The Portuguese Grand Prix is the third round of the 2021 World Championship. This time to host the Circus of Formula 1 is the Autodromo Internacional of Algarve, after that from 1984 to 1996, to host the races in Portugal had been the Estoril circuit. The Algarve circuit is located in the region of the same name in southern Portugal, near the town of Portimão. It stretches for 4,653 meters, with 16 curves. The inauguration of the circuit took place in October 2008 and the following month it hosted the first official event, the last stage of the World Superbike Championship. The lap record belongs to Valtteri Bottas, scored in the race on his Mercedes in the previous year’s Grand Prix, with a time of 1'18"750. The Portuguese Grand Prix was not originally scheduled for the 2021 season. Due to the problems caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, Sunday, March 5, 2021 as the third appointment of the season yet to be established in place of the cancellation of the Vietnam Grand Prix, is inserted the Portuguese Grand Prix, the return of which happened already in the previous season, in October, to replace Grand Prix not disputed because of the pandemic. The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão hosted for the first time the Formula 1 World Championship. The event, unlike the 2020 edition which saw the presence of public in the stands, is held behind closed doors due to the pandemic of COVID-19, like the previous race in Imola on the occasion of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. The Bahrain Grand Prix, the inaugural race of the championship, was instead run with spectators in the stands, but only those who received the COVID-19 vaccine or who are cured by the SARS-cov-2. Many announcements and statements accompany the eve of the weekend Lusitano. On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Ferrari announced the signing of Charlie Turner, former editorial director of Top Gear, a cult BBC broadcast, who will be responsible for the creation, processing, distribution and marketing of all the multimedia content of the team. John Elkann, President of Ferrari, expressed his opinion on this subject:
"We are delighted with the arrival of Charlie with this new role as Chief Content Officer. His extraordinary talents of creativity and excellence in content creation, together with his great passion for Ferrari are the perfect elements that define this new, important task".
Equally enthusiastic is Charlie Turner himself:
"The experience on Top Gear has been an incredible adventure and I am very proud of everything we have created over the years. But for every car enthusiast there is no name that captures the imagination and makes your heart beat faster than Ferrari. The proposal to come to Maranello to be the first Chief Content Officer of the Company is a great honor".
At the same time, McLaren announces that it has sold the Paragon headquarters to an American company, Global Net Lease (GNL) for £170 million, and at the same time signs a 20-year lease to remain in the futuristic venue built twenty years earlier. On Saturday, April 24, 2021, it was announced by the FIA that the contract for the Japanese Grand Prix was renewed until the 2024 season. Honda becomes title sponsor of the Grand Prix this season, as it did in the 2018 edition. Says Liberty Media CEO Stefano Domenicali:
"I am really happy that Formula 1 will continue to race on the Suzuka circuit for another three years. Japan holds a special place in the hearts and minds of F1 fans around the world, and Suzuka has hosted many of the most legendary moments in the sport, with 11 driver titles decided there. The Japanese Grand Prix has always showcased thrilling races, on a razor’s edge, and I’m excited to continue bringing the action and excitement of Formula 1 to Japan’s motorsport fans. The extension of the contract with Suzuka is part of our long-term commitment to grow Formula 1 in Asia. Formula 1 also runs in Singapore and China, while the cancelled race in Vietnam remains a road the series is eager to explore in the future".
Adds the director of Mobilityland, Kaoru Tanaka:
"As a result of repeated negotiations with Formula 1, we were able to conclude a contract to host the event from the year 2022 onwards. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the members of Formula 1, first of all Mr Stefano Domenicali, for the great understanding that has been demonstrated during the negotiations. We are determined to continue our efforts together with the local residents of Mie Prefecture and the city of Suzuka, so that the Suzuka circuit will continue to be loved by fans around the world and contribute to the prosperity of motorsport culture".
On Monday, April 26, 2021, Red Bull Racing announces that Ben Hodgkinson, head of Mechanical Engineering for twenty years at Mercedes, will be the technical director of the engine department of Milton Keynes starting next season. At the same time, the F1 Commission approves the Sprint Qualifying (Sprint Qualifying) in three Grands Prix this season after reaching a unanimous agreement between representatives of Formula 1, FIA and the ten participating teams. The changes make a reorganization of the race weekend: on Friday sees the usual practice session in the morning followed by a qualifying session with the standard format in the afternoon, while Saturday sees the usual practice session in the morning followed by the novelty of Sprint Qualifying, that is a race of 100 kilometers starting from the grid for which will be awarded three points in the standings to the winner, two points on the second and one point on the third and that establishes, according to the order of arrival, the starting order of the race on Sunday. Two days later, it is determined that the British Grand Prix will be the first event of three chosen for this season, where the new Sprint Qualifying format will be applied. And also on Friday, April 28, 2021, the FIA announces the cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 as the seventh round of the season due to the problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his place is inserted the Turkish Grand Prix, whose return took place already in the previous season, to replace Grand Prix not disputed because of the pandemic. According to the note issued by the FOM:
"We are grateful for the efforts of the promoter and the Canadian authorities, who have done everything in the last few weeks to try to make the race happen, and we are also pleased to announce a two-year extension of our agreement with Montreal. We will work to guarantee a refund or an extension to 2022 to all those who purchased a ticket for this year’s and last’s events".
And adds Stefano Domenicali:
"Although it is very disappointing not being able to be in Canada this season, we are excited to confirm that Turkey will host a Grand Prix in 2021 after last season’s incredible race. I know that all our fans are excited about the start of the season so far, and Turkey is a great circuit that can offer good battles. That said, a thank you to the Canadian authorities for all their efforts in recent weeks, but the difficult conditions for travel have made our plans impossible. Likewise, I want to thank the promoter and the Turkish authorities for their continued willingness to host a Formula 1 race, which shows the huge interest in our sport and the hope of many locations to have a Grand Prix. We have had a great conversation with many other organizers since the beginning of the year and will continue to work closely with them during this time".
For this race, Pirelli, the sole supplier of tyres, carries C1, C2 and C3 compound tires, the hardest in the range among those available. Mario Isola, head of F1 and Car Racing at Pirelli comments on the choice:
"Tyre management and making the three hardest compounds in the range work within the correct window of use were two focal points of the race in Portimao in 2020. This year the situation could be completely different, with an evolution of the track and weather conditions different from last October. In the first two races, the performance of the 2021 tyres under construction was very good, and in Portugal will debut the toughest compound among those available. C1, C2 and C3 have been nominated to face the challenges imposed by this track on tyres, and that could be amplified by the heat. In 2020 all three compounds were used, with a wide variety of strategies. Temperatures were cool and there was wind, with light rain intermittently, so track conditions changed from session to session. The new asphalt generated low levels of grip, while in terms of tyre performance, warm-up and graining were two key factors".
Compared to the 2020 edition, the FIA adds a second zone for the use of the Drag Reduction System; it is established between curve 4 and curve 5, with detection point positioned before turn 4. The second area on the pit straight from the previous edition of the Grand Prix was shortened by 120 meters and the detection point was moved from after turn 14 to after turn 15.
"I think it’s a good change, I don’t see anything negative. Going by heart, I think that last year there were several times when I was very close to overtaking on turn 5, but not quite; so it’s a point where you can actually attack. Certainly the inclusion of the DRS zone in that stretch will not simplify life too much making it easy to overtake, but it will put us in a position to try. This is what we want, so I think it’s a good idea".
Lando Norris also agrees with the Australian:
"They shortened the first stretch to make the action a bit more difficult, but added a second. So we hope to see more maneuvers around the track and not all concentrated in turn 1. Let’s wait before saying if it will actually be possible to attack in turn 5, but in any case the solution will not have a negative impact".
