Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix – Portimão Circuit

4 Mins read
Credit: LAT Images

For the third race of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the series returns to the Algarve International Circuit, or better known as Portimão for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

The circuit hasn’t been a staple one of the Formula 1 calendar having been drafted in during the 2020 season due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Before that, it had been twenty-four years since the series was last in Portugal.

This year, the F1 circus visit the track early in the season when there’s everything to play for.

What happened at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix?

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was incident packed from start to finish. The weather conditions were far from perfect for the drivers, with some parts of the track wet from light rain and other parts bone-dry. 

Fernando Alonso spun his car on intermediate tyres while travelling to the grid. Despite this, most of the grid still started the race on intermediate tyres. 

From the formation lap alone, it was clear that it was going to be a tricky race, with water spraying out from behind the cars. At lights out, Max Verstappen charged on polesitter Lewis Hamilton to take the lead at Tamburello. 

On Lap 2, the safety car made its first appearance of the day when Nicholas Latifi took at spin. He was able to re-join the grid but was clipped slightly by Nikita Mazepin, which sent him into the wall. Behind the safety car, Mick Schumacher hit the wall, losing his front wing and having to continue on for two laps without a nose due to the pit lane being closed.

Sergio Pérez also went off track during the period, losing two places. He was subsequently hit with a 10-second time penalty for overtaking behind the safety car while regaining his original place.

Once racing got started again on Lap 7, everything had calmed down and drivers were fighting for positions.

On Lap 31, Hamilton, while running in second, nearly beached his car at Tosa when a lock up while overtaking lapped cars sent him into the gravel. As he struggled to rejoin the track, George Russell and Valtteri Bottaswere involved in a high-speed crash that left everyone in shock. Russell was on the verge of overtaking Bottas for tenth when the two collided and went crashing into the barriers. 

The damage to both cars and debris on the track forced race control to red flag the cars. This worked out well for Hamilton as he was able to get his car back on track to continue, albeit now down in ninth place.

After a long red flag period, the cars all got racing again on Lap 35 with slightly better track conditions. Hamilton managed climb his way back up from ninth to second come the chequered flag, behind race winner Verstappen. Lando Norris finished off the podium in third after having a spectacular weekend. 

What happened at the last Portuguese Grand Prix?

Hamilton won his ninety-second Grand Prix, passing Michael Schumacher’s total tally. Teammate Bottas finished with second with Verstappen claiming the final podium place in third.

The race got off to a chaotic start as those that started on soft tyres seemed to have the upper hand. Polesitter Hamilton fell down to third on the first lap as he struggled to warm up his medium compounds. Sergio Pérez and Verstappen collided, forcing the former to pit so early in the race. 

Carlos Sainz Jr. was able to get himself into the lead after just two laps. Hamilton’s tyres got into the groove come lap 6 and was able to charge to reclaim first. Bottas overtook Sainz. to claim the lead with Hamilton not too far behind him in second.

Hamilton was able to reclaim the lead on Lap 20 and never looked back, crossing the finish line over 25 seconds ahead of Bottas.

The Circuit

Driver’s will race round the 4.653km track for a total of 66 laps, with the race distance coming up to 306.826km. 

This clockwise track has 15 corners in total, nine to the right and six to the left.

Despite the track only being 13 years old, it is classed as one of the old-school tracks with plenty of elevation changes and demanding turns. The track is often compared to a roller coaster ride.

Lap record is currently held by Lewis Hamilton, who set a time of 1:18.750 at last year’s Portuguese Grand Prix. 

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners and DRS Zones

Sector 1 starts with the long straight up to the first corner, consisting of Turn 1 through to 4. 

Sector 2 is the most demanding sector with seven corners including the Craig Jones corner, named after the former World Supersport rider who was killed in a motorcycle accident at Brands Hatch in 2008.

The final sector has Turn 12 through to 15, leading us back to the long pitlane straight.

This year, we have two DRS zones on track. The first one being the start finish straight and the second on the straight between Turn’s 4 and 5. 

Tyre Strategy

For the first time this year, Pirelli has nominated the three hardest compounds for the race at Portimão. Meaning we have the C1 white-striped hard, C2 yellow-striped medium and the C3 red-striped softs. 

It is expected for the weather to be warmer conditions than it was during last year’s Portuguese Grand Prix. However, Pirelli believe these tyres match the circuits characteristics. 

What should you look out for this year?

Two races in and there is already a good battle at the top of the championship. Hamilton and Verstappen both have one win and one second place position each. The only thing separating the two is a fastest lap point which went to Hamilton during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. We are sure it’ll be another tasty contest between the two this weekend.

The battle for third in the Constructors Championship looks to be between McLaren F1 Team and Scuderia Ferrari. Both teams are they only ones to have both drivers score points at all the races so far. Daniel Ricciardo and Sainz Jr. have had a slow start to their respective new teams so look out for them this weekend. 

Williams Racing have looked promising in the first two races, despite still not gaining any points. Russell was onboard for some points again at Imola and is growing ever closer to his first points in a Williams car.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 30 April

11:30 BST / 11:30 Local Time – Free Practice 1
15:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice 2

Saturday 1 May

12:00 BST / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice 3
15:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 2 May

15:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. You can watch all the coverage live on Sky F1.

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