The German team had a good start to the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix weekend
By Olivia Kairu
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on top of both Friday free practice sessions in Portimao, ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix.
The track’s peculiar tarmac conditions and Pirelli’s conservative approach, providing their hardest compound of tyres, made for a slow start to the session, but it didn’t take long for the rivalry between Red Bull and Mercedes to kick in again. This time, in favour of the Germans.
Valtteri Bottas topped the FP1 timesheet with a 1.19s648 lap time while Lewis Hamilton, who clinched his seventh world championship in Portugal last year, complained of ‘undrivable conditions’ before finishing the first session at P5. He later rose to the top of the second session setting a lap time almost two-tenths faster than his teammate’s FP1.
Confidence also radiated through the Red Bull pit wall on the first free practice, with both cars creeping up on the Mercedes and alternating for the fastest lap of the session before Bottas snatched it. Their luck changed after oscillations and vibrations made things difficult for Max Verstappen due to a possible wheel weight issue on the front left wheel that was soon fixed.
Trouble didn’t stop there as the Dutchman suffered a brake-by-wire problem in the second session which was also promptly fixed. Sergio Perez, however, was unable to up the ante and keep his times from falling from P3 to P10 at the end of the second practice session, 0.679s off the fastest time.
The Austrian team brought upgrades to the floor edges on both car chassis for the weekend aiming to increase downforce and aerodynamic performance needed for the intense undulations in Portugal.
George Russell seemed to be gearing up for a possible back-to-back Q3 appearance at tomorrow’s qualifying, earning himself a P7 during the first session while his teammate Nicholas Latifi neared the bottom of the pack at P19. A touch of oversteer ended up catching the Canadian out in the gravel at the end of FP2 leaving his position unchanged at P19.
Returning champion Fernando Alonso took his Alpine to the second session’s top five, setting a lap time 0s398 slower than Hamilton’s and one position above teammate Esteban Ocon.
Ferrari drivers, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, showed stable pace as both alternated in securing P4, first Leclerc setting a lap time of 1.19s884 at FP1 then Sainz with a 1.20s197 at the end of the second session. It wasn’t that different for McLaren, with Lando Norris taking P8 in the first practice and Daniel Ricciardo in the second.
Former F2 driver Callum Illot, now a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo, proved to be useful to the team by outperforming the two Haas drivers and Latifi, to end the session at P17.
Disappointing results continue for the troubled Aston Martin as Sebastian Vettel could only settle for P15 as his highest result this Friday. Canadian driver Lance Stroll, on the other hand, did his best to ease the team’s troubles by finishing ninth on FP2.
The Algarve’s track surface improved slightly from last year’s Formula 1 debut however, the tyre compound allocation and its slow degradation could prove to be a challenge for all 10 teams and their drivers as the rest of the weekend unfolds.
See both FP1 and FP2 full results below