The FIA then establishes three points on the track where drivers are forced to respect the limits of the latter, otherwise the lap time will be cancelled. The points in question concern the exit of curve 1, curve 4 and curve 15. Before the start of the first free practice session on Friday, the FIA also adds the exit of turn 5 as a point on the track where the limits of it must be respected. A further area of the track where the limits are to be respected is established before the start of the third free practice session on Saturday; the area in question concerns the exit of turn 14 (Sagres). Friday, April 28, 2021 the FIA announces that at the end of the race of the previous Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna, among the top ten classified cars was drawn the Alfa Romeo Racing Kimi Räikkönen for testing. They were found to comply with the technical regulation. There is also a change in the rules on restart after the safety car regime: starting from this race a driver will no longer be punished if he lost positions behind the safety car when the safety car turns off the lights. If a driver loses positions and is not able to recover them before the safety car line he will have to take the pit lane and start from the pit lane. The rule is changed after what happened to the Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen during the previous Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna, penalized at the end of the race for not having resumed his position following a spin before the restart of the race. Danish driver Tom Kristensen has been appointed Assistant Commissioner by the FIA; he has already done so in the past, the last in the previous Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna. For this Grand Prix, like the previous one, the German car manufacturer Mercedes supplies the safety car and the medical car. After the incident in the previous Grand Prix of Emilia-Romagna with George Russell before the Variante del Tamburello that led to the suspension of the race, the Finnish Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, runs the Grand Prix with a new chassis. The previous body, due to the strong impact, was seriously damaged. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says:
"We are on the edge of spending a lot, and one of the most feared aspects is the loss of a car. In this case we are not to the total destruction of the car, but undoubtedly we did not wish something like that".
The power unit and all the electronic components were recovered. On the occasion of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mercedes is racing its 500th race as a constructor in Formula 1. Before the start of the first free practice session on Friday, the mechanics of Max Verstappen’s car, Sergio Pérez, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jr., Pierre Gasly, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi replaced the exhaust system, fitting the second unit. Yuki Tsunoda’s car was fitted with the third unit. All drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the mounted units are among the eight scheduled for the whole season. Finally, the British driver Callum Ilott, former reserve driver of Ferrari, from this Grand Prix holds the same role at Alfa Romeo Racing. Ilott takes part in the first free practice session on Friday in place of Antonio Giovinazzi, making his debut in the top category. On the eve of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mick Schumacher talks about the compliments received from Haas team principal Gunther Steiner:
"Steiner’s compliments? It’s nice to hear them, I have the feeling that we work well together, as a team. We aim to make great strides forward and we also see that we are getting closer to the opponents we have ahead of us. From Bahrain to Imola we made a big step forward. In Italy we were even close to Q2. This is very promising, because we did not expect it so early in the year".
And Gunther Steiner adds:
"It’s true, Mick is very reserved but I think that this character side will soften with time. At the moment he wants to do it this way and I certainly do not want to dissuade him. Otherwise it should be something he is not. He just prefers to be a little more cautious before making any missteps, I understand. He is always correct and polite, he already knows what he wants. Nikita is naturally different in this sense. The two come from very different cultures and have grown in absolutely different ways. But that doesn’t mean that Nikita’s attitude is wrong. It’s up to us to be able to deal with the different characters. We don’t need puppets, we need real characters. And I can handle them. There is no right or wrong behavior in these guys and I don’t like one more than the other, they are simply different".
Asked by reporters about possible demands from the team to help Lewis Hamilton in the race for final success, Valtteri Bottas tries to get out of the role of wingman, telling reporters:
"We are also only at the third race, the year is still long. Now I am behind and I would like to shorten the distances".
Back on the discussion with George Russell at Imola, Bottas explains that he had not spoken to the young talent supported by Mercedes.
"I read his post on social media. We didn’t talk, but the matter is closed for me and must be so for him. George apologized and it’s time to leave everything behind".
After the Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna, however, the Finn says he also spoke directly with his team principal, Toto Wolff:
"We had only a brief conversation, we defined that race as something to forget quickly and now we try to look forward".
Speaking of the upcoming Portuguese Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo tries not to make predictions:
"The next appointment is in Portimão, a fun track that has some unique elements. There is a good mix of high and low speed curves with various ups and downs: these elements make the track an exciting challenge. Coming out of some of the curves, you can really feel your stomach falling with the steep gradient changes. This weekend I want to continue to progress on the basis of the last two Grands Prix. We definitely started the season on the right foot getting good points for the Constructors' Championship, I can’t be too disappointed on that front. There are some things I’m still trying to adapt to, on a personal level. Seeing Lando get a podium showed the potential of the car, it motivates me a lot and I know I have to work a lot. We must be realistic and say that we certainly cannot aim for the World Cup this year, but the goal is to win at least one race. It’s been almost three years since the last victory in Monaco and I want to live that feeling again. I miss it too much. This year will be difficult for Hamilton. Verstappen is a top driver, he has everything to win, even the experience. In addition, Red Bull has a good car: if they continue like this, they can really play for the first title. For us, however, the goal is to be immediately behind them".
While Lando Norris returns to talk about the emotions of getting on the podium:
"Being on the podium for the second time in Formula 1 was an incredible feeling, but I couldn’t have done it without every single person on the team. Everyone on the track and in the factory continue to work hard to give us the best car possible every weekend. The result shows the progress we are making to get closer to the top, but we know that not all races will go in our favor. We just need to work and improve in all areas to find that tenth more that can benefit us against strong competition. I think Imola has shown us that we must turn every opportunity into an advantage, because the battle is so close. I’m happy to be back in Portugal this weekend: the ups and downs of Portimão make the track challenging, there are several blind corners. The grip was not good last year, given the track recently resurfaced, it will be interesting to see how it will go this weekend".
Speaking instead of the clash at the top, Max Verstappen admits that it is difficult to take a car - between Red Bull and Mercedes - as a reference for this season:
"It’s hard to take a car as a model and reference right now, it’s still early. After all, there are still things we want to improve on the car. And it also depends on the circuit. In any case, we and Mercedes are close, that’s clear".
For the title you will need to stay close to Lewis Hamilton, but you will need to avoid contact:
"We’ll try to avoid confrontation. We can be strong on all circuits, yes, for now at least it’s going well. But here in Portugal we drive on a track very different from Sakhir and Imola. We have to find again a good setup for this track. We will do our best to have a good weekend. Of course, the base of the car is good, but now we just think about finding a good setup. We have a long year ahead of us, I don’t want to think too much about Hamilton, I’m focused only on this weekend, we want to go as fast as possible. As I have said many times, I feel good within this team, I am comfortable here. We hope to continue working together for years to come".
For his part, Lewis Hamilton declares:
"Red Bull still has a lead, but we did well during the first two races. I don’t know much yet. In general I have always said that in some races we should have a different format, that’s what I think. Especially in circuits like Monte-Carlo. It’s great and special to drive there, but it’s not a good race. So I think it’s good that they’re experimenting. We hope to learn something from this format. I usually never volunteer, but I did now, we were on a big circuit, with good weather. I plan to race here again next year, so I would like to help Pirelli make a better product. We all want more performance tyres, it was important for me to understand where we started with these tyres and what we can do to make them better. It was a good test. If I just said to stay in F1 next year? I’m quite spontaneous, everything can always change again. I’m enjoying this battle though, it’s getting more and more exciting and challenging. I still really like working with the team and I admire the steps that Mercedes is taking to become more and more diverse. As a sport we have a lot of work to do".
It is also an important event for Scuderia Ferrari and for Charles Leclerc, who admits:
"Although the momentum and motivation for the first race were already very good, everyone is very motivated to return to the level to which we belong. It’s always a good feeling when you see your hard work paid off with good results on the track. But we all know that we still have a long way to go to get what we want. That is to be able to compete for the title. With Sainz we work very well, we prepared the season well and we are all loaded. Sprint Race? I like that for three Grands Prix you try something new, I don’t think that takes away importance to Sunday, it will be interesting".
As for Scuderia AlphaTauri, despite the disappointing result at Imola, Pierre Gasly does not lose confidence about the continuation of the championship:
"Looking back on the last round of Imola, there are definitely some positive aspects to be picked up in a disappointing weekend. In all the free practice sessions we were in the top ten and in qualifying we were in the top five, three tenths and a half from pole, probably one of the best qualifying times for the team. The seventh position in the race is still a good result, although we are fully aware that we should have done better. At Portimao, last year, I had a good race and I finished fifth; it is a really unique circuit, with many ups and downs, it really seems to be on the roller coaster. It is fun to drive there and it is very different from what we are used to: it is a low grip track, the car slips a lot and it is not easy to bring the tires in temperature. We will use the C1 hard tyres and last year, especially in the first practice session, it was very difficult to warm them up. This time we will have a bit more experience on our side and it will also be a bit warmer, in general it will be a different challenge than the two races we have already played this season for now".
