A brilliantly managed race from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton saw him take his second win of the 2021 season at the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Briton finishing ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, as Hamilton’s polesitting team mate Valtteri Bottas came home third.
With Hamilton starting second on the grid, an early Safety Car after Kimi Raikkonen had crashed into his Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi saw the seven-time champion drop to third behind Verstappen at the Lap 7 Safety Car restart.
But Hamilton then fought back brilliantly, passing Verstappen back for P2 four laps later before claiming the lead with an incisive pass on Bottas into Turn 1 on Lap 20 of 66 – eventually coming home for his 97th F1 victory, and extending his lead at the head of the drivers’ championship.
Like Hamilton, Verstappen maintained his record of finishing all three races of 2021 so far in either P1 or P2 – but had to be satisfied with the latter result, the Dutchman able to pull away from Bottas in the latter stages of the race after the Finn suffered a sensor issue on his power unit, but having been unable to do much about Hamilton at the front.
Meanwhile, after late stops for both Bottas and Verstappen to try and claim the fastest lap bonus point, it was ultimately Bottas who got the job done, after Verstappen had a faster lap deleted for a track limits infringement.
Sergio Perez still has yet to finish on the podium as a Red Bull driver, but at least claimed his best result of the year with P4, ahead of Lando Norris, the McLaren driver having now finished in the top five at every race this season so far.
Norris in fifth led the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in sixth, while the Alpine pairing of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso completed the team’s fine weekend with P7 and P8 – Alonso in particular having driven brilliantly in the race’s latter stages.
After starting a “grim” P16, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo fought back to P9 at the chequered flag, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly taking 10th after a late pass on Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
At the front though, the story of 2021’s fascinating Red Bull vs Mercedes battle had another chapter added to it at Portimao – with the wind now in the sails of the Silver Arrows.
AS IT HAPPENED
As the drivers lined up on a sun-bathed and breezy Portimao track, all eyes were trained on the four medium-shod cars at the head of the field, Mercedes’ polesitter Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton at the front, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez immediately behind.
Both Mercedes moved away in tandem as the lights went out, with Bottas keeping enough momentum to hold P1 from Hamilton after the 302-metre run into Turn 1. Verstappen was well off the mark too to hold P3, but Perez was less brisk, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – the highest-starting soft runner – using the advantage of the red-walled compound to nab P4.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was past Alpine’s Esteban Ocon for P6 into Turn 1, the duo trading places again at Turn 5, before Norris claimed the position definitively with a sweet move around the outside of the Frenchman at Turn 11.
Bottas had already built a handy cushion over Hamilton by the time he crossed the line at the end of Lap 1. Behind, though, Kimi Raikkonen was slipstreaming his Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi for P12 down the main straight when he simply ran into the back of the Italian, Raikkonen losing his front wing as he speared into the Turn 1 gravel and brought out the Safety Car.
That crash was good news for McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, though, contributing to him climbing from P16 to P13, the biggest gainer after the opening gambit.
Bottas got the race going again on Lap 7, brilliantly bamboozling Hamilton, who appeared to be caught off guard at the restart, with the Finn scampering away as Verstappen perfectly timed his own acceleration phase to pass Hamilton immediately around the outside of Turn 1 for second place.
A mistake from Sainz into Turn 3 dropped him from fourth to P6 and allowed Perez back up to P4 – but not for long, as Norris attacked into Turn 5 to claim the place from the Mexican, Ocon falling to P8 as Ricciardo climbed another two positions to P11.
Hamilton exacted his revenge on Verstappen on Lap 11, the Mercedes DRS-ing past the Red Bull on the main straight, with Verstappen complaining to race engineer GianPiero Lambiase: “We’re a sitting duck” – with Hamilton then quickly putting a couple of seconds between himself and the Red Bull.
Perez had complained about Norris’ Safety Car restart pass on him, saying the Briton had completed the move outside of track limits – but the matter was rendered academic when Perez then passed the McLaren for fourth on Lap 16.