Has F1 got the fight it’s “crying out for”? Six Portuguese GP talking points

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Will championship contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go wheel-to-wheel for a third race in a row this weekend? Here’s the talking points for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Hamilton vs Verstappen round three?

As Formula 1 heads to Autodromo do Algarve for round three of the world championship, Mercedes and Red Bull are uncertain which if either of them has the upper hand.

Victory at Imola brought Verstappen within one point of the championship lead. He’s never topped the standings before, but he almost certainly will do if he leads Hamilton home again on Sunday.

But his team principal Christian Horner is unwilling to make any prediction other than that it will remain close between the pair.

“We’ve now had a sample of two races, I always said it’d take four races or so to see a true reflection of the competitive positions of each of the teams,” said Horner after the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.

“After two races we’re starting to see a pattern that the cars and drivers are very, very tight between Lewis and Max.”

The title contenders made contact at the start at Imola
With all teams needing to think sooner rather than later about their development programme for the new technical regulations coming for the 2022 F1 season, neither of the championship contenders can afford to keep plugging away at this year’s cars for long. But Horner acknowledges those “marginal gains” could prove decisive in this year’s title fight.

“I hope, obviously, selfishly, for us,” he said. “But also, I think Formula 1 are crying out for a great rivalry between these two drivers and the sport will benefit from that.”

Despite their victory in Bahrain, Mercedes were stung by Red Bull’s show of superior pace. At Imola they threatened to again defy the competitive order by snatching a win, and though they didn’t, trackside operations director Andrew Shovlin believes they put Red Bull “under more consistent pressure than we than we were able to in Bahrain.”

“It certainly feels like this is going to be an exciting championship,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like one where either of us are going to run away with it in terms of performance. And we are working hard to develop the car in the next few races and hopefully will bring some useful improvements.”

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The point-less trio

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Imola, 2021
Alfa Romeo believe they should have points already
As the championship heads into its third race, three teams are yet to score any points, yet two of them have let clear chances go begging.

A slow pit stop and an errant visor tear-off cost Antonio Giovinazzi chances to score over the opening two races. His team mate Kimi Raikkonen would have finished in the top 10 last time out had he not collected a somewhat obscure penalty.

Williams can point to the collision between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas – which occured as they disputed ninth place – as part of the reason why they remain on zero. Haas, however, may have resigned themselves to the likelihood of ending they year in last place.

More grip, better racing?

Lando Norris, McLaren, Autodromo do Algarve, 2020
A slippery surface caught drivers out last year
Ahead of F1’s first visit to the Autodromo do Algarve for last year’s race, the Portuguese circuit was extensively resurfaced. The track was still fresh and lacking grip when the weekend began.

Although the state of the track’s surface was not nearly as challenging as what the drivers encountered at Istanbul Park, it wasn’t ideal. Race day was enlivened by an early shower, but if this weekend’s race is dry drivers will be hoping the track offers a little more grip, and with it better racing.

Alpine’s place in the order

Fernando Alonso has vowed to be more competitive this weekend, after finishing behind his team mate at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. Although both Alpine cars scored points at Imola, showing an improvement from their Bahrain performance, they still seemed adrift of much of the midfield, and were promoted by Raikkonen’s penalty.

AlphaTauri, Ferrari and McLaren showed much more competitive pace, with McLaren first among those. Alpine did say, however, that although they were bringing updates to Imola it would be as part of an iterative package that would continue into the Portuguese Grand Prix. If they have a substantial pace improvement this weekend – or equally, if they don’t – it could show more where they fit into the order.

Ilott’s practice outing

Callum Ilott, Nurburgring, 2020
Will Ilott get to do a lap in his second F1 appearance?
Callum Ilott, last year’s Formula 2 runner-up, should have made his F1 practice debut in last year’s Eifel Grand Prix. But his planned outing for Haas did not go ahead after poor weather prevented the sessions from taking place.

Since then he appeared in the young driver test in Abu Dhabi for Alfa Romeo. He will return to them this weekend for another shot at a practice session. It’ll stand him in good stead if he has to appear as a substitute for either driver, as he will share reserve duties with Robert Kubica.

Calendar changes and Sprint Qualifying

Tow major developments have been announced in the lead-up to the race. Yesterday a tweak to the 2021 F1 calendar was confirmed: The Canadian Grand Prix will not go ahead, and the series will go to Turkey instead.