And his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, adds:
"I don’t have to repeat the mistakes of Imola, absolutely. I mean above all the skid that cost me the qualifying. On Saturday I have to drive more quietly, without forcing needlessly, this is the main goal. The biggest lesson I learned from the mental side: I put a lot of pressure on myself at Imola to get good points, because of this I tried the limit and ended up wrong. I missed a great opportunity to get some points. I’m very sorry for the team, and also for myself, it was really a shame. I learned a lot from Imola and Bahrain. I hope to have a clean and quiet weekend in Portimão. For the Constructors' Championship we need these weekends, because the car allows this kind of performance".
What is Sebastian Vettel waiting for from this Grand Prix?
"I think Portugal at track level is the ideal place to aim for a clean weekend. The track is high speed and has many differences in altitude, it is very nice to drive there and I think it will be indicative enough to understand what are the limits of the car. I have yet to learn how to get the most out of the car, but in the meantime understanding what the limit is would be an excellent starting point and for this we must continue to push".
And Lance Stroll thinks like his teammate:
"We arrive in Portugal with enthusiasm because we are starting to exploit the potential of AMR21. The battle in the middle of the group is really exciting and our goal is to be competitive for the top positions of this group. I hope to have a weekend without any particular inconvenience and to get even more points than those obtained at Imola".
The weekend therefore begins with the first free practice session on Friday morning. The fastest of the first free practice session was Valtteri Bottas, who was 0.025 seconds behind Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, and almost 0.2 seconds behind Sergio Pérez. Bottas set the fastest time, by more than a second slower than the best time in the same session of 2020, with Soft tyres, even if the car shows little ability to bring the tires in temperature, so much so that the time is obtained on the third consecutive lap, Despite the asphalt temperature of 34 inches C. Lewis Hamilton also complains about the difficult track conditions of his car. The World Champion is in P5, also preceded by Charles Leclerc. The times are however very close, so much so that the first eight drivers are collected in a second. Seventeen times have been cancelled to drivers for exceeding the limits of the track at the exit of Turn 1 and seventeen times cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of Turn 4, during the first practice session. In the first case Daniel Ricciardo, Nicholas Latifi, Kimi Räikkönen, Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Carlos Sainz Jr. (one time) are cancelled , Sebastian Vettel (twice), Charles Leclerc, Nikita Mazepin and Fernando Alonso (three times); in the second case Nicholas Latifi, Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris (once), Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc (twice), Nikita Mazepin (three times), Pierre Gasly (five times). The second session of the afternoon was penalized by a strong wind, which did not allow the fastest driver, Lewis Hamilton, to beat the time of Valtteri Bottas, of the first session, despite the presence of a more rubberized track. Behind the Briton, 0.1 seconds behind, remains Verstappen, who precedes Bottas.
Hamilton also continues in FP2 to complain about the difficulty of driving the car, attributing the difficulties to the wind and the poor balance of the car. The Red Bulls favor the use of Medium tires, in the race simulation, unlike Mercedes, which insists more on the Soft compound. Ferrari takes the fourth time again, but this time with Carlos Sainz Jr. (who benefits from the new floor that will be made to debut in the race only in the Spanish Grand Prix) , which precedes the two Alpine drivers. Note that Nicholas Latifi makes a mistake driving, ending in the sand. Eighteen times have been cancelled to drivers for exceeding the limits of the track at the exit of Turn 1, and twelve times cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of Turn 4, during the second practice session. In the first case Kimi Räikkönen, Carlos Sainz Jr., Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen and Yuki Tsunoda (once), Mick Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton (twice), Nikita Mazepin (six times); in the second case Yuki Tsunoda, Nikita Mazepin, Sebastian Vettel, Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc, Kimi Räikkönen, George Russell and Mick Schumacher (once), Antonio Giovinazzi and Max Verstappen (twice) cancel the time. After the tests on the cars of Valtteri Bottas, George Russell and Yuki Tsunoda the gearbox is replaced. Drivers are not penalized on the starting grid because the component is mounted within the dispute of six Grands Prix. Lewis Hamilton talks about the conditions he faced during the day:
"Today the wind was very annoying. Everyone struggled and slipped a lot, it seemed that everyone was struggling to find the right balance. With the conditions seen today it is difficult to say if the problems are related to the car or the wind, but I can say that it was a real challenge to keep the car on track".
In addition, Lewis Hamilton criticises Pirelli’s decision to bring the toughest compounds in the range to Portugal, namely C1 (Hard), C2 (Medium) and C3 (Soft). For the Mercedes driver the Italian company should have opted for a more aggressive choice:
"When we came here in 2020 we had too hard compounds and it seems that the same thing has been repeated today. This year, we also have tyres with an even harder compound. I think we should have had the C2, C3 and C4, but we are all in the same situation".
The British driver explains how in the afternoon, in addition to the wind, the rise in temperatures played a decisive role that made the track slower:
"There was no substantial evolution of the track from morning to afternoon because of the higher temperatures we encountered in the F2. During the first practice sessions the track seemed better, while in the afternoon it became slower due to both the heat and the wind. It seems that it will be difficult to find the right balance and it will be interesting to understand if this weather will remain stable throughout the weekend".
The current championship leader, finally, once again points out in Max Verstappen the number one rival for the race, and it is said that also in Portugal it will be a close challenge with the Dutchman:
"I think we’ll be fighting Red Bull on Sunday. I don’t know how Max’s lap was, but mine wasn’t perfect. However, we have plenty of time to improve the feeling with the car, but the same goes for them. At the moment we are very close as seen in the first two weekends of the season and it is an exciting situation".
Andrew Shovlin, Head of Mercedes Track Engineers, added about the first day of practice:
"It was an interesting day, Valtteri was right from the start and managed to warm up and bring the tyres in an optimal way, while Lewis struggled a little more especially with the rear. Bottas gave us valuable feedback regarding the setup. Both cars suffered damage from the analysis we conducted at the end of the session, this certainly played a role on Hamilton’s pace. Ferrari was also very close to our performance in general, we expect a very interesting weekend".
Even for the first rival to the title, Max Verstappen, it was a difficult day:
"It was a very complicated Friday like last year’s one again because of the asphalt. It’s super slippery. I know it’s the same for everyone, but it’s not really pleasant to drive. Surely we have work to do for tomorrow, the fight with Mercedes seems to be very close again and we have to make sure we are 100% to have a chance. The car gave good sensations. Temperatures and the ability to bring the tyres into the right window will be decisive".
Sergio Perez adds interesting details about circuit condition:
"Today we had very similar asphalt conditions to those of last year, with limited grip, so it’s really hard to get the tyres working. It is not easy, so the main goal is to understand what is happening with the tires. I think the pace with the averages was good, but when we switched to the soft compound we didn’t find any lap time, so we’ll have to examine this aspect and hopefully solve it in time for qualifying. It is difficult to compare with the last round of Imola, because this is a very different track and everywhere there is less grip because of the asphalt. However I think the car has a good pace, we hope to be able to fight for pole tomorrow".
Valtteri Bottas, who at the end of the tests admits, is on average satisfied:
"I think that in terms of pace it wasn’t a bad start, it’s good to see that we’re there, although again the comparison will be very close in terms of detachments. The feeling is quite similar to last year’s. The asphalt is quite slippery and especially the rear of the car is quite dancer. It was not easy to complete clean laps, the more we went to use soft compounds, the more difficult the car became to control. The average tire seemed to be the one that worked best, but there is still a lot of work to do".
As for the McLaren team, even Lando Norris admits that the day was conditioned by a careful search for balance:
"We struggled with the car in some areas of the track. Some areas of the car are good, others are quite weak and slow, so we have to work on that for tomorrow. Alpine was very fast today. Ferrari? They we know are fast. If they are ahead of us, it's no surprise. There was a big gap to the Alpine last race, but they are closer here. It's going to be tough. The wind made things quite difficult for everyone, we had a few problems here and there in the two sessions, so I didn't do as many laps as I wanted, but we have a good understanding with the car".
