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Portuguese Grand Prix – Weekend Preview

Two weeks on from the wet/dry stunner last time out in Imola, the Formula One circus will unleash itself on the Algarve International Circuit this weekend for the Portuguese Grand Prix! 

Written by Aiden Hover, Edited by Esmée Koppius

The Portimão based circuit is set to make its return this weekend, following its successful substitution and debut Formula One race last year. With 15 corners and world class facilities, the 4.653 kilometre (2.891 miles) circuit is set to be a true challenge for the drivers. 

The track experiences constant elevation change as cars elegantly sweep uphill throughout the twisty first and second sectors before undergoing the sudden plunge through the track’s long final turn as Galp leads back onto the pit-straight. Last year’s pole time of 1:16.652 set by Sir Lewis Hamilton will be difficult to beat, but nonetheless will be a target in the eyes of all 20 drivers as they qualify before the scheduled 66 race laps this Sunday.

Whilst the Algarve International Circuit lacks a great deal of Formula One history, besides some various tests and its eventual Formula One race debut last year, the track has still played host to some incredible moments. Namely, Kimi Raikkonen’s incredible start on a slippery track last year, moving up from 16th to 6th by the end of the opening lap or even the epic wheel-to-wheel battle between former rivals, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez as the two scrapped side by side for the most part of an entire lap. 

The Portuguese Grand Prix itself is steeped in history and chronicle. From Ayrton Senna’s first Grand Prix victory in a rain-soaked 1985 race in Estoril to Niki Lauda’s championship the year before. In 1992, fans witnessed an epic airborne crash from Riccardo Patrese as he hit the back of Gerhard Berger’s McLaren who himself experienced a strange accident in 1993 spinning out the pitlane on cold tyres. Four years prior in 1989, Nigell Mansell controversially came together with Ayrton Senna, eliminating both from the race despite Mansell being shown the black flag several laps beforehand for a pitlane infringement. 

Back to modern times, the Portuguese Grand Prix witnessed record-breaking history as Sir Lewis Hamilton became the most successful Formula One driver ever in terms of wins with 92 race victories!

What can fans look forward to this year? As is becoming evident in 2021, the main battle upfront will be between Redbull and Mercedes. The Netherland’s Max Verstappen will be looking to replicate his success from Imola whilst Britain’s Lewis Hamilton will want to make amends for what he sees as a missed opportunity last time out following his costly mistake whilst lapping backmarkers. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, will want to move past Imola and turn over a new leaf this weekend as he crashed out whilst fighting George Russell at the tail end of the points. Redbull’s Sergio Perez performed well in qualifying, achieving second on the grid in Imola before falling down the grid following several mistakes during the race, something he will want to avoid in Portugal.

Ferrari and McLaren look set to continue their scrap for third as the two teams finished well in Imola. Charles Leclerc will be looking to make the step-up onto the podium after missing out to Lando Norris last time out whilst Carlos Sainz will be hoping for more of the same from his side of the garage as he showed great improvement to be closer to his Monegasque teammate. Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping to convincingly beat Lando Norris this weekend after being told to allow his younger teammate through by his McLaren team last time out.

AlphaTauri showed great pace in Imola and will aim to continue that into Portugal, however, they would want to avoid the countless mistakes both the team and its drivers made in Italy. Yuki Tsunoda crashed out in qualifying and then spun late into the race, costly mistakes he needs to eliminate if he wants to impress his RedBull bosses. Pierre Gasly, who recently came out as saying he has no time for Helmut Marko, suffered an unfortunate strategy call as he was left out on full-wets; despite this, the Frenchman drove a great race and will be looking to do the same in Portugal.

Alpine will be satisfied with double points in Imola and will be looking to continue that this weekend as they struggle with a seemingly disappointing car. Aston Martin saw points with only one driver yet again as they too struggled with an underperforming car and a mistake-prone Sebastian Vettel. Both of these teams seem to have slipped away from Ferrari and McLaren and even behind Alpha Tauri, something they will aim to change in Portugal and in future races.

Williams saw great pace last time out but ultimately squandered it with a double DNF. Latifi qualified well to achieve his best result but would come away with nothing following a crash with Nikita Mazepin. George Russell was fighting with the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas for P9 before a scary crash leading to some unsavoury post-race comments that the Brit later took back. Both drivers will be looking to continue their strong pace but will be hoping to eliminate the costly mistakes.

Alfa Romeo fell back from their Bahrain promise in Imola, finishing last bar the two Haas cars who themselves finished two laps down at the back of the grid. Both teams will be hoping for much more this weekend as well as for something major to happen in front to gift an unlikely opportunity for points.

This weekend’s festivities are set to begin this Friday at 11:30 BST for first practice with Saturday’s qualifying set to begin at 15:00 BST. Be sure not to miss the main event on Sunday with lights out 15:00 BST as this weekend is set to be a stunner – especially with the ever-growing rivalry upfront.

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