After the dramatic opening salvos of the season, the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix was less spectacular. There was still plenty of meat on the bones to chew on from a weekend in the Algarve. The GP Grandstand team reflect back on F1’s second race at Portimao.
Thiemo Albers-Daly: “A race of strategy”
Whilst the Portuguese Grand Prix was definitely the least exciting one of 2021 thus far, there was still plenty to enjoy from it in my opinion. Hamilton proved once again why he’s the top-dog on the grid and Max showed that he’s going to be the one to consistently bring the fight to him this season, not Bottas.
Another strong drive from Lando is great to see, especially as it keeps him in third place in the Driver’s Championship. Alpine should also be commended for their excellent race as Alonso looks like he’s getting back to his old self.
Finally, Mick Schumacher deserves some credit for fighting and beating Latifi, even though blue flags hindered him several times. A race of strategy for sure but still a solid outing for Formula 1.
Jacob Phillips: “The tide seemed to turn to Mercedes”
Not a classic by any means, but a race I found intriguing nonetheless. Whilst Red Bull and Verstappen had the upper hand in the opening two rounds, the tide seemed to turn toward Mercedes as we reached the Algarve.
Don’t write off the Dutchman yet though as there were signs of real promise emanating from his RB16B, had track limit violations and an evergreen Lewis Hamilton not scuppered his chances.
It was great to see Norris continue his great start to the season, with my highlight of the weekend being the improvement shown by Alpine.
Jim Kimberley: “The Portuguese Grand Prix taught me little”
Portugal let us see a race with on-track passes for the lead. It had hard wheel-to-wheel racing from the two championship protagonists. And the race winner didn’t start from pole position meaning they had to earn the win. Yet it was a woeful Grand Prix.
I can’t put my finger on what went wrong for us fans at Portimao. The only truly notable element for me was Portugal officially marked my first mid-race nap of boredom for 2021. For an afternoon-scheduled race, that is not an encouraging sign.
Perhaps the problem was how little I felt the Portuguese Grand Prix taught me. I know Verstappen and Hamilton are hard and fast racers. I know Bottas and Perez play second fiddle to their superior teammates. That Ricciardo will make up places from the back, Russell will slip to the back and Mazepin will start and stay at the back.
I would say it’s onwards and upwards for F1 after such a dull outing this week, but it’s onto Barcelona and Monaco next. Not much fun for anyone, unless you’re a masochist.
Gareth Winslade: Norris continues to rise as Russell’s shine slides
Lando Norris has impressed in every category on his way to F1. Yet he definitely seemed second best to George Russell in F2 apart from Bahrain. I bring this ancient history up because 2021 is the first season where it is starting to look the other way round. Norris has been handed a pretty decent McLaren this season and he is making it work for him.
Clearly the standout partnership of Formula 1.5. If Norris and Ricciardo can get among the Red Bulls and Mercedes this year, it would be amazing. Albeit acknowledging that Ricciardo is still gelling with the McLaren and getting up to speed. Meanwhile, Russell isn’t delivering those sweet Sunday underdog drives we crave as fans. Maybe he is overdriving. Maybe that “peaky downforce” Williams is just too ill-handling on race fuel. But it is clear that Russell needs to get out of the Williams at the end of this year for fear of tarnishing his hard-won reputation.
Speaking of underdogs, how cool was it to see Mick Schumacher overtake Nicholas Latifi? It was a good move and one of the feel-good moments of the race. From underdogs to old dogs. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But when their old trick is wringing the maximum out of an underperforming car then who cares! Fernando Alonso came alive on the hard tyres and his lap times really made me sit up and take notice. Yes, he was bested by his teammate Ocon once again but it felt like Alonso was back. Ocon meanwhile drove a superb race. Launching overtaking attempts on any car within his vicinity, this race was an answer to the question; Why is Ocon on the grid?
Lewis Hamilton continues to show us his killer instinct and supreme talent. His passes on Verstappen and Bottas were thrilling to watch. Admittedly the race at the front lost a lot of its fizz once he had made the moves but that’s not his fault. The Red Bull seemed a little down on race pace and Bottas just couldn’t keep up with his teammate. He was actually lucky that Perez had lost so much time earlier in the race. It was still a fairly decent result for Perez but Red Bull and the fans are expecting more as we go through the year.
A solid if unspectacular Portuguese Grand Prix after the first 30 laps. I still enjoyed it.