And his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, adds:
"Personally it was a better day, it seemed to me that we have taken a step forward since the beginning of FP1. I just hope that the sensations and signals I’ve had today will become more common as time goes on. Certainly today I felt I had taken a step forward with confidence in the car".
In the fight for third place, behind RBR and Mercedes, there are also the Scuderia Ferrari drivers, who according to Charles Leclerc started quite well:
"I would say that the qualifying simulations were positive. The long runs ahead of the race also went quite well. Maybe better for Carlos and a little less for me, so I have to work on this a little bit. It was the main weakness for me today. But on the other hand, Carlos was fine, so I have to work things out, and tomorrow should be better. It will be a close battle, no doubt: it is difficult to find a main rival, because Alpine was also fast today, I would say that we are all very close. It will depend on who will make fewer mistakes, in qualifying and in the race".
And Carlos Sainz Jr. has the same idea:
"Very positive day for me. We continue to learn and experience different situations on the track in terms of weather and asphalt. Today was the lowest grip of the season probably, the circuit was very slippery and it was a very formative session for my experience to understand how the Ferrari SF21 goes with wind and little grip. The two compounds have very different characteristics, but in the end you get a very similar lap time. This is not normal. Soft gum is usually much faster than average. The key factors will be the behaviour of the compounds in relation to the car and especially their operating window and how to heat them properly. These are the main questions we need to focus on for tomorrow".
Fernando Alonso was also satisfied with his Alpine and was immediately at ease:
"It was a good day of practice for me, the most comfortable compared to Bahrain and Imola. I was satisfied with the set-up of the car right away, so I focused mainly on familiarizing myself with the circuit and then evaluating the tyres in the two sessions. There’s still a lot of data to analyze, but it’s a good start to the weekend. I enjoyed driving here for the first time in a Formula 1 session, but I think traffic could be a challenge tomorrow in qualifying. It’s an exciting track to drive on, that’s for sure".
An idea also shared by Esteban Ocon:
"It was a pretty solid day for us, especially in terms of mileage. We completed a lot of laps and this was pretty good. We tested all tyre compounds and keep a good read ahead of Sunday’s race. This circuit is certainly a difficult track in terms of grip, but I would say that it has improved compared to last season. It is still a challenge for us and we are working hard to get some more grip from the car for tomorrow".
As for Sebastian Vettel, the tests were useful to look for that feeling that is still missing with Aston Martin:
"The car doesn’t do what I want yet. We can work to improve this feeling both on the set-up and on the driving style. On the race pace the feeling improves, while on the single lap I still struggle to bring the tires in the right window of exercise. The six-tenths gap from Stroll doesn’t bother me. He’s driving with a slightly different specification than mine. I hope you can use it well to make a leap forward in terms of performance. As for me, I am sure that with all the solutions tried today we will find something suitable for tomorrow".
It was a not very positive day for Antonio Giovinazzi, since his tests were heavily influenced by the events:
"It has been a difficult day. Skipping FP1 on such tracks is not ideal. In FP2 the wind was much stronger and the car was more erratic during the laps. The car was difficult to drive especially in qualifying simulation. Better in the race but we have to try to do a good job tonight because at the moment in qualifying we are far from George Russell’s Williams. We have to try to improve the car, it’s clear. The goal tomorrow is to go to Q2. The track penalizes us? I don’t know, let’s see tomorrow. The start was definitely not good. Kimi was not too happy this morning. We have to try to do a good job tonight and improve the car. Tomorrow the wind may be less and this can help us".
For Pierre Gasly the day was also quite difficult:
"It’s been a pretty tough day, the car didn’t go very well, and tonight we have to look at the data and see what we can do to improve, because we’re not making the most of our potential right now. Compared to the last races, we struggle with braking in the slow areas, so we have to take a look at what we have changed. Obviously, the conditions and layout of the track are very different, here you slide a lot and then we may need to make changes different from the usual. The gaps in the middle of the group are minimal, two or three tenths can at the moment made you lose six or seven positions, qualifying will be crucial. I think I entered Q3 in the last five or six races and I would like to continue this line: with the appropriate changes, we will try to make sure that this happens tomorrow".
As for Yuki Tsunoda, on his debut at this circuit...
"Today I drove for the first time on this track and I really liked it, especially for its ups and downs: I learned a lot in the two sessions today. There are many things to study, the grip is really low compared to the previous races, so at the beginning I struggled to adapt, but I think I managed to quickly and my progression during the day was good. I’m building my pace, and tonight, together with my engineers, we’re going to take a look at the setup and the data. For tomorrow’s qualifying, I hope we can put everything together".
Jonathan Eddolls, head of trackside engineering at the Scuderia AlphaTauri, returning to the words of Pierre Gasly, adds:
"It wasn’t the Friday we expected or perhaps were already used to. During Free Practice 1 we focused on medium and hard compounds, as well as doing some aerodynamic tests on Pierre’s car. Yuki took the opportunity to learn the track, since he had never driven here: we ended the session relatively satisfied with the car and its performance. The start of the second practice session was also positive: we started on medium and we were satisfied with the car’s pace. We then switched to soft tires and with those we could not pull out the pace we wanted. The conditions here are very challenging because of the wind: in most of the corners it was in the queue, while on the starting straight it was on the contrary and this does not make things easy for the drivers. Tonight we will have a lot of work to do to understand why we struggled with soft: I think it will be the key for us tomorrow".
As for the Williams team, George Russell is satisfied with the work done so far:
"Of course the car has progressed and the team is in great shape. I think we’re getting the most out of our package and I’m glad about that. The wind got very windy this afternoon. It’s no secret that we struggle in those conditions. I don’t want to do what promises so much and keeps little, but if the wind goes down we will improve and I think FP2 from this point of view was the worst time of this weekend. This circuit is incredibly exposed and wavy, so if you have a gust of wind you feel it. Looking forward to tomorrow, I think Q2 is the minimum for us and I hope we will be fighting for points on Sunday".
And even Nicholas Latifi is happy:
"Overall I am not very satisfied with the day. We definitely have work to do tonight to try to catch up on some of the pace we’re missing. In FP1 I immediately found a strong contrast to the sensations that the car gave to Imola. There are a lot of fast corners on this track. They should be easy to do flat, but I struggled to make the most of them in FP1. It’s a lack of confidence in the car. We tried some things in FP2 that marginally improved the situation. It’s not the Friday you want to have, but we’ll do homework tonight. We’ll try to reset and find some rhythm for tomorrow".
No one expects anything from the Haas team, at least for this year. The season will help grow its drivers, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Meanwhile, the German says:
"The track was definitely much more slippery than what I’m used to, but it was fun. The car was lively, brought back memories of Formula 3 and go-karting. It was interesting, no doubt. The track is impressive and adrenalinic. It wasn’t hard for me to get used to the track, in the end it’s just about getting a clean lap, but this is very hard to get if the car is hard to drive. I’m always more comfortable with a lively car. If we do our job, which we always do, we should be in a good position tomorrow for qualifying".
And Mazepin concludes:
"On average, if you take all the circuits where we go in Formula 1 and Formula 2, this is one of the tracks with less grip, and it’s a shame because the layout is really nice. If you could go a little faster, and with a little more confidence in driving, that would be nice. But there’s nothing you can do about it. The grip is increasing lap after lap, this is positive. I think we had a good Friday, there is still a lot of potential to extract and tomorrow is the day that counts".
This brings us to the third free practice session. Verstappen is the best driver of Saturday’s session; the Dutchman scores a time of 1'18"489, with Medium compound tyres. Even in the Saturday session the cars are forced to face many difficulties in bringing the tires in temperature, having to make two warm-up laps before they can look for the time. Behind the Red Bull Racing driver are classified the two Mercedes, and the team-mate, Sergio Pérez. On the Hamilton car, the Anglo-German team tests advanced solutions to try to bridge the gap with Verstappen’s performance. Eighteen times have been cancelled to drivers for exceeding the limits of the track at the exit of Turn 1, and five times cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of Turn 4, during the third practice session. In the first case the time is cancelled by Sergio Pérez, Carlos Sainz Jr., Lance Stroll and Lando Norris (once), Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly (twice), Nikita Mazepin and Sebastian Vettel (three times); in the second case Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Mick Schumacher (once), Nikita Mazepin (twice). While waiting to participate in qualifying, the Mercedes mechanics are forced to install a sensor on the single-seater of Valtteri Bottas, who manages to take part regularly in the session. Lando Norris is the first driver to score a significant time in Q1, before being beaten by Carlos Sainz Jr.; the Ferrari driver’s time is not beaten, initially, even by Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.
