The Briton dropped to third on lap seven but managed to climb back to the top to clinch his second victory of the year
By Yuri Coghe
Lewis Hamilton overtook Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen to win the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday, getting his 97th career victory and extending his championship lead.
The seven-time world champion has now won in the last four times he started second, boasting an eight-point advantage to the Red Bull driver in the standings after three races. Verstappen and Bottas finished second and third, respectively, with Sergio Perez and Lando Norris completing the top 5.
Hamilton had to fight to get his second 2021 win. He dropped to third on lap seven when Verstappen overtook him in a safety-car restart. Minutes before, Kimi Raikkonen knocked his front wing in a collision with Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, prompting the service vehicle to be deployed for the only time in the race.
Four laps later, Hamilton took the position back and kept the momentum going to overtake Bottas on lap 20. The move came after both Mercedes raced with less than one second splitting the two cars for some laps, with the squad lead by Toto Wolff issuing no team orders.
“That was such a tough race physically and mentally,” Hamilton said after the race. “I didn’t get a good start and also lost out at the restart but it was a great result in the end. “Today wasn’t all perfect and we need to get ready now for the quick turnaround for Spain”.
The final laps saw a fierce battle between Verstappen and Bottas for the fastest lap extra point. The Dutchman pitted for fresh tyres to try to take the bonus point away from the Finn, proceeding to beat his rival’s time in the final lap. He did so, however, by exceeding track limits, which allowed the Mercedes driver to keep the honour.
“I tried to put the pressure on Valtteri,” Verstappen said, “but in the end I think we just lacked a little bit of pace out there today.”
On Saturday, Verstappen had a qualifying lap that would have given him the pole position deleted for the same reason.
Perez, who was voted driver of the day by the fans, claimed his best finish for Red Bull with a P4. He led a big portion of the race as the Austrian team decided to extend his first stint. The Mexican raced with the medium tires he started the race with until lap 52, one after Hamilton overtook him to take the lead for the last time in the race.
Shortly before, Nikita Mazepin became a negative talking point once again by ignoring blue flags when Perez was about to lap him. The Russian finished in 19th place, two positions behind Haas teammate Mick Schumacher.
The German overtook Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi with three laps to go. Latifi finished 18th, having neither lost nor gained places from his starting position. His teammate George Russell ended the race in P16 after starting the Portugal Grand Prix eleventh.
Aston Martin had another tough race, this time adding no points to the standings. Lance Stroll finished 14h from 17th place while Sebastian Vettel dropped from his 10th starting position to finish 13th.
Norris keeps momentum
Norris, who shows up third in the drivers’ championship with 37 points, added another good race to his strong start to the season. The 21-year-old Briton even made it to P4 early after a move on Perez.
“A very good job, by myself, by the whole team with the pit stops and everything,” Norris said. “It was as good as we could do. (Mercedes and Red Bull) were way too far ahead of us today. We tried, and I even got ahead of Perez. If I’d had the pace to stay there, that would have been ideal, but I didn’t so I had to look after my own race, manage my own expectations and know who I’m actually racing against.”
Daniel Ricciardo also gave McLaren reasons to smile, finishing ninth from 16th place. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly followed the Australian, finished tenth. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda ended the race in 15th place.
Just like McLaren, Alpine had their two drivers in the points as well. Esteban Ocon finishing in a season-high seventh place, enjoying some good overtakes and a long hard tire stint in the process. Fernando Alonso came right after, on eighth.
Ferrari couldn’t say the same. A bad tire strategy decision left Carlos Sainz Jr. only able to claim P11. The Spaniard even appeared in fourth position early way before pitting for mediums on lap 21 and having to finish the race with the compound. Charles Leclerc finished sixth to give the Italian team eight more championship points.
Giovinazzi was able to keep going after the early contact with his teammate and finished 12th. “It’s my fault,” said Raikkonen about the Alfa Romeo domestic incident. “Luckily I didn’t destroy his tires. So, far from ideal.”
Formula 1 is back next weekend with the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, the first back-to-back race weekend of the season and the fourth round of the record 2021 23-race calendar.