Lewis Hamilton created history at Portimao by winning his 92nd Formula 1 race, thereby passing Michael Schumacher as the Formula 1 driver with the most number of race wins.
Earlier, it was normalcy restored with the Friday practice going along unlike at Nürburgring. The drivers took their time to understand the new track which had very high elevation changes and changing wind directions made it difficult for the aerodynamic effects to kick-in. The practices were smooth apart from a few spins here and there. Pierre Gasly had the rear of the car on fire which brought out the red flags and the returning Lance Stroll, who informed that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and got cured, collided with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at Turn 1. Haas F1 had announced that both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean will not be driving for them in 2021.
The first part of qualifying started as usual with the “SATURDAY MAN” George Russell again putting in mega efforts to put his Williams into Q2. The Ferrari powered cars of Alfa Romeo (Kimi Raikkonen & Giovinazzi) and Haas F1 (Kevin Magnussen & Romain Grosjean) were eliminated along with the other Williams of Nicolas Latifi, who qualified 20th.
The second part of qualifying saw both the Mercedes and Ferraris attempting to get into Q3 on the medium tyre as opposed to the softs preferred by all other teams. The Mercedes pair easily made it to Q3 but only Charles Leclerc of Ferrari making it to Q3 on medium tyre and Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari was unable to go any better than 15th. The session ended with Australian Daniel Ricciardo spinning out and just about nudging the barriers. He managed to scrap through to Q3 with the 10th quickest time. The 2nd part of qualifying saw Estaben Ocon of Renault, Lance Stroll of Racing point, Alpha Tauri’s Danill Kvyat, Williams’s George Russell and Ferrari’s Vettel bow out.
The Q3 began with the Mercedes putting their times on board on a set of soft tyres and going into the 1:16s. Redbull’s Alex Albon put his first time on a set of mediums but had to go for the soft tyre run hoping for a bit more pace. The Mercedes switched plans to go to mediums for the final runs in Q3 probably hoping that the cold temperatures would suit the medium tyre better and that was what exactly happened. The Mercedes pair went a couple of tenths quicker than their soft tyre runs and Lewis Hamilton managed to pip Valterri Bottas to the pole position by 0.1 seconds. Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez and Albon completed the top six. The two Mclarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris followed them with Pierre Gasly qualifying 9th. Ricciardo could not set a competitive time in Q3 as his rear wing needed to be replaced following the spin in Q2.
The race was to provide drama right from the start. As the circuit was damp, it meant everyone had to scrap through carefully on the dry tyres. Hamilton made a clear getaway and held position but soon began to lose temperature in his tyres and began sliding everywhere. Almost everyone struggled barring the most experienced Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi probably made the start of the season by gaining as many as 10 places – from P16 to P6 by Lap 1. Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen made contact which led to the Racing point getting spun and ending up dead last. Perez had to pit for a fresh set of mediums following the spin. Hamilton struggled to keep up with the tyres and was passed by Bottas. The Mclarens made a splendid start to race into P2 and P4 by Lap 1.
Carlos Sainz moved past a struggling Bottas on Lap 2 to gain the lead of the Portuguese which he kept for as long as Lap 6. By Lap 8, Sainz was passed by both the Mercedes and the Red bull of Max Verstappen as he reported to be struggling with the soft tyres. Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly showed great pace by making up places. On Lap 18, Lance Stroll’s upward movement was cut short when he collided with Lando Norris while attempting an overtake into Turn 1. He received a 5 seconds time penalty for the incident and the collision resulted in both Norris and Stroll falling to the back needing a front wing change. Hamilton showed great pace through out and a made clean pass on Bottas on lap 20 to regain the lead of the grand prix. Sergio Perez who had to pit earlier because of the collision with Max made some great moves and showed great pace in going as high as P4 before pitting again for the second time. George Russell made the medium tyres last long and ran as high as P7 for the initial half distance of the race, the highest position he has raced at in his career. Perez pitted for softs hoping to be gain a pace advantage over all others who were on mediums, but the drop in temperature meant the soft tyre not working as expected and a P5 turned quickly into P7 for him in the last 2 laps with Gasly and Sainz managing to get past him.
At the front though, it was a complete Lewis Hamilton show. Post his overtake on Bottas, he never looked back and put up another strong performance to finally break the record of Michael Schumacher for the most number of wins in Formula 1. He clinched his 92nd victory with over 25 seconds margin on Bottas. Max Verstappen finished third and took the final place on the podium. Charles Leclerc put up a strong performance to end P4. Gasly, Sainz and Perez rounded off the top 7 with Ocon, Ricciardo and Vettel completing the top 10. Red Bull’s Alex Albon finished a lowly 12th and he was lapped by his teammate Verstappen. Lance Stroll was the only car to retire from the grand prix after reporting damage from the collision with Lando Norris.
This win further extends Lewis Hamilton’s lead in the championship and further stamped the dominance of Mercedes in the Constructor’s championship with another 1-2 finish.