Hamilton says Portimao was an “awesome” battle
Sir Lewis Hamilton has explained how he overcame his own mistakes to brilliantly win the Portuguese Grand Prix, the seven-time world champion took his second win of the season after overtaking his main rivals at Portimao, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton says the battle is “awesome” between Mercedes and Red Bull, but admitted he had complicated the race by being made more difficult after being caught between both Bottas and Verstappen. He told Sky Sports “What a race! It was awesome. At the start, I was obviously putting pressure on Valtteri, very difficult to pass, but I thought I was going to get him.”
“Then we got the Safety Car and I did everything to keep the temperatures right in the tyres but the restart, I literally took my eyes off Valtteri for one second to see where Max was and Valtteri had gone.”
“Then following that, one other mistake was that I was in the tow of Valtteri and I just should have just stayed there. But instead, I moved over and gave Max the tow and he came flying past me.” Speaking in the press conference about Verstappen sailing past him on the opening lap he thought ‘you idiot.’
But he was unfazed by the setback, working his way back into the lead in the following thirteen laps. Hamilton says that it did make his day harder but more enjoyable to fight. He says he had the feeling of getting gradually closer and waited for the right moment to overtake which he took.
Neither of Hamilton’s victories this season have come from pole but says being in the lead was a different vibe, focus and balance. He says being behind is exciting and it’s a battle he has loved since karting.
Going to Barcelona this weekend, he leads the championship by eight points and the signs of a season-long close battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, which looks as if it won’t get easier any time soon.
Hamilton added, “As you can see I think it is a great fight between Mercedes and Red Bull and I’m sure also down the field and we will be pushing each other right to the last race.”
Second was most I could achieve – Verstappen
Max Verstappen says that second place in the Portuguese Grand Prix was the most he could have achieved. The Dutchman lost pole position after his best lap was deleted for going beyond track limits.
In the race, he made a small error just before he was passed by eventual winner Sir Lewis Hamilton. Writing on Twitter the Red Bull driver said, “Looking back, I have to say that finishing P2 after a tricky few days was absolutely the maximum for us.”
“Looking back, I have to say that finishing P2 after a tricky few days was absolutely the maximum for us.” Three races into what is shaping up to be an epic fight for the title between Hamilton and Verstappen they are eight points after three races, the Briton having taken two wins to his rival’s one.
Verstappen missed out on the point for fastest lap in Portimao, after he ran wide on his fastest lap at the end of the race leading to the time being deleted. He also handed victory to Hamilton in Bahrain, after running outside track limits when passing the seven-times champion and was instructed to give the place back to Hamilton.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was lucky with the timing of a red flag at the second race at Imola, which came at the perfect moment just after he had lost a lap by going off track and breaking his front wing.
Adding to the tweet, he posted on Instagram yesterday, “This season is going to be long and we will be taking it one weekend at a time. And above all: we’ll keep fighting until the end.”
He was never happy with his Red Bull in Portugal, saying after the race that “it was a bit of an odd weekend in terms of grip” and insisting he “tried everything I could”. Verstappen added, “Clearly we still have to improve and do better because we should be fastest on every single track and in every single condition – because the track is the same for everyone.”
Red Bull feel that, while their one-lap pace was good in Portimao, Mercedes had a slightly faster car on race day. Like Mercedes, they expect the advantage to fluctuate from track to track through the season. The data in Portimao was close in terms of lap time, with variables being the wind blowing off the ocean.
Team principal Christian Horner was asked afterwards whether they could have won had Verstappen started on pole. He said, “You never know. Max had very good pace in dirty air. We lacked a bit of straight-line speed. It definitely looked easier for a Mercedes to pass us than for us to pass a Mercedes.”
“It’s just incredibly tight and it’s about those marginal gains. But for track limits that we didn’t see anybody else have the penalty Max did, he would have achieved that lap.”
Perez not used to disturb Hamilton in Portimao
Red Bull are insisting that their decision to extend Sergio Perez’s first stint in the Portuguese Grand Prix was not because it wanted him to disturb race winner Sir Lewis Hamilton. The Mexican was running fourth early on in Sunday’s race, but his strategy did not allow him to challenge the two Mercedes and teammate Max Verstappen.
Verstappen stopped on lap thirty-five, in an attempt to jump the Mercedes while Perez was left out leading the race, before his stop on lap fifty-one when he was overtaken by Hamilton.
