F1: Three things to look out for in Portimao

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Formula One heads to Portimao for only the second time this weekend as F1 returns with the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Last year proved to be a cracker as Lewis Hamilton broke Michael Schumacher’s all time win record of 91 as the sport returned to Portugal for the first time since 1996. This year things wont be as easy for the seven time World Champion as Hamilton and title rival Max Verstappen look to do battle once again for the third time this season.

Can Max win back to back races for the first time?

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) // Getty Images

Despite having eleven wins to his name at only 23, Verstappen has never won two races in a row. With his RB16B allowing him to challenge for the top step regularly, this weekend could see the Dutchman put this stat to bed.

The usual antics from team principles has been in full swing this week, with both Toto Wolff and Christian Horner both claiming their opposition are favourites for the race.

Max went well here last year, finishing third after colliding with now teammate Sergio Perez on lap 1. Max will likely have the upper hand in quali, given the slight advantage Red Bull hold over a single lap.

Lewis however was the class of the field winning by over 25 seconds, which was the biggest margin of victory in 2020 sealing the all-time win record in the process.

Don’t count out Lewis this year either as the race pace may come to be the Silver Arrows’ saviour come Sunday afternoon, thanks in part to the World Champion team’s improved tyre wear.

Who is the best of the rest?

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

For me, this is the most interesting point of the season so far. As discussed in the Imola edition of our podcast, we couldn’t decide who has the 3rd best car, but Portugal might provide us with some clearer answers.

All three of the fancied runners had good showings last time out in the Algarve with Charles Leclerc impressing in P4 with that dog of a Ferrari. Pierre Gasly for AlphaTauri and Carlos Sainz in the McLaren came home in P5 and P6 respectively so all signs are pointing to a close fight once again.

In Imola, McLaren showed some considerable pace with Lando Norris claiming his second podium but Ferrari have improved immeasurably since 2020. AlphaTauri definitely have some latent pace in the AT02 but a cleaner weekend is needed to gauge their true performance.

Callum Ilott makes his F1 debut

This week brought the exciting news that F2 2020 runner up Callum Ilott has been signed as Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver for the remainder of the season. He will take to the track for the first time in a competitive session after testing for the team in 2019.

The Brit just missed out on the F2 title last season after being beaten by Mick Schumacher in the final round in Sahkir. Fellow reserve driver Robert Kubica will be unavailable for a number of Grand Prix this season so Ilott will be appearing at an as yet undefined amount of FP1 sessions in 2021.

All this experience will be invaluable for the 21-year-old as he looks to put himself in the shop window for a full-time drive in 2022.

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