Lewis Hamilton took his ninety-seventh Grands Prix victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix, after fighting back early on in the race. Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team teammate Valtteri Bottas was third.
It was a near perfect day for the Mercedes camp, with a buzz around the garage similar to 2013 according to Team Principal Toto Wolff.
Bottas made the perfect launch from pole and led the opening stages of the race, which included a safety car after the opening lap. Hamilton dropped behind rival Max Verstappen after misjudging when Bottas would restart the race, it didn’t take long though for Hamilton to get to the front. The world champion pulled off two incredible overtakes at Turn One.
From then on Hamilton stayed in control, whereas Bottas hit trouble. The Finnish driver fell behind Verstappen after coming out of the pits, his tyres had less temperature than the Red Bull Racing driver, who pitted a lap earlier.
An exhaust temperature sensor issue for Bottas ended any hope of reclaiming second place, meaning third place it was for the driver under immense pressure.
Wolff is understandably proud of Hamilton’s performance and also feels bad for the troubled Bottas.
“Absolutely stunning drive from Lewis and it seemed under control all through the race. You could see, and hear in his voice, how much he was pushing. An incredible drive. Valtteri had some real pace at the beginning and you could see that it was difficult for Lewis to catch up, it was real speed. But then eventually Lewis managed to get past and off he went.”
“The exhaust sensor issue was unfortunate for Valtteri later in the race because he really caught up well to Max and then it kind of stabilised at 1.5/1.6 seconds, but he had more to come at the end of the race. We couldn’t override the faulty sensor so the engine went into protection mode and that cost him 5 seconds. Valtteri probably would have had a shot on Max at the end if we were not to let him down on the power unit. I think we need to give him credit.”
With the fight between Red Bull and Mercedes being the closest it has in years, Wolff can sense a special feeling in the Mercedes garage.
“When we were behind in testing and in Bahrain, it’s a buzz that I have not felt in the Team since 2013 when we had that first sniff that we could be there. The whole place is excited and continues to be excited. I’d like to be happy after Abu Dhabi at the end of the season but for the time being, we’ll take it one step at a time.”
“We can be pleased with the result this weekend” – Shovlin
Mercedes Track Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin was also full of praise for Hamilton’s performance and in similar fashion to Wolff, he felt disappointed for Bottas.
“A really impressive and well-deserved win from Lewis; two solid overtakes to take the lead and he controlled it from there to the finish. Valtteri did a good job at the start and the restart but seemed to be lacking a bit of pace on the medium which allowed Verstappen to get within undercut range.” Said Shovlin. “That, together with a moment at turn 4, allowed Max to pass.”
“Valtteri had strong pace on the hard tyre and we thought he was going to be able to take the position back from Max until an exhaust temperature sensor put an end to our hopes. As a consolation, he was able to pull enough time on Perez to earn a free stop to go for fastest lap,” he continued.
“We’ll review the timing of our call as we opened the window for Red Bull to also have a go and had it not been for Max’s mistake at T14, we’d have lost a valuable point to them.”
With a second win of the season for Hamilton and now five podiums for the Mercedes team so far in the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship, the team extend their drivers and constructors world championship lead. The team now have a quick turnaround as they head to Catalunya next weekend, expecting yet another fight with Red Bull.
“Overall, we can be pleased with the result this weekend, we’ve consolidated our lead in both championships and we had good pace on low and high fuel. However, the margins are super fine and it’s a reminder that we need to get everything right to beat Red Bull. We’ve got a difficult race next week in Barcelona; it’s a tyre overheating track like Bahrain so we’ll be using the next few days to prepare ourselves for that challenge.”