Sainz Jr. He also managed to improve, before being beaten by Lewis Hamilton (1'18"726): the time was cancelled because in the attempt the Briton exceeded the limits of the track. Meanwhile, Sergio Pérez is in second place. Bottas is better, scoring a time of 1'19"205 and takes the lead; the other Red Bull driver, Verstappen, is third, failing to do better than Pérez. After a spin by Fernando Alonso, Hamilton took the fifth time and, shortly after, Pérez also made a driving error, finishing in a spin. In the minutes that follow the track tends to improve rapidly. Norris, with Soft tires, climbs to the top of the time list, falling below the limit of 1'19"0. Then Hamilton improved, but he couldn’t beat the time of his countryman. In the final seconds of the session Bottas takes the best time, while Esteban Ocon climbs up to P4. Daniel Ricciardo, the two Canadians Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi, and the two Haas drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were eliminated at the end of Q1. In Q2, the phase in which drivers mount the type of rubber with which they must start for the race, many opt, at least initially, for the use of Medium tires. Charles Leclerc, with this type of tyre, scored a time of 1'19"434, beaten by Verstappen (1'19"099). Bottas then fell below the limit of 1'19"0 and Hamilton below the limit of 1'18"0 (thanks to a time of 1'17"968). Norris approaches Bottas, but using Soft tires. The McLaren driver precedes Ocon, while Vettel is in P6; Pierre Gasly and Alonso are also in the top ten. After the first attempts all the drivers decide, definitely, to face the track with Soft tires. Not Leclerc, who stays with Medium tyres, unlike his teammate.
The Monegasque does not improve and, like the Spaniard, risks elimination. Only at the end Sainz recovered to P6, while Leclerc managed to enter Q3, with Medium tyres. George Russell is in P11, almost entering the third and final phase of the qualifying session, which for Williams is missing from the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In addition to the British, the two Alfa Romeo Racing cars, Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda, did not enter the next phase. At the beginning of the final phase there is a small misunderstanding between Sainz Jr. and Bottas. Also in this phase the drivers need two warm-up laps of the tyres. The Finn scored a time of 1'18"348, beating his teammate by 0.007 seconds. Third is Perez, while Verstappen still sees a time cancelled, always for having exceeded the limits of the track. He climbs into P4 Sainz Jr., which is positioned in front of Norris and Leclerc. Mercedes, surprisingly, for their second fast attempt, decided to fit Medium tyres. Verstappen, in the only remaining attempt, gets into P3, while the two Anglo-German cars do not improve. Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for the 17th time in his career. The first line is entirely Mercedes, for the seventy-ninth time, one less than Ferrari. There are three times cancelled to drivers for exceeding the limits of the track at the exit of Turn 1, three times cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of Turn 4, and one time cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of Turn 14 (Sagres)during qualifying. In the first case Nikita Mazepin, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen cancel the time; in the second case Charles Leclerc, Kimi Räikkönen and Max Verstappen cancel the time; in the third case Pierre Gasly cancel the time. After qualifying, the Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, comments on the result obtained:
"If it’s a rematch for me? It went better than the first two races, I think you can say. We managed to understand the problems we had in qualifying so far. We got everything right today and this is the result. It’s normal, as it should be. I’m happy, in the first two races I knew that the speed was there but my problem was to heat the tires. We focused a lot on this. We learned some lessons and I always knew that our hard work would pay off. The key was to keep calm, execute the plan and focus on the small details, especially in the launch laps. We were stronger than expected, which is a positive surprise. But these are just qualifying, I’m already thinking about tomorrow. We know that the Red Bulls have a strong car and we expect a great battle".
While Lewis Hamilton congratulates the team and his teammate:
"Great work by Valtteri and the team. Two cars in the first row did not expect it. We must be satisfied. We were afraid that Max would pull the rabbit out of the top hat at the end, but he didn’t make it. I didn’t do a perfect lap either, but that’s okay. Machine? You can never be satisfied. We have to keep pushing. But we are definitely happy with the progress we are making. There are gusts of wind and this makes driving very difficult, I only did a good lap, the others were bad. The lap of Q3, which gave me the second place, was also pretty bad. Considering I’m still so close, I’m grateful".
RBR driver Max Verstappen, commenting on the qualifying result, talks about the difficulties he faced:
"The car was difficult to drive in qualifying. I struggled on the curbs. The first lap of Q3 was decent, but I made a mistake in turn four that cost me the lap. I was confident that I could make another nice lap but the last sector I found a car in front that disturbed me. Already we have low grip, there was also the wind... it went as it went. The track is complicated, you need to warm the tires a lot. Tomorrow? Starting position is not ideal. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow in the race. Let’s hope the wind is a bit more stable. So far it hasn’t been that much fun".
Despite his excellent result in qualifying, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff preached calmly:
"We’ve come a long way, but I’m not sure we’re the fastest. Verstappen turned 1'18 2 and I don’t think he made more than half a tenth from the infringement than the track limits. So he would have been close if not in front of Bottas and Hamilton. We have a car certainly fast in the race and I think we are driving on a par with Red Bull in qualifying. Lap times were not great with soft and so we tried a different road. In any case, no one managed to do better in the second run regardless of the type of compound, Verstappen for example went from 1'18"2 to 1'18"7".
Despite a good qualifying, which led him to get the P5, Carlos Sainz Jr. admits that the session was far from easy to deal with:
"It was a difficult qualifying for everyone but we were able to improve the feeling with the car. I changed a couple of things and it seems they worked. It’s hard to explain how complicated this track is to put the lap together. In the last two corners I lost three tenths because of the wind. And losing three tenths, when you fight on the pennies line, is hard to recover. But today I felt the car more mine, I felt more confidence with the car, which gave me better sensations than Imola. Being ahead of Charles in qualifying is a good sign, he always does incredible laps. But I’m always focused on my feelings and my driving style, I found a couple of things that worked and allowed me to go faster. I’m jealous of Charles, who starts with the average. I had good feelings with the C2. But the second lap, when I wanted the time, I found Kimi in front and I didn’t get a very good lap. To make sure we get into Q3 we used soft. I was very close to asking for the average, but it was the third race and we didn’t want to risk too much. Tomorrow with soft we will have a disadvantage, we know that it is a slower race, but it is so".
And Charles Leclerc says pretty much the same thing:
"I had a little trouble. I was very inconsistent. Normally, when I arrive in qualifying, I have enough confidence in doing the lap, but today it was not so. Luckily I did it in Q2 with the middle school: this will help us tomorrow for the race, or at least I hope so. In Q3 I was not at the level. Carlos did a good job. We hope that tomorrow, starting with soft and me behind with middle school, we can have a good race. Starting middle school can be an advantage. We have seen in the FP2 that graining is more on the soft, but you still have to manage this tire. We will all still be close, but if the conditions are as in qualifying it will be very difficult. Those who will make fewer mistakes will arrive in front because losing the car is very easy, especially the rear that moves a lot. Difficult to say who will be the favorite".
At the end of practice, Scuderia Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explained the diversification of strategies during Q2:
"Starting the two drivers with two different compounds was not a plan, the ideal was to have both with Medium tires. We tried. The first attempt in Q2 was like this. But Carlos' lap was not enough, so in order not to risk anything we put the Soft. Charles knew that he was closer to the target time we had set ourselves and that he had made a mistake. So he could do better than before. That’s why we took the risk of using yellow with him and I must say that in middle school he made a good lap. Proof that probably with these tires is better".
Despite the good result of Ferrari, Lando Norris talks about his opponents quoting Alpine and Aston Martin:
"Alpine has improved enormously. She went from being behind us in the last races, especially in Imola, to being in front for the whole weekend of Portimão. It’s an interesting improvement, it should make tomorrow’s race a little more exciting to watch. I’m happy with the lap I made, maybe I’m in the wind. It’s just the wind. I got out before the others and the wind was down. I was happy with the ride. Maybe I made a small mistake, but overall it was a good ride. In the last attempt I was too close to Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin and I had to abort the lap. I might have been in fifth place, but the seventh is also not bad".