Formula 1 has also confirmed a huge change for three weekends later in the season. New ‘Sprint Qualifying’ sessions will take place at three rounds and award championship points. F1 has trumpeted the fact it received the unanimous backing of teams, but what about the plan has got them so excited? Perhaps we’ll find out this weekend.

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Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Portuguese Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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43 comments on “Has F1 got the fight it’s “crying out for”? Six Portuguese GP talking points”

  1. Well, I am looking forward to this race. I think we will see Red Bull being fastest again. And with more stable weather, I doubt Perez will be spinning off this time, so he could be at the front as well. And Portimao has quite a different profile, so getting heat into the tyres should be less of an issue for both Mercedes, meaning we could get our first race where all 4 drivers of the top teams are at the front of the field, giving us more of a tactical play rather than racing. But then, who knows.

    I am curious to see whether Ricciardo comes to grip with the McLaren better. And wheter the Ferraris again manage to outpace the McLarens in qualifying.

    As for the changes announced – Turkey is a solid replacement for Canada. And yeah, well, it was always going to happen with the sprint thing, they were pushing, pushing and got it. Let’s see how it turns out. Though I saw the early reports that Silverstone nicely upped its prices for the occasion: Minimum of 200 GBP for the weekend, 100 GBP for a single day. Guess that helps make the people who are going on last years tickets more valued?

    1. I think merc is going to be fastest again. shorter drs might mean only merc cars can use it. I hope it rains again otherwise the race might end up as boring as Imola last year.

      1. @peartree
        What do you mean only Mercedes cars can use DRS?

    2. I don’t expect Ric to be far up the field this week, he wasn’t at all fast here last year.

  2. I expect another close battle on the top, whichever way round.

    I don’t have high hopes for Alpine, though. Not really any more than AM.

    The track surface should be grippier this time. I’m hopeful of this, albeit the quality of racing is another matter.

    1. The more grip there is, the worse the racing will be

      1. I was thinking the same. Imagine if turkey had been more grippy too last year, that would have been far less exciting.

    2. Too early to say. Mercedes will have worked away their delay in testing and the regular routine will be put in place. I expect to see a similar to the last 7 years season. Maybe RedBull slightly more competitive, but Lewis will cruise to his 8th..

  3. Hamilton wins Portugal because you know why I’m saying that.

    1. The reason that he wins a country is because I/we know why you are saying this !?!?

      1. You still don’t know why I said it? You won’t get it.

        1. You still don’t know why I said it?

          No, I don’t @ILuvSoundtracks.
          But then again, you might mistake me for somebody who cares!

          1. I’m gonna come clean. It’s me.

          2. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
            29th April 2021, 13:04

            I’m gonna come clean and say that I’m the one who said “Hamilton wins Portugal” as “Dave”. I haven’t logged in for a long time so yeah, that was me.

          3. “nO, i dON’t. BUt THEN AGain, You MIGht mIStaKE ME For SOmebOdy WHo caRES!”¨

            You know what? I had to fake my “coming clean” because you said this. You’re a total liar. I NEVER registered on this site. And one more thing I had to reveal why I said this, liar: Max Verstappen’s Portugal 2020 radio outburst was the reason why I said Hamilton will win Portugal because I don’t want Verstappen to win in Portugal. Ever. Reason revealed, you happy now, liar?! 1-0 to me because you tried to suspect me that I’m him. BYE BYE, HA HA HA.

        2. If Hamilton wins Portugal because “I know why you said it” but I don’t know why you said it, does that mean that Hamilton will not win Portugal?

          1. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
            29th April 2021, 13:36

            I want to tell you a final secret – it was me who said that as “Dave”.

          2. ILuvSoundtracks never said this

    2. Mark my words I think A Driver will win on Sunday!

      1. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
        29th April 2021, 13:37

        @qeki No, it’s going to be close between Hamilton and…Lastname!

  4. Hope we get another cracker like the last 2.

    While the front of the field should be exciting, the driver I am most looking forward to this weekend is Gasly. He was in great form last year around here and has had rotten luck in last 2 races in a car that is undoubtedly quick. If he gets a clean weekend, I feel we will get a nice three-way contest for best of the rest with Lando, Charles and Pierre.

