something about that Williams getting mugged on restarts.
Verstappen got within DRS range of Bottas in no time, but a big slide for the Red Bull out of Turn 14 to end Lap 10 cost him dearly, because it allowed Hamilton to get within a second before the later DRS detection point, and the Mercedes promptly rocketed by with DRS, restoring the Mercedes 1-2 on Lap 11.
Perez had complained about Norris exceeding track limits in his pass for 4th on the restart, but that issue was rectified when the Mexican passed Norris early on Lap 15, although it appears McLaren never gave the order to Lando to hand the place back, and was probably down to the difference in tyre status.
As the race descended into normalcy, Ricciardo finally got close enough to Vettel to make full use of the DRS against the Aston Martin, and starting Lap 18, the Aussie rifled past his former Red Bull teammate and moved into the points for the first time on Sunday.
Back in the lead, Hamilton had chipped away at Bottas for several laps, and starting Lap 20, the Finn tried defending up the inside, but Lewis made a cracking move around the outside into Turn 1 to take the race lead!
So with Lewis into the lead and commencing the arse-kicking of the field, the strategy games began when Ferrari pitted Sainz from 8th on lap 22, McLaren brought in Norris next lap to cover the Spaniard, Ocon came in for Hard tyres from 8th place, as did Vettel, Gasly stopped for Medium tyres on Lap 24, and LeClerc on Lap 25 for a set of Hard tyres, and the performance of the cars on the white-banded Hard tyres would be of interest to both Mercedes and Red Bull, who were obviously all keeping their cars out past half-race distance.
Despite being within range of Bottas for what would’ve felt like an age, Verstappen just didn’t have the straight line speed to find a way ahead of the Mercedes, while Hamilton opened up a 3-second lead, despite his latest claim to Peter Bonnington that his tyres were shot, although based on watching Lewis for the last 14 years, that’s a sign that he’s still got shitloads of grip in hand.
Meantime, Ricciardo’s Medium tyre stint was working very well by Lap 34, and despite being on older rubber, the McLaren was actually putting time on his teammate and the Ferraris, which would give him a realistic shot at finishing around 7th or 8th, but not far behind was Fernando Alonso, who was putting together his best drive since his comeback to F1.
Red Bull pulled the trigger on Verstappen to pit on Lap 35 and put the Hard tyres on, which would mean Bottas was coming in next lap as cover, and the Mercedes pit crew did perform a solid 3.3 second change, which kept Bottas ahead into Turn 1, but Max on warm tyres was all over the Finn, who had a poorly timed slide wide at Turn 3, and the leading Red Bull didn’t need a second invitation to use the DRS to complete the pass at Turn 5!
Despite Toto Wolff urging him on like a jockey wielding the whip, Valtteri never got back ahead of Max.
Hamilton was in next lap, which promoted Sergio Perez into the temporary race lead, Lance Stroll brought his Soft tyre stint to an end on the same lap (By far the best mileage for anyone on the Red band), and completing the mandatory stops, Alonso changed on to Hard tyres on Lap 40, and lucky last was Duncraig Dan on Lap 41, but most of his good work was brought undone when he overshot his marks and lost 2 seconds on the tyre change, dropping him back behind Gasly, but slightly ahead of Alonso.
The Ferraris of LeClerc and Sainz swapped places on Lap 39 as the Spaniard began to struggle for grip, and his day started to get worse when Ocon took the scenic route around the outside into Turn 1 to start Lap 44, promoting the Alpine to 7th place.
Meantime, having gone the entire race without a spin, Nikita Mazepin made his cameo appearance by forcing race leader Perez into a lock up after ignoring blue flags at Turn 3, which earned the Russian a 5-second time penalty, which made absolutely no difference because he was down in last place and a minute behind teammate Mick Schumacher.
Ricciardo made the most of a Gasly mistake at Turn 3 on Lap 49 to take 9th place with a classic cutback move at the hairpin, which gave him a straight shot at cutting down Sainz and salvaging an 8th place finish, but it turned out it wouldn’t be the Aussie who got first crack at the flagging Ferrari, because Alonso had come alive on the Hard tyres, passing Gasly for 10th, then passing Ricciardo with the DRS to start Lap 51!
As soon as Hamilton passed Perez for the lead on lap 50, Red Bull brought the Mexican in with the aim of taking the fastest lap point off Mercedes, while in a comical moment, Lewis just assumed he was passing a backmarker and wondered where the blue flags were, only for Bono to deliver the news:
Perez use the Soft tyres to take over as the fastest lap on Lap 55, on the same lap that Bottas reported he’d lost power, which was caused by an exhaust temperature sensor error that cost him no more than a few seconds, but did result in Verstappen having a ‘comfier’ gap in 2nd place.
With the trip to Catalunya only a few days away, Alonso had caught up to Sainz with 10 laps to go in the Spanish Derby, and the 2-time World Champion who was once Carlos’ hero easily got the job done for 8th place on Lap 58.
With Hamilton looking set to make it 2 wins at Portimao in 6 months, Mercedes were trying to get Bottas to extend his gap to Perez so they could enter the pit window and try and pinch the bonus point back, a task the Finn completed when he pitted with 3 laps to go and set a 1.19.865 on Lap 65, but Red Bull responded by stopping Verstappen on Lap 64 to give him one final attempt to take it back.
Taking some consolation from a tough weekend, Ricciardo did pass Sainz with 2 laps to go, and completing the miserable finish to the race for Ferrari, Gasly dropped him out of the points.
However, it was another emphatic win for Lewis Hamilton, who coasted over the line for career victory #97, and his 150th points finish for Mercedes, with all eyes seemingly on watching Verstappen attempt to set the fastest lap, which he pulled off with a 1:19.849 on the final lap….
BUUUUUT, he had it deleted for clearly exceeding track limits (AGAIN) at Turn 14, giving Bottas 15+1 points for 3rd, Perez finished a lonely 4th from Norris, who reeled off another Top 5 finish, LeClerc would have to settle for 6th, Ocon and Alonso scored another double points finish for Alpine, Ricciardo recovered 2 points, extending his points-scoring run to 14 races in a row, and Pierre Gasly got the final point, as Sainz suffered badly from an early stop and the effects of graining.
Odd fact – Mick Schumacher passing Nicholas Latifi late in the race marked the first time a Haas car has finished ahead of another team in 2021.
Post Race Stats & Facts
It was the 15th time that Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas have stood on the podium together, making it the most reoccurring podium combination in F1 history, ahead of the 14 appearances of Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg.
With Sainz finishing in 11th for Ferrari, McLaren are now the only team to have double points finishes in all 3 races, so there is a small positive to Dan’s slow start to the year.
Both races to be held at the Algarve (2020 & 2021) have only featured a solitary DNF – Lance Stroll in 2020, and Kimi Raikkonen this year.
On the same note, Sunday was Kimi’s first DNF since the 2020 season opener in Austria, which now means Daniel Ricciardo has the longest uninterrupted streak of finishes at 18 in a row, with his last DNF coming in the same race, so there’s a silver lining for Duncraig Dan, who also has the longest active points scoring run of current drivers, with the aforementioned 14 in a row.
And, Williams’ pointless run is now at 30 consecutive races, by far the longest of any current team.
Next Up: The Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya this weekend