It appeared that one of the main motivations for keeping Perez out would have been to potentially hinder Hamilton in his battle with Verstappen, Red Bull says its primary focus was actually on unleashing Perez to try to get the fastest lap.
Team principal Christian Horner told Motorsport.com, “It was more focused on wanting to get to the soft tyre to have a crack at that point for the fastest lap. That’s why we went that long. The soft tyre didn’t have a lot of range, and of course, if you abuse it over a single lap it makes it a little bit more marginal.”
“Sergio was in a sort of solid fourth, without the opportunity to catch the cars in front and clear the cars behind. So we thought: ‘okay let’s run the fuel down, get to a point where it is sensible to the finish and have a crack at the fastest lap.’”
Perez did briefly hold the fastest lap, but towards the end of the race began dropping further behind third-placed Valtteri Bottas giving Mercedes a pit stop window to bring the Finn in. Verstappen made the same decision and went faster than Bottas, before having his time elected for him breaching track limits.
Horner added, “Sergio was the first one to claim it, but Valtteri was able to just squeak a pit window to have a crack at it. We thought we’ll respond with Max, and give it a go with Max. The guys knocked in a 1.9-second pitstop and, but for track limits that we didn’t see anybody else have the penalty that Max did, he would have achieved that.”
Perez’s fourth place was the best result so far for Red Bull, however, he still not able to match Verstappen’s pace. But Horner says he was encouraged by the continued progress the Mexican was making.
Adding in Portimao it had “been really difficult because of the wind and so on, but you can see the races are coming together for him when he is in clean air. Don’t forget he managed to pass [Lando] Norris, who had passed him fully off the track. Again, another track limits inconsistency.”
He pointed out that once Perez was in clean air, he was able to do the same lap time as Verstappen and the Mercedes. This has made Horner confident that with more “time and experience, everything will just come together for him.”
Sainz believes Ferrari were capable of top five
Carlos Sainz believes Ferrari were capable of finishing in the top five if he didn’t have tyre struggles. The Spaniard was fifth on the grid in Portimao and made a great start to gain fourth from Sergio Perez on the opening lap, before slipping behind Perez and Lando Norris before pitting for a set of medium tyres at the end of lap twenty-one.
It caused him to struggle in the closing stages as the majority of cars around him opted to run hard tyres for the second stint, leaving him unable to fend off attacks from cars behind. After letting his teammate Charles Leclerc pass, Sainz lost positions to Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly in the closing stages, dropping out of the points to eleventh at the chequered flag.
Sainz explained to Motorsport.com, “We struggled a lot with the mediums, and we need to still understand why we were so prone to graining on that medium tyre, why the combination of the medium with our car was just not working well today.”
“In hindsight, for sure we would have done things very differently, but with the data we had available before the race, we thought that a soft/medium strategy was going to be OK, and it clearly wasn’t.”
He says there was a lot to analyse over the coming days and was sure the right conclusions would be taken forward. Sainz says that they were capable of a top-five to six finish if they had decent race execution and the pace we’ve shown all weekend. Saying, “So to come out with zero points and an 11th place, it’s difficult to think about the positives.”
Team principal Mattia Binotto says the team decided to release Leclerc after seeing how much graining was impacting Sainz during his second stint, prompting the call to allow Leclerc to pass. Leclerc went on to finish the race in sixth place, five seconds behind midfield leader Norris.
Binotto said, “Swapping positions is something that we would like to avoid, things that are normally aren’t great, but sometimes may be necessary. Today, we felt it was because of different pace, and we could see that Carlos was suffering with the graining of the medium. We asked to him, he did it immediately.”
Norris can break into the top four – Seidl
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says Lando Norris has a chance of breaking the top four Mercedes/Red Bull lockout at the top of the driver’s championship. The Englishman is currently third behind Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, following his strong start to his third season in F1.
While Mercedes appears not to have the car which is capable of beating Mercedes and Red Bull, there is a chance that consistency could be key to Norris holding the best of the rest position this season.
Asked by Motorsport.com, about the prospects of Norris keeping himself ahead of one of the Mercedes or Red Bull drivers until the end of this year, said Seidl, “There’s always a chance. But it’s simply important that we, together with Lando, keep delivering weekend by weekend.”
