Apr.29 – The thrilling 2021 Formula 1 World Championship season will continue with the third race of the calendar, the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix.
Portugal will host a round of Formula 1 motor racing for the second consecutive season, and the Algarve Circuit’s roller coaster nature will be a challenge for drivers on the three days of action.
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes arrive at Portugal leading the World Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships, respectively, but the world-beating Mercedes team is coming off a loss at the hands of Red Bull and Max Verstappen at Imola, and Red Bull’s RB16B seems to be the strongest package at the moment.
Last year, Hamilton led a Mercedes 1-2, with his teammate Valtteri Bottas behind, at Portugal after a thrilling start to the race. With damp patches on the track, the first lap of last year’s race at Portimao was stunning, and Carlos Sainz (driving for McLaren then) took the lead after a great start.
Red Bull and Mercedes will surely be at the front in Portugal, but the field has given us glimpses that might make us think that things are a little more competitive this year. In Imola’s qualifying, the Top 8 places were covered by 0.487 seconds, which was the smallest margin between first and eighth since the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix.
The race at Portugal will also be extremely important for the other drivers of Mercedes and Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Pérez. Bottas struggled in the qualifying session and then retired from the race after a crash with Williams’ George Russell. While the crash was not Bottas’ fault, the race was bad for him at that point, as he was only in ninth place.
On Pérez’s side, things were a little better, as he had a strong qualifying session with P2 and just 0.035 seconds off Pole Position, though he admitted a slight mistake cost him P1. However, a run of mistakes on Sunday’s race were too much for Pérez to overcome, and he finished only 11th on the same car that won the motor race.
McLaren-Mercedes versus Ferrari
The subheading that precedes this paragraph might seem like a journey through the history of F1, but the reality is that McLaren and Ferrari seem to be quite close on pace in the 2021 Formula 1 season, and they are definitely having a good fight to emerge as the third-best team on the grid.
Each team has scored points in the first two races of the season with its two drivers. McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo are currently third and seventh in the championship, with Norris taking a solid podium at Imola last time out. On Ferrari’s side, Charles Leclerc is fourth in the WDC after finishing sixth at Bahrain and fourth at Imola, and Carlos Sainz is sixth in the championship and seemingly improving session by session with the Maranello-based team.
In the WCC, McLaren is currently third with 41 points, and Ferrari follows closely with 34. Portugal might produce another thrilling fight between the two outfits, and they might find themselves in a scrap for a podium place or even something bigger.
Behind McLaren and Ferrari, it seems that two groups are established. Alpha Tauri is fifth in the WCC with race-winner Pierre Gasly and rookie Yuki Tsunoda, and it seems that Aston Martin (Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll) and Alpine (Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon) are right there with the team, but have difficult outings in the first couple of GPs.
The final group of the grid has a seemingly rejuvenated Williams with George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, Alfa Romeo with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, and the struggling Haas. While those three teams are yet to score, Alfa Romeo and Williams seem to be clearly ahead of Haas and its rookie lineup with reigning F2 champion Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
2021 Portuguese GP Facts & Figures
The event will be the 18th championship race held in Portugal. The first World Championship Portuguese Grand Prix took place at Boavista in 1958, with Stirling Moss winning for Vanwall.
The race was celebrated in 1959 and 1960, with Moss and Jack Brabham winning both races with a Cooper-Climax car, at Monsanto and Boavista, respectively. The race was dropped from the calendar until 1984 when the Estoril Circuit came into the World Championship, and Alain Prost won for McLaren-TAG, in the same day Niki Lauda sealed his third Formula 1 title.
In 1985, Ayrton Senna took his maiden Formula 1 win at Portugal with a masterclass in the rain. Mansell won in 1986 for Williams-Honda and Prost broke Jackie Stewart’s all-time win record with his 28th victory in 1987, while he beat Ayrton Senna in 1988, passing the Brazilian after Senna defended his position a little over the limit.
