Red Bull’s Max Verstappen collected his first Formula 1 race win of 2021 with a brilliant drive in tricky conditions a fortnight ago at Imola.
The Dutchman’s faultless performance propelled him to 43 points, only one point behind seven-time drivers’ champion Lewis Hamilton in the title fight. The Mercedes driver won the opening race in Bahrain and both will hope to pick up a second victory this weekend at the Algarve International Circuit.
F1’s returns to Portimao for the second consecutive year, after organisers added it to last year’s heavily-revised race calendar. Before 2020, Portimao last hosted a GP in 1996.
This weekend the focus is on the 4.6-kilometre long track that features undulation and draws comparisons to Germany’s Nurburgring and Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps. Many drivers enjoy its ‘rollercoaster’ feel due to its many twists and turns coupled to the undulation.
What to Expect in Italy
The circuit will favour this season’s fastest two cars: Mercedes and Red Bull. Both teams are producing excellent packages for qualifying and the race and have matched one another for pace in the opening two races.
Last season’s race saw many drivers struggle with grip on the newly re-laid Portimao Circuit and cooler conditions. Carlos Sainz, racing for McLaren, struck gold and leapt from seventh to second place as others faltered off the line.
Mercifully, warmer weather is forecast for the race weekend. Hamilton has fond memories of Portimao, he dominated the 2020 race and scored his 92nd GP victory, breaking a record for the most wins in the sport. His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, will need to get over his crash with Williams’ George Russell if he is to mount a title challenge.
McLaren’s Lando Norris, currently third in the championship, is in a rich vein of form and will be keen to score more points. The British driver hasn’t finished outside the top four this season. The Portuguese GP promises to be an exciting race with the wide track assisting drivers to overtake on the long straight.
This weekend’s race is the first of two consecutive Grand Prix, with the Spanish GP next week. It also sees five races in the next seven weeks. It’s a great chance for either Hamilton or Verstappen to assert their dominance on the season.