With Mercedes-Benz AMG locking out the front row for the start of Sunday's 2021 Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix at the Portimao Circuit, it looked like we were in for another one-two finish for the team.
That wasn't to be thanks to a strong drive by Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen though victory for him remained out of reach. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was the first to cross the finish line, with Verstappen coming in some 29 seconds back. Third place went to pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas who brought his Mercedes in 33 seconds after the winner.
Bottas got a good start to jump into the lead, with Hamilton and Verstappen remaining on his tail. The safety car was then called out on the start of lap two after Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen came into contact with his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, causing debris to litter the track.
Some jitters at the restart on lap seven saw Hamilton drop behind Verstappen. The Red Bull driver's stay at second was short, however. Some oversteer at turn 14 saw Hamilton close in on the main straight, and with the help of DRS the Mercedes driver was able to pull ahead.
Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix
Verstappen couldn't match the pace of Hamilton who soon started to build a gap. By lap 20, Hamilton was already able to overtake Bottas for the lead spot. The battle for second place was now on, with Verstappen able to pass Bottas shortly after a pit stop. Verstappen was brought in on lap 35, with Bottas brought in one lap after. Bottas emerged just ahead of Verstappen who with warmer tires at this point managed to jump past and claim second position.
Meanwhile, fellow Red Bull driver Sergio Perez employed a long-range strategy, extending his tires all the way to lap 50 before pitting for the first time. The move saw Perez lead the race temporarily after Hamilton stopped for fresh tires. The Mercedes driver soon closed to the gap upon emerging from the pits, helped somewhat by Haas' Nikita Mazepin who blocked Perez. Mazepin was later handed a time penalty for ignoring blue flags.
Hamilton eventually passed Perez on lap 51. Perez then entered the pits for fresh tires and maintained his position to finish fourth, his best finish yet since joining Red Bull this year. Rounding out the top five was McLaren's Lando Norris who did a brilliant job of keeping Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz at bay.
Following this third race of the season, Hamilton still leads the 2021 Drivers' Championship, now with 69 points. Verstappen remains in second with 61 points and Norris in third with 37 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 101 points versus the 83 of Red Bull and 53 of McLaren. The next race on the calendar is the Spanish Grand Prix on May 9.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the 2021 Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix
Below are the full results from the 2021 Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix:
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz AMG
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing +29.148 seconds
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-Benz AMG +33.530 seconds
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing +39.735 seconds
5) Lando Norris, McLaren +51.369 seconds
6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari +55.781 seconds
7) Esteban Ocon, Alpine +63.749 seconds
8) Fernando Alonso, Alpine +64.808 seconds
9) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren +75.369 seconds
10) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri +76.463 seconds
11) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari +78.955 seconds
12) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo +1 lap
13) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin +1 lap
14) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin +1 lap
15) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri +1 lap
16) George Russell, Williams +1 lap
17) Mick Schumacher, Haas +2 laps
18) Nicholas Latifi, Williams +2 laps
19) Nikita Mazepin, Haas +2 laps
NC) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo DNF