The Portuguese Grand Prix was perhaps not the most exciting race Formula 1 has ever seen, particularly when compared to the drama of the first two races of the 2021 season, but it was an excellent reminder of one thing: just how fine the margins are in this sport.
There were three instances during the race where those fine margins were in effect.
The first came right at the start. After an early safety car following a Kimi Raikkonen crash, race leader Valtteri Bottas surprisingly pulled away from the car behind him, team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The Brit was then overtaken by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in a frantic start.
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“It was interesting,” Hamilton said in the press conference after the race, which he won after a couple of brilliant overtakes. “Because I was naturally focusing on Valtteri and literally, just for a split second, I looked in my mirror just to see where Max was and in that split second, that’s when Valtteri went.
“And so, I lost out to Valtteri and that wasn’t great! Then, I was in Valtteri’s tow, and [Verstappen] was about to pull out, and I pulled out and gave [him] Valtteri’s tow.
And I was like ‘you idiot!’ to myself.
“Then, after that, being behind [these] two – what a great track, it enabled us to fight close in that first stint, I think that’s really what the fans want. That’s definitely what I want from a racing point of view.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – GP of Portugal 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
“This track was really great because you can have different lines at certain corners – a bit like Austin. So, it was really awesome.”
It might not be a viewed shared by his title rival Verstappen, who struggled with pace all day and couldn’t find an answer to Hamilton.
Late on Verstappen joined Bottas and his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in pitting onto softs to try and steal the fastest lap point. The Dutchman thought he had done it only to be informed during the post-race chat that he had been stripped for a track infringement.
“Oh really? That’s a good one,” Verstappen said.
Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – GP of Portugal 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
“That is a bit odd, because they were not checking track limits at Turn 14, but whatever.”
Sorry Max, but they were checking, in fact it was brought in before qualifying so either there’s been a catastrophic lack of communication within the team or, more likely, Verstappen is deflecting. He is now eight points behind Hamilton in the driver standings and as Red Bull advisor Marko Helmut pointed out, the track limits have not been kind to the energy drinks team this season.
“Now we’ve lost the victory, fastest lap, and pole position,” Marko said on Sky Sports Germany after the…