While Daniel Ricciardo tries to explain what slowed him down to the point of only getting the P16:
"I don’t really know what happened. I was struggling, especially in the last sector. But why? It’s not clear. I left a few tenths on the road, it’s true, and the 16th position is not at all the result I dreamed of this weekend. I’m trying to change my old driving style, I realize it curve after curve and I’m also close to where I want to be. I thought I took a step towards this goal yesterday: I felt more comfortable. But this position makes me feel sad. I’ll sleep on it".
It’s a great day for George Russell, who with Williams has almost finished his qualifying session close to the top ten:
"It was a great performance on our part, I didn’t expect to get Q2 after this morning, let alone P11 on the grid. We did the result when it counted. It’s our best qualifying position in three years, so I’m really proud. We all have our responsibilities and as a team we have done a great job. Tomorrow we have to keep going. We have a good car, fast on the straights. Let’s see what we can do".
While his teammate, Nicholas Latifi, did not go beyond the P18:
"Today there was an improvement because we made some big changes during the night. However it was not the best qualifying for us and I was not able to make a clean lap at the end of Q1. I’m still struggling with the balance of the car along with the surface of the track, as everyone is slipping. It’s been a bit of a frustrating day, but the race is tomorrow and we need to focus on that".
It was also a special day for Alpine, as Esteban Ocon qualified in P6:
"It was a very complicated session. Wind has always been a determining factor to deal with, especially in Q3. In Q2 I signed a great lap, in Q3 I managed quite to repeat myself and it was a great satisfaction. I don’t think that we have extracted the maximum potential from the car, we are continuing to analyze the data, discovering every time some solution that is useful to find a little more performance. Today the car behaved very well, much better than yesterday".
While Fernando Alonso did not go beyond the P13:
"It was not easy today. The weather conditions have changed a lot since the last free practice. We lost something between FP3 and qualifying, so we have to look at this and figure out what happened. The good thing is that we can choose the tire with which to start tomorrow and this gives us more options in optic strategy. The points are awarded tomorrow, so it’s still all to be played".
Despite an unexciting result, Sebastian Vettel is not disappointed:
"Overall, of course, I am satisfied with this day, but not with the final session. I could do more, but the track conditions changed slightly and I could not confirm the crescendo between Q1, Q2 and Q3. There was a lot of wind and we all struggled to measure it. I started to feel a good feeling at the wheel in the second run of Q1, confirmed feelings in Q2. The race? It will be very tight. In the middle of the group we are all very close, we will see what we can do".
While Lance Stroll talks about the difficulties faced:
"A difficult qualifying session. We failed from the level of performance we showed yesterday. I wasn’t comfortable in the car and I couldn’t push much. Even the traffic at the end of Q1 didn’t help and it cost me some time in the second attempt. It was a nice change from yesterday, so we need to figure out where we can improve to do better next time. Although today’s result is disappointing, I think we will be stronger in the race. This was the case in the previous two races. However, it is a track where we saw a lot of overtaking last year. Tomorrow I will push hard to catch up. With a nice first lap and a good strategy I think we can score points".
It was not an exciting day for the Alfa Romeo team. However, Antonio Giovinazzi is satisfied with the work done:
"I’m happy with the P12, especially because it shows how much we are progressing. We were very close to getting a seat in Q3, but at least we can choose our optimal strategy for tomorrow. The car went much better today than yesterday, although conditions were still very difficult. It seems that we found the pace we showed in Bahrain after some bad luck in qualifying at Imola. Now, however, we must ensure that the result is counted on Sunday. We need the right strategy, a good start and a good race. Our pace looked good yesterday, so we can have fun".
Kimi Raikkonen also admits that the potential could be greater:
"We could have achieved a better result today, as we have made a step forward than yesterday, but unfortunately we have not been able to put together a lap in the last attempt. I missed a corner in both my attempts with the last set of tyres in Q2 and the P15 is what you can expect when this happens. We will try again tomorrow. We know it will not be easy, but we will give our best and we will see where we end at the end of the day".
Pierre Gasly is satisfied with the result obtained with his AlphaTauri:
"I am very satisfied with my performance in qualifying today: it seems that this track is a bit more difficult than the others, so reaching Q3 is positive. We knew that for us the characteristics of this circuit would be more complex to manage and I think it was clear that we struggled slightly with different conditions, especially with the wind. The team has worked hard since the first tests to change the balance of the car, but we are still not completely satisfied. Although I don’t feel fully comfortable with the car, I am happy to have reached Q3, because it seems that our opponents in the middle group have made some progress this weekend, but we think we are in a good position to make other points".
As for Yuki Tsunoda, on his debut at this circuit:
"For me this is the first time on this track and at the end of free practice I felt I had adapted well to the circuit and ready to face the qualifying this afternoon. The lap was good, but I just didn’t have grip on the soft tyres and in the final sector it almost seemed to drive with a hard tyre. Qualifying has been complicated and I am really disappointed, but tonight I will analyze the data with my engineers and see where I can improve. Tomorrow, I hope my race pace is better: I will do my best to recover positions".
With Haas not keeping up with rivals, Mick Schumacher was able to do objectively little to improve:
"Looking at all the free practices I thought we could aim higher, but with the second set of soft tires in Q1 our opponents managed to make that step forward that we missed. Anything could happen, just a gust of unwanted wind and in the first sector you lose quietly half a second. In general we can be satisfied, we are progressing significantly from weekend to weekend. I can be fast from the start when I get on track and I have to thank the team for this".
And even Nikita Mazepin admits:
"I didn’t have the right feeling after everything that happened yesterday, but in the morning I managed to increase confidence at the wheel. Unfortunately in Qualifying there was a very strong wind that made everything more difficult. However, I feel close to the limit of the car and I am satisfied with this".
Sunday 2 May 2021, at the start of the Portuguese Grand Prix, poleman Valtteri Bottas managed to keep the lead, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Carlos Sainz Jr. made good use of the Soft tyres and passed Sergio Pérez. Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc followed. At the end of the first lap Kimi Räikkönen hit his team-mate, Antonio Giovinazzi, on the pit straight. The Finn irreparably damaged the front wing, leaving the track. The race direction, in order to allow the cleaning of the track, sends the safety car on the track. The race resumed after five laps, with Verstappen able to pass, at the first corner, Hamilton, taking second place. During lap 8 Lando Norris overtook Sergio Pérez, and took fourth place. Max Verstappen managed to get closer to Bottas, but he remained marked at sight by Lewis Hamilton, able to recover the second position already during lap 10. Four laps later Lando Norris again gave fourth place to Sergio Pérez. On lap 19 Lewis Hamilton completed his comeback, passing his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, who was once again approached by Max Verstappen. On lap 21, Sainz Jr., who wears Medium rubber, returned to the pits, as did Lando Norris, one lap later. On lap 25 the other Ferrari driver, Charles Leclerc, decided to fit Hard compound tyres. In the middle of the race, Hamilton took the lead to 3.5 seconds over Bottas, 4.2 seconds over Verstappen, 13.6 seconds over Pérez and 34.9 seconds over Ricciardo. Verstappen tries the undercut, stopping on lap 35, mounting the Hard compound, which looks very competitive. Bottas is waiting for a lap, he gets back on track in front of the Red Bull Racing driver, but he is passed already at the third corner. Shortly after, Hamilton also stopped, who managed to keep the lead over Verstappen. Pérez, who did not change tyres, was in the lead. The Mexican held out at the top until lap 50, when he was passed by Lewis Hamilton at the first corner. The next lap Pérez is called back to the pits, to change tires, which happens with the switch to Soft tires.