    1. Completely agree about Gasly, his finishing positions so far do not feel reflective of him or the car.

  5. I’m expecting RBR to actually get everything right this weekend and run away with it completely much like the way Mercedes have done for the past 6

    The real competition is for positions 3 thru 10 behind Max and Lewis.

    1. If RBR gets it right, then I’m most interested in what Perez can show.
      @dbradock

      1. @coldfly agreed – I don’t think either Max or Perez have had a particularly clean weekend yet.
        Don’t see Perez being much more than about 50% closer than his predecessors to Max but that should be enough for 2nd or third most races.

      2. bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye bye

    2. @dbradock What makes you think that? Mercedes was fastest in the last race.

      1. They were? I don’t recall them winning it or even being close until the red flag.

        IMO where Bottas was is about where they really are other than Hamilton being good enoug to keep it a bit further up.

        Once RBR stops messing up, either by strategy or by driver error, they’ll be well clear.

        1. Mercedes car race pace is still superior. Lewis would have easily won the race if not for his little mistake (which didnt even cost him much given regulations and the machine he has). I dont understand why people are so excited as Mercedes is just slow at the start of the season given their set back in testing. They will sooner or later get back in their old rhythm. Good for RB to take advantage while they can but I dont think it will make difference over the course of an entire season.

          1. It also seems rather odd that so many seem to be resisting so strongly the idea that Red Bull might have a fast car.

            Why is there such a phobia of saying that they might have a quick car, to the point that some become really quite angry in their insistence that it cannot be that fast? It’s as if some fear that suggesting that they might have a great car, or even that it is the best in the field, will result in something bad happening.

          2. @anon The only one with so strong feelings about it seems to be you for some reason..

          3. @balue congratulations on proceeding to prove my point by posting exactly the sort of passive-aggressive post that I was talking about.

            Something is clearly agitating you to the point that you felt compelled to angrily retort at others and making you very irritable – what is causing your anger management issues?

          4. Chill pills exist.

        2. @dbradock

          where Bottas was is about where they really are other than Hamilton being good enoug to keep it a bit further up

          Bless

          1. I guess we’ll see this weekend won’t we.

            I find it strange that people can’t fathom that after 6 years Mercedes seem to have built a car with an aero problem but when RBR messed up continuously at the start of every season for the last 5 that’s OK.

            It was only going to be a matter of time before RBR actually got one right.

            Same with PU’s – eventually someone was actually going to catch up.

  6. I think we might have a good fight, but Mercedes will win the constructors championship and driver championship in the end. How do I know this? I look at what the modern day oracles have to say, aka the betting firms. These betting firms can loose a lot of money if they get their predictions wrong and they are hardly ever wrong. Guess who the experts at predicting the future is backing to win this year?

    1. There is a major misconception about what betting firms actually do, and I think you are also making a similar error.

      What they are doing is finding a way to profit from what those making a bet think will happen and that is influenced by what the public thinks will happen.

      If there are a lot of people putting money on one driver, that drives the odds down automatically to balance out the potential payments to those who backed that driver – if a driver with longer odds wins, they still usually profit because the amount of money bet in them is offset by the amount that others have bet elsewhere.

      Those odds therefore really reflect what the average person on the street thinks will happen, and how the betting firms adjust the odds to profit if a different driver won.

      If a lot of people put money on a Hamilton victory, then the odds reduce to reflect that – if that money was pumped into bets on Verstappen, the exact same thing would also happen. They are normally just shuffling money between members of the public and making sure that they can take a cut from those who bet the wrong way – it’s usually only the real freak events, where there wasn’t enough cash from the public to shuffle around, where they make a loss.

  7. Boring Verstappen domination incoming this weekend.

    Hamilton will steal 2nd from Perez in the slower car.

    1. That’s exactly the type of boring I am looking forward to. Bring it on!

  8. I am not on the hype train yet. I dont see any reason why Mercedes is not going to repeat last year. So they are a bit slow from the get go at the start of the season. Just two races in and everyone participates in the Liberty Marketing train. Lets see a few more races first. So far the Sunday race pace of Mercedes is stellar and unachievable by RedBull.

    1. I think hamilton had superior pace on sunday, I’m talking when he reduced the gap to verstappen to around 1,5 sec before his mistake, he was closing in, verstappen had some lapped cars to get past, but after he did, hamilton was still closing, and even after their pit stops, this as far as imola is concerned, in bahrain they seemed similar.

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