2021 Portuguese Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton retains F1 championship lead
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, secured his 97th race win as he cruised to the finish line in Portugal, ahead of Max Verstappen, Red Bull, to retain the lead of the championship.
The Mercedes-AMG safety car made another appearance, to maintain its 100% appearance this season, as Alfa Romeo driver, Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire on lap two.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, secured pole position on Saturday with a lap time of 1:18.348, 0.007 seconds faster than teammate Hamilton.
It was a clean and well behaved getaway from the field as the lights went out with no incidents as the cars whipped around the track. Bottas completed the first lap ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen, respectively. However, this good behaviour was short-lived.
Raikkonen, at the start of the second lap, used his teammate to get a slipstream down the main straight. But, he failed to move out of the slipstream in time and made contact with Antonio Giovinazzi’s rear left tyre and broke his front wing in the process.
The Finn found a service road across the gravel at turn one. This caused the safety car, on lap two, to be deployed as the track marshals worked to get the car off the track.
Signed, sealed and delivered, by @Max33Verstappen! 💌
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 4, 2021
As the race got back underway, when the Safety Car returned to the pit lane on lap six, Bottas managed to get the jump on his teammate, who was left vulnerable to an attack from Verstappen. By turn one, the Dutchman managed to take the outside line around the seven-time world champion and take second to chase down the Finn’s Mercedes.
However, this gained position didn’t last long as Hamilton put Verstappen under pressure on lap 11, with assistance from his Drag Reduction System (DRS). As the duo went into turn one, similar to the Dutch driver’s move five laps earlier, the British Mercedes took the outside line to regain P2 from the Dutchman.
“Just a sitting duck on the straights” says Verstappen to his pit wall.
After a poor qualifying on Saturday, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, had to put in a recovery drive to put his MCL35M into the points after starting 16th. By the first round of pit stops, Ricciardo was nearing the top five as the field started to pit. However, by the end, he finished in P9.
On lap 20, similar to his move on Verstappen, Hamilton used his DRS along the main straight as he chased down his teammate. Going into turn one, Bottas defended the inside line and forced Hamilton to venture around the long way. However, this was a quicker route than the inside line and Hamilton gained the lead of the race.
As the race settled down, it was clear it had become a three-horse race with Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen, first, second and third, respectively.
Out of the top three, Verstappen was the first to pit on lap 36 as the Dutchman swapped his medium compounds for a fresh new set of hard tyres – in an attempt to over-cut Bottas. As the Finn’s Mercedes pitted for a set of Hard tyres, a lap later, Bottas struggled to get his tyres to work on the first lap out of the pits and it compromised his run into the fourth corner.
It made him vulnerable on the exit of turn four to Verstappen and the Red Bull driver then went on to gain P2 into turn five.
“We’re rear limited with this car, with these tyres” says Hamilton to his pit wall.
On lap 51, Hamilton called for blue flags over the radio as he approached Red Bull’s newest arrival, Sergio Perez, along the main straight – who was leading the race as he was yet to pit. However, it was relayed back, Hamilton would have to get the move done on track due to Perez’s track position. In the end, Hamilton got the move done into turn one.
Nikita Mazepin, one of Haas’ 2021 rookies, was slapped with a five second timed penalty after he was deemed to have ignored blue flags, which nearly caused an incident between himself and Perez.
Bottas came over the radio as he stated his car was ‘losing power’ on the 55th lap. It was later believed to have been a sensor issue within the power unit.
In the dying lap, both Bottas and Verstappen pitted to change their hard tyres for the soft compounds, in an attempt to secure the DHL fastest lap.
On lap 65, Bottas put in a 1:19.865 lap but Verstappen retaliated on the final lap and put in a time of 1:19.849. However, race control invalidated the Dutchman’s lap time after he was found to have exceeded track limits at turn 14.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 3, 2021
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes):
1:18.865 (Lap 65)
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