Lewis Hamilton leads the race with 5 seconds ahead of Verstappen, 6.2 seconds over Bottas and 32 seconds over Pérez himself. Thanks to the new tires, however, the Mexican driver takes the fastest lap. In the last laps, Sainz Jr., who had seen the tyres change with Medium compound covers, suffered the degradation of his tyres, and went down several positions, finishing out of the points. At the end of the race, the Mercedes team calls Valtteri Bottas to the pits, to mount Soft tires, and give the assault to the fast lap and the additional point. The Finn managed, on the penultimate lap, to snatch the best performance in the race at Pérez. The choice of the Anglo-German team is also followed by Red Bull Racing, which recalls Max Verstappen, to try to recover the fast lap. The Dutchman managed, at the last lap, to beat Bottas' time, but, later, the time was cancelled because Verstappen exceeded the track limits. So, Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line of the Portuguese Grand Prix undisturbed, and seizes the success countless 97 in his career. The podium is completed with Max Verstappen, second, and Valtteri Bottas, third. The three were on the podium for the fifteenth time, marking a new record in the history of the Formula 1 World Championship. During the race thirteen times were cancelled to drivers for exceeding the limits of the track at the exit of Turn 1, four times were cancelled for exceeding the limits at the exit of turn 4, and one the time cancelled for having exceeded the limits at the exit of turn 14 (Sagres), during the race. In the first case we see cancel the time Yuki Tsunoda, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi (once), Nikita Mazepin, Mick Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly (twice); in the second case we see erase the time Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly; and finally, in the third case Max Verstappen’s time was cancelled. At the end of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton talks about the difficulties faced during the race:
"Really difficult race on a physical and mental level. Keep everything together, with this wind... it was easy to make mistakes. I started well like Valtteri, then I lost the position in the restart and I was not happy about this at all. I tried to put myself in the best possible way, and then I used Max’s mistake to attack him, and I got to the last sector. With Valtteri I had to try to attack him before the tyres were destroyed and I managed to pass him with precision in Turn 1. We must immediately tune in to the next race. We don’t have too much time for analysis. Today not everything was perfect. We will see in those areas where we can improve trying to replicate this performance on track".
Nor is Max Verstappen very happy, who admits to having run a discrete race:
"It was a good restart, I tried to put pressure on Valtteri. Today, however, we missed the pace a bit. Lewis managed to go over me again and after the pit stop I think it was difficult to warm the tires. Once we got to the second place we saw that we lacked pace compared to them. Second place and fast lap is not bad. Cancelled the fast lap? Strange. Before they did not check the limits of the track... but it’s okay. Weekend was strange in terms of grip. We could not come to the head of the car, let’s see if we will succeed in Barcelona".
The Dutch driver adds:
"There’s something about this track that really doesn’t fit our car, and I think that overall this has been a bad weekend in terms of grip and pace. We knew from last year that we weren’t particularly strong here. This year was a little better and we managed to finish ahead of a Mercedes, but we couldn’t get both. However, the second place is a good result and we always knew that this season would be fluctuating, between tracks where we were stronger and others where Mercedes was stronger. I tried to put pressure on Valtteri at the beginning, but clearly Lewis behind had more rhythm and overtook us both. I was then able to do the undercut on Valtteri in the pit stop, but you could clearly see that with the slower hard tires. In some laps we could approach Lewis’s time, but in others it was not possible. Towards the end of the race Valtteri was even recovering on me, which shows their pace today. It’s a shame that the fastest lap was taken away from me. Stupid track limits, they should just put the gravel back on. That’s it. I had the margin and so we tried to take it. Barcelona? I can’t wait, it is a track that has more normal grip levels and where I have good memories. I think we will also see a clearer picture of how the teams have progressed. The season is long, so many things can happen".
Also for Valtteri Bottas the day was quite complicated, even if he cannot give himself an explanation of why this happened:
"Complicated day. In the first stint I don’t know what happened but I just didn’t have the pace, for unknown reasons. We’ll have to understand. In the second stint it was good, but I had some problems with some sensors and I couldn’t get Max back. Overall I think we had strong package. I don’t know why we couldn’t get it to work in the first stint. But overall it went pretty well. Obviously it wasn’t what I was aiming for today, because when you start from pole you want to take home the victory. I think in the end the main problem was the first stint. I struggled with the rhythm and still don’t understand why. After the pit stop, it took some time to heat the hard tyres and Max managed to catch me. Eventually we also had a problem with the exhaust temperature sensor, which cost me speed on the straight. So it was hard to recover on Max and try to fight for the second position. Power was back in the end and I was able to place the fastest lap, which could be an important point. We need to analyze this weekend in the next two days, learn lessons and then focus on the next weekend".
To try to clarify the problems encountered by Valtteri Bottas the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff:
"Valtteri went very well. In the end we thought it was better than Max and that he could finish second, but the engine had a temperature problem causing him to lose five seconds".
And speaking of Lewis Hamilton, the Austrian manager adds:
"He didn’t take his 100th pole yesterday in qualifying, but he can sign it in Barcelona or later. For our part, we are happy that the car works well throughout the weekend, but the fight will be throughout the season. We found something to use the tyres better, but the Barcelona challenge will be very interesting. Many say that there you see the real competitiveness of the car. We will undoubtedly do our best there, also to understand even more things. We worked very hard after the Bahrain test, but I think the big step was made between Imola and Portimão. We really like this fight, Formula 1 must be like this. We hope it will go on until the end".
At the end of the Grand Prix, race director Michael Masi personally intervenes on the issue of the fastest lap revoked to Max Verstappen, to appease the controversy brought forward by the Red Bull team:
"As already mentioned in the event notes, and as we saw on Friday, Turn 14 was used differently than last season, becoming a problem in 2021. I had told the drivers to use the red and white kerb, as they did in Turn 5. He was told that if they took advantage of getting out of that curb line, either by overtaking an opponent or scoring a mini-The Commission would have been looking at it. Observing that lap in the post race, it seemed clear that Max had gone beyond the limits of the track, as well as recording the mini-sector faster than anyone else".
Michael Masi adds that the notes added on Saturday made clear mention of Turn 14, signaling that the drivers had been required to stay in contact with the red and white kerb. It was not a great race for Scuderia Ferrari and in particular for Carlos Sainz Jr., who at the end of the Grand Prix says:
"The start was good and everything was going well until lap 24 when I fitted the Medium to try to pass Norris with the strategy. I pushed a lot to try to overcome it, but there was a lot of graining and there were still many laps to complete. The car became very understeer and I lost several positions, but we didn’t expect this performance from the average. We knew that the first laps of the tire are always important, that you have to do them well without pushing too much. The decision to do the undercut was risky, but almost failed, From then on we ate the front tire losing pace. I want to be critical: it wasn’t a good race for us. We had all the ingredients to make a good race and finish in the top five. We had the right pace all weekend, but we got it wrong in the critical moments. We have to learn from this and come back stronger. It’s all part of the beginning of the season, where I have to understand the tires, the team, the car. I’m sure we’ll grow".
Scuderia Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, responded to allegations of mixed strategies by saying:
"With Sainz wrong strategy? More than that, there was an excess of ambition to overtake Norris at that time of the race, when perhaps we could have been more patient. The race was still very long, we could wait for further directions. With the soft Sainz was running well. At that moment we exaggerated our ambition to overcome Norris. Surely we are disappointed by this race, we wanted a different and better result. Portimao on paper could favour us over our direct competitors. It was not so. Yesterday in qualifying we were not perfect with Charles. Today the same. Carlos in the first soft stint was as fast as Norris, maybe even faster. Then we wanted to try an undercut that did not work and indeed put him in difficulty for the rest of the race. He had to push too much and immediately with the medium tires, he had graining. This took him out of the points and is not the result we wanted and hoped for".
Now the look necessarily goes to the race in Barcelona, scheduled for Sunday, May 9, 2021:
"It will be a great test stand. If you go hard there, go strong in many other tracks of the championship. We will prepare for the best. We want to redeem. The values in the field have been confirmed here as potential, both in qualifying and in the race. We will try to get ready and we absolutely want to make a better result".