“Consistency is king, together with performance obviously, in order to outscore cars that on paper, and in reality, are definitely quicker than us. But if we keep delivering upgrades to the car, if Lando keeps doing what he did so far these first three races, it will end up in keeping the pressure on these guys ahead of us and then there will be opportunities to finish races in front of them.”
Seidl admits at the same time the team needs to be realistic because they are not there in terms of performance.
Speaking about Norris’ brilliant start to 2021 is the result of the young Briton being fully ‘at one’ with his McLaren car, which is allowing him to perform at such a consistently high level.
Saying “In Portugal, he simply continued what we have seen from him in the first two race weekends. He’s pulling it off when it matters.”
Monaco to take place with 7,500 spectators
The organisers of the Monaco Grand Prix say the race will take place with up to forty per cent capacity on the three days of action in three weeks. Attendance will be limited to a maximum of 7,500 spectators per day, and there will be no restriction on the country of origin of those attending the event.
On Friday – a rest day for F1 that has other events on track – capacity will be limited to 3,000 people. Spectators will have to take a PCR test for Covid-19 no more than 72 hours before attending the event and take proof of a negative result with them to the track.
This weekends race in Barcelona will take place with up to 1,000 circuit members to attend the race on Sunday. There were no spectators allowed at either of the first two European events of the F1 season, in Portugal last weekend and Imola in Italy two weeks before.
Bahrain allowed 4,500 spectators to attend the season-opening race at the end of March, but it was open only to those who had been vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19.
Haas to improve communication after Mazepin/Perez near-miss
Haas says it needs to improve its communication when warning its drivers they are about to be lapped, following Nikita Mazepin’s latest mistake in the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Russian driver was given a five-second penalty for impeding race leader Sergio Perez as he came up to lap him, with the pair nearly colliding at Turn Three.
Mazepin had just come out following his pit stop in front of Perez and then didn’t spot the Red Bull close behind him. Perez had to take evasive action after Mazepin turned in on him, and the Mexican feared that he had actually hit the Haas driver and broken his front wing.
After the race, Mazepin went to see Perez and apologise for what happened, but Haas team boss Gunther Steiner says the team needs to take some responsibility in such situations. Steiner told Motorsport.com, “I think his blue flag light came on very late, and he was already past Turn 2 when the light came on. So, obviously, we need to improve communication when you come out of the pits and somebody is coming.”
Steiner was clear that Mazepin wasn’t trying to make things deliberately difficult for Perez, but was relieved that the five-second penalty handed down ultimately mattered little to the Russian.
Saying, “I think the thing was not intentional and nothing bad happened in the end. You know it never looks good, but the five seconds I don’t think made a big difference.”
He says that Perez accepted that it was genuinely a mistake, there was no intention of anything.
Speaking about the decision to give Mazepin race director Michael Masi said that the punishment handed down to Mazepin was solely for nearly causing the collision with Perez, even though he had only just been shown the blue flags.
He explained, “With Nikita’s penalty, it wasn’t so much the number of blue flags that were ignored, it was more so the incident which was shown on the broadcast with Sergio at Turn 3, and the near-collision that was caused under blue flags.”
“It wasn’t actually for a number of panels, it was more for the not effectively getting out of the way at the earliest opportunity, and nearly causing an incident as a result.”
Vettel to get Aston Martin’s upgrades
Sebastian Vettel will also get the upgrade package trialled by Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll in Portimao for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. Stroll ran the first set of parts last weekend, as the team tries to push forward with the development of its 2021 car.
The four-time champion had an encouraging qualifying, making it through to Q3 for the first time since Silverstone last July to start tenth, while Stroll had issues in Q1 and started seventeenth. However, the German couldn’t maintain that form in the race, slipping down to thirteenth, and finishing a place ahead of Stroll.
Vettel told Motorsport.com, “I have a couple of bits coming for next weekend and hopefully we can be a bit more competitive. A clean Saturday obviously will be the key to have a better Sunday. But I hope that in the race trim, we have a bit more pace to put more pressure.”
“It seemed obviously that we did not have the pace like the Alpha Tauris, and especially the Alpines. So yeah, we need to have a look. But ultimately, we were not quick enough.”
Asked if the new parts had performed as expected on Stroll’s car, he said: “I think so, obviously I haven’t felt them. I don’t know. But I hope that it’s going to be a better weekend.”
Vettel says that he hopes that it going to be a better weekend, and that during the weekend in Portimao, Aston fought a bit with set up. He was hoping for a more pace in Barcelona.