Having been outqualified by his teammate and dropping to third following a Safety Car restart, Lewis Hamilton managed to score his 97th Formula 1 victory, winning today’s Portuguese Grand Prix at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, ahead of Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas who took the final podium position to score valuable points for Mercedes-Benz, who today mark their 500th Grand Prix.
Hamilton now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 8 points with 69 points from Verstappen who is on 61 points and Lando Norris in third with 37 points. Mercedes leads the Constructors’ Championship with 101 points, followed by Red Bull on 83 points.
The early Safety Car came into play after Kimi Räikkönen crashed into his Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, forcing Hamilton to drop to third behind Verstappen at the Safety Car restart on Lap 7. However, in usual Hamilton style, the Englishman fought his way back and managed to pass Verstappen just four laps later. He then had Bottas in his sights and carried out a decisive pass on his teammate into Turn 1 on Lap 20 putting him the lead of the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Verstappen drove a strong race but had to settle for second after passing Bottas and pulling away from the Finn in the latter stages of the race. It was then a race between the Dutchman and Finn as to who could put in the fastest lap of the race to claim the bonus point. It was Bottas who managed to get it, after Verstappen had a faster lap deleted for a track limit infringement.
The second Red Bull of Sergio Perez came fourth just ahead of another strong performance from Lando Norris in his McLaren, who has managed to finish in the top five of all three races this season.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished just behind Norris in sixth, while the two Alpine drivers of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finished seventh and eighth, respectively. The second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth after a strong recovery and only qualifying 16th, and Pierre Gasly took the final point in a late pass on the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.
Giovinazzi recovered from his clash with Räikkönen on Lap 2 to take 12th, ahead of the Aston Martin’s of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll. Yuki Tsunoda had an altogether rather quiet Portuguese Grand Prix in the second AlphaTauri, coming home 15th ahead of George Russell in his Williams.
Meanwhile Mick Schumacher ran a strong race for Haas, putting in a late pass on the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi to finish 17th ahead of Latifi and teammate Mazepin, who finished 19th.
Hamilton summed up his race by saying:
“That was such a tough race, physically and mentally, just keeping everything together. It was very windy out there, obviously, so it was easy to put a foot wrong. I didn’t quite get as good a start as Valtteri, then lost out on the restart which was not good. I was not happy about that, naturally. But that race was satisfying, when you’re in third and have to overtake two amazing drivers – amazing! Having races like that is what I live for.
“The gap between us all is so close, and every single point is going to count this year. I love the battle, I’ve loved it since my days in karting and as a team, we can’t leave any stone unturned – we’ve got to continue to push this car, squeeze everything out of it.”
Team Principal, Christian Horner summed up Red Bull’s race by saying:
“Looking at today we can see that this championship is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. It’s so tight and it’s going to be all about marginal gains. Max drove the wheels off the car again today, snatching second from Mercedes and it’s super tight between him and Lewis. With Max, it was frustrating to lose the point for fastest lap at the end of the race due to track limits which I think we agree need to be consistent throughout the race weekend. Similarly with Sergio, he lost out to a case of track limits when he was overtaken by the McLaren but once he got back past, his race pace was good, so he is definitely getting there and the races are coming together for him. In clean air his pace was matching that of the leaders, so I’m pleased with the progress he is making. On the whole, second and fourth place means plenty of points and there’s only eight separating Max and Lewis in the championship. Barcelona next week will be the benchmark and we’ll get our heads down until then when hopefully we get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of all the cars.”
It is just a week before the next round of the championship, when the Formula 1 teams head east to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix on May 9th. Will Lewis Hamilton win again, or will Max Verstappen be able to stop the seven-time world champion from winning yet another Spanish Grand Prix? Hamilton has won every race here since 2017.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, McLaren and Haas F1 Team