The 1989 race saw a disqualified Nigel Mansell crashing into race-leader Senna and causing him to retire from the race, which would be costly for Senna’s title chances. Mansell beat Senna in 1990 for the win after a thrilling fight between the Ferraris and the McLarens.
Riccardo Patrese won for Williams in 1991, while Mansell did it in 1992, in a race in which Patrese suffered a horrendous accident which luckily caused no injuries. The 1993 event saw Michael Schumacher win his second Grand Prix, while Prost secured his fourth Formula 1 World Championship with second place.
Williams dominated from 1994 to 1996, with three different drivers. Damon Hill won in 1994, then David Coulthard took his maiden F1 win in 1995, and Jacques Villeneuve took his record-breaking fourth win in his rookie season in 1996.
The leaders in victories among drivers are Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell. They won three times each at the track. Among teams, Ferrari has taken seven wins in Portuguese soil, but only two of those came under the umbrella of the World Championship. Williams leads the ranking in terms of wins for teams, with six victories at Portugal in races that were part of the World Championship.
Most recently, Lewis Hamilton took his record-breaking 92nd Grand Prix win at Portugal in 2020, which made him the most successful racing driver in terms of GP wins.
Algarve International Circuit
The Portimao track is a 4.653-km circuit with 15 corners with exciting elevation changes and a final corner which give fans greatly aesthetic images of this era of Formula 1 cars.
The track will host its second Formula 1 race, and last year was quite good in terms of on-track battles that were decided after several corners with cars going side by side.
Portimao is the fourth different Portuguese track to host a Grand Prix, after Boavista, Monsanto and Estoril. Algarve was the 73rd different track to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The Portimao circuit is officially called the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve
The lap records set during last year’s GP were a 1:18.750 min lap by Lewis Hamilton in the race, and a 1:16.652 min lap in qualifying as the outright fastest lap in the circuit.
2021 Portuguese Grand Prix – Tyres
The dry tyres for the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix will be the C1 as P Zero White hard, C2 as P Zero Yellow Medium, and C3 as P Zero Red soft. This combination is Pirelli’s hardest choice and it will make its debut in the 2021 campaign, as the previous two races were run with Pirelli’s medium combination (C2, C3, C4).
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing, Mario Isola explained the tyre choice in a press release: “This range has been selected to cope with the unique demands that this circuit puts through the tyre, exacerbated in the event of warmer weather. Last year all three compounds were used during the race, with a variety of strategies and usage. Conditions were cool and windy, with occasional light rain, while track conditions changed throughout the weekend. The new surface was the key factor determining low grip while in terms of tyre performance, warm-up and graining were two other relevant factors.”
Pirelli will give each driver eight sets of soft tyres, three sets of medium tyres, and two sets of hard tyres.
2021 Portuguese Grand Prix – Weather Forecast
Friday, Apr 30th – FP1 & FP2
Conditions: Breezy in the afternoon
Max. temperature: 20°C
Chance of rain: 25%
Sunday, May 2nd – Race
Conditions: Sunny to partly cloudy
Max. temperature: 22°C
Chance of rain: 0%
Who will be on the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix Podium?
Another battle between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen should definitely be on the cards for Sunday. Hamilton currently leads the Dutch driver 44 to 43 points in the WDC table, and a victory for Verstappen would give him the lead of the championship for the first time of his career.
Bottas and Pérez will enter the weekend with some pressure to deliver good results for their teams, and the pair could be involved in a strong battle for a podium place. Of course, McLaren and Ferrari might be right there, and we could see one of the drivers from those teams stealing a spot in the podium.
The race is expected to happen under dry conditions, which would be exciting too, as the track provided good battles last year.
It will also be interesting to see if AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and Alpine can join McLaren and Ferrari in a fight for big point-scoring places.
The prediction for the top three of the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix is 1. Lewis Hamilton, 2. Max Verstappen, 3. Sergio Pérez.
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