The 66-lap 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton claim his 96th career victory. Red Bull was unable to take the challenge to Hamilton’s Mercedes as Max Verstappen was forced to settle for second. Valtteri Bottas brought his Mercedes home in third place despite a great race start.
Both Mercedes and Red Bulls started the race with medium tyres, but Verstappen caught Hamilton napping on the safety car restart on lap 6 to pass him for P2. However, soon enough, the Dutchman’s Red Bull was struggling for grip and Hamilton made the pass to take back second place. Hamilton then started his charge to his teammate, hungry for victory.
Then on lap 20, Hamilton used DRS and the superior outside line into turn 1 on Bottas. Bottas made what seemed to be a clumsy defence and thus lost the lead as he was starting to lose grip on his medium tyres.
With Hamilton in the lead over Bottas, Verstappen tried the undercut pitting on lap 36. Bottas boxed as well to try and cover him on the next lap. However, Verstappen with warmer tyres than Bottas, made his move on the back straight. Taking the advantage of the Mercedes being slippery on colder tyres, Verstappen moved up to second. But Hamilton who also pitted a lap later maintained his gap to Verstappen for the net lead.
Sergio Perez yet to make his pit stop was now leading the race. Using his skill to eke out the most from any tyre, Red Bull played the game of patience with the Mexican, hoping for a fruitful outcome. But it wasn’t to be.
Perez still on the medium tyres which he started on, was losing time to Hamilton. He eventually pitted on lap 51 for a set of used softs and stole the fastest lap time from Hamilton and the extra point.
With now a hefty gap to Perez, enough for a stop, Bottas pitted for soft tyres. Only to take the extra point back from the Mexican with less than 5 laps to go. Verstappen copied the move and then stole it back from Bottas on the final lap.
Hamilton was tempted to try the same but decided to settle for the comfortable 25 points that came with his 96th career victory. Verstappen crossed the finish line second with the fastest lap and Bottas in third. However, Verstappen’s lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 14 which meant Bottas took that extra fastest lap point. One that might be crucial later on in the season.
Perez finished fourth for Red Bull bagging in some valuable point for the team. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished P5 ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in sixth. Alpine had a brilliant race with both cars finishing in the points. Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finished seventh and eighth respectively. Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren settled for ninth with Pierre Gasly claiming the final point-scoring position in P10.
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