Charles Leclerc is not happy either, despite the final P6:
"Actually, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I feel like I made a bad choice today. I think we made a great decision to go on hard tyres, but we struggled with the average, both me and Carlos: me in the first stint and him in the second. We had a lot of graining right away and we struggled with the tires. I have no explanation: on paper it seemed a very good choice, but in the race we struggled. Yes, sixth place was the best I could get, considering where I started. But then, if I look at the whole weekend I didn’t do a great job as a driver: in free practice and qualifying I didn’t get the best out of the car because I wasn’t constant. From eighth place there wasn’t much better we could do, but looking at the weekend we could have done a better job. If I missed the flicker? No, I wasn’t good this weekend. But I have to say I’m happy with how I drove in the race. But I had to recover what I didn’t do yesterday and that’s my fault. If we look at today’s race I’m happy, I couldn’t do more. But if we are not fifth today is also my fault: too bad because we had the potential to make it. But what we have to understand above all is what happened with these averages, I have not yet understood. Honestly on this track with this wind we struggled all weekend, I don’t think only us as Ferrari, to follow the drivers in front. When you have the same pace of McLaren as soon as you get closer to less than a second and a half you start to lose a few tenths and struggle. I think that’s why we couldn’t overtake today".
Lando Norris, who closed the Portuguese Grand Prix in P5, is rightly more satisfied:
"Satisfied? Yes very much. Fifth place was the best possible today, the other four cars were too far ahead. I am happy for the first laps that were very good, as well as the restart behind the Safety Car and the overtaking on Esteban [Ocon]. The second part of the race was difficult with Charles behind. He pushed so much with the hard tire, I with the average tire I had already done forty laps and I struggled to manage them. But I did a great job, without any mistakes. I definitely improved a bit, especially in the race, in the management of the tires, on when to push and on when to save the tires. I feel confident".
Despite the comeback completed and the points reached instead, appears more doubtful Daniel Ricciardo:
"Today there were times of speed and other times when we were not quite there yet. I take a lot away from today’s race. With the set-up there are things that can work in my favor. So, the Barcelona race should be good. Its pace was really good in the end on hard. It was an important pace. If they can keep it, then they will be a threat throughout the year. I feel that all this battle in the middle of the group may depend on the type of track".
All in all, Fernando Alonso is also happy, with his Alpine he was able to fight with McLaren and Ferrari:
"I’m happy, fighting with McLaren and Ferrari on track was impossible at Imola or Bahrain. This weekend the step forward was very big. We brought some news in the car. This certainly helped our performance. It may be that the characteristics of the track and the wind conditions have helped. Perhaps our car adapts better to the difficulties. We have to understand [how it will go] in the next races, but this weekend was definitely very good, after Imola and Bahrain where we had many doubts about our performance".
And Esteban Ocon is also satisfied:
"I am very happy with today’s race, I think we have reached the maximum. Having both cars in the points shows our progress. We had a strong weekend overall. Everyone in the team contributed to this progress. The fight with Ferraris and McLaren shows that we have improved the car and the package. Today’s overtaking was a lot of fun. We want to keep momentum and score more points. We know that next week will be different, but we aim to continue the progress and maintain this level of speed".
The executive director of the Alpine, Marcin Budkowski, explains how the negative performances of the transalpine team on the circuits of Sakhir and Imola resulted from problems in the wind tunnel found in winter:
"We had problems with the regulatory changes that resulted in the change of some characteristics of the machine. We then had criticality with the hardware, and the various flow characteristics that induced on the machine. And we had problems with the hardware, if you like, the wind tunnel and testing. The consequence is not that we have lost more performance than other teams, but the waste of time in development. And time is a precious resource in Formula 1. On the other hand everyone has the same amount of tests available for regulation, and if you have these problems others continue to develop the car, while you still try to get the right data from the wind tunnel. We lost a few weeks of development and these turned into tenths of a second. We have solved our problems, so we continue to invest and improve our wind tunnel and, fingers crossed, we will have no more problems next year. But it is certainly up to us to improve our understanding and our development skills. As for the gap with Ferrari and McLaren, we are working hard to try to improve the car. We have brought some developments to Imola, we are taking small steps in terms of improving the car’s performance, but the gap is a bit too big at the moment. We are working to close it, but it will be difficult to do so in the next races".
Antonio Giovinazzi, who hoped for a very different result, is undoubtedly less happy:
"We knew it would only be possible to take points if something important happened in front. I have come to the same position where I started, but personally I am happy and I had a lot of fun fighting at the beginning with Fernando and at the end with Sebastian. The car is better than last year, but there is still something missing to get into the Top ten. In qualifying we made a step forward. In the race we are all close: in Bahrain AlphaTauri was faster than us and we faster than Alpine. Here the French did better than us and Aston Martin. As I said, we are still not strong enough to easily get into the points. Alpine expected it stronger at first and now it’s here. We wait for higher temperatures, since Bahrain told us that in the heat we are stronger. I don’t know what weather we’ll find in Spain, but sooner or later it will start to get hot and hopefully it will be an advantage for our car. At the moment I don’t want to talk about points of view of Barcelona, maybe I’m pulling it a little. I try to do the best and then we see where we will be Sunday night".
Giovinazzi also tries to clarify the misunderstanding he had with Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the first lap:
"I saw that Kimi was behind me, then I heard a small blow. They told me that something was changing on the steering wheel and he took me. Fortunately it went well, I was afraid for a possible puncture".
The Finnish driver, for his part, is inevitably disappointed:
"You never want to have contact with your teammate. This time unfortunately it was my mistake, I got caught in the wake and I ended up against Antonio. I couldn’t do much later, the front wing got stuck under the car and I couldn’t steer: all I could do was go straight into the gravel. It’s a disappointment because it seemed like we had a decent pace, I made a really good start and the race could have been positive. The only positive side is that at least Antonio did not suffer damage and could continue".
After an excellent qualifying, George Russell hoped to get a different result from the final P16:
"After yesterday we all hoped for something more, but it was an incredibly challenging race. Our car is not suitable for these conditions. When the wind rises it becomes a real struggle. It’s a shame, but the positive aspects are that we know the strengths and weaknesses of the car, and so we just have to hope that going forward we will have some slightly calmer conditions that will allow us to demonstrate these strengths".
Lying for Nicholas Latifi continued the troubles he had all weekend:
"Today was difficult, we always had difficulties in the early laps and this was evident with George starting much higher than me and then after the first laps he was back where I was. It feels very borderline and we need to do some analysis to try to find a solution. There is definitely something missing at the moment and we must try to improve ahead of Barcelona".
It wasn’t a positive weekend for Aston Martin either, as admitted by Sebastian Vettel:
"It was a chaotic and difficult race, with a really long stint with Medium tyres. I do not think, however, that we could have opted for a different strategy: we simply did not have enough rhythm or consistency to cling to the group fighting for the points. Looking on the bright side, I will have new components in my car next week in Barcelona and we think they are a further step in the right direction. The real priority remains to improve in qualifying to have an extra gear even in the race".
And Lance Stroll confirms:
"It wasn’t our day, but we were stronger in the race than in qualifying. A complicated Saturday means an uphill race. My car seemed more balanced in the race and at the beginning we recovered a lot of positions, but then we could not find that extra performance that would have led us to the points. We would have scored points if we only had a better qualifying, I’m sure. Now it is useless to dwell too much, we must do everything possible to try to improve ourselves for the next weekend".
Relations between the managers of the Mercedes team and those of Red Bull do not live a happy moment, especially after the transfer of the motorist Ben Hodgkinson to Milton Keynes, after twenty years of militancy in the Silver Arrows. Intact, at the end of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff comments sarcastically:
"Helmut Marko is a powerful weapon, but for us. He certainly does not help his team, since he sees conspiracies everywhere".
And he adds, speaking of the Grand Premo of Portugal:
"It went well. Then we annoyed Dr. Marko, so it was really nice".
Indeed, the Austrian Red Bull Racing advisor is not happy about the fastest lap in the race - and the resulting extra point - taken from Verstappen due to the rules:
"In Bahrain we lost the victory. Then here in Portugal the pole position and now the fastest lap. Something has to change".
Marko mainly targets the FIA:
"Lando Norris passed Sergio Perez with all four wheels clearly off the track, but there were no consequences. The rules must be followed consistently. Either there are limits with curbs or we put gravel. This was a Mercedes track and we were competitive, maybe not enough to win, but developments are going in the right direction".
Then, the Austrian manager points out that Milton Keynes will try to extract performance from Red Bull RB16-B at least until the summer break:
"For the first time, Max Verstappen has a car at his disposal to play the title of World Champion. We can not betray him now, the development of the car at least until the summer break we owe it to him. Then we will see how the situation will be in the rankings to decide how to move in the final part of the season".