Former Formula 1 racer, Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brandl summed up the Portuguese Grand Prix …
The crisp asphalt of the Algarve track and light rain gave us some unusual laps at the start of the race, when the drivers were struggling with the lack of grip and confidence in the car.
Lewis Hamilton, who started from pole, was cautious and fell back to third place, and the leadership was seized first by Valtteri Bottas, then by Carlos Sainz.
Starting 16th from the “dirty” half of the starting field, Kimi Raikkonen won back ten places. This is one of the best first laps in Formula 1 history and can serve as a study guide – the 41-year-old’s feline reaction is truly impressive.
Hamilton remained calm, and when he was ready, he seized the lead and flew ahead, winning the race with an advantage of 25.5 seconds – such a large gap this year has never been. Keeping the best lap behind him, he earned 26 points for his 92nd career victory.
Masterful aerobatics. At a distance, the tires warmed up, and he was able to trust the car, and not endlessly control the condition of the tires. It was one of his best races among many.
Very few of us have had the privilege of driving a Formula 1 car. Becoming a Formula 1 driver and having several seasons in the World Championship is very difficult. This is an incredible challenge – earning points, podiums, victories and titles, keeping yourself in good mental and physical shape, being the best in the world of more and more advanced technologies, taking hits and defeats, surviving accidents, seeing tragedies and endlessly enduring incredibly intent interest.
What Lewis has achieved and continues to achieve was the result of the incredible efforts of one of the most outstanding athletes in sports history.
Bottas dominated all training sessions and throughout qualifying until the final session, when results mattered. At this point, Lewis attacked – and left Valtteri in second place, on a slippery even half of the starting field.
Poor Valtteri. If his partner was not Hamilton, Bottas would have become a megastar, and not make excuses after the races, what went wrong. I feel uncomfortable when I interview him after the race. I look into his eyes and see how frustration replaces racing adrenaline, how he tries to find the words. If Lewis renews his contract for a few more years, Valtteri will have to look for a place in another team to raise self-esteem and motivation.
He asked the team to put him on different tires than Lewis in order to try to recoup at the final stage of the race. The idea was wrong, and the team rejected it, which should have infuriated him.
Max Verstappen once again had to play the first supporting role behind Mercedes. He used the opposite tire strategy, but the car lacked the speed to do more than just tease the Mercedes guys for a while. He was ahead of his partner in the circle, who with all his might tried not to yield.
Elbon has speed, but he lacks the ability to demonstrate it in qualifying at the right moment, there is no stable pace in the race, which greatly weakens his position in a team that has to fight opponents with only one hand.
In the middle group, McLaren, Racing Point and Renault continue an epic battle in which the three teams are now only six points apart.
The DRS zone down on the main straight was too strong. Lance Stroll picked up such speed behind Lando Norris that he took off in the first corner. In a difficult situation, he blocked Lando, the cars touched, and Stroll was the only one to get off in this race.
This incident ruined the race and Norris damaged the front wing, and Stroll received a five-second penalty, plus the one he had for trespassing. After a serious accident at the Grand Prix of Tuscany – four races ago – things are going very hard for him.
On the first lap, Verstappen sent Sergio Perez’s car into a U-turn, but the stewards left this incident without consequences. According to the results of the first lap, Sergio was the last, then he bounced back, rising to fifth place, but due to tire wear he lost to Gasli and Sainz.
Nevertheless, Perez remained ahead of the Renault drivers, for whom the weekend was not easy due to the peculiarities of the coverage and car settings. Esteban Ocon chose a wait-and-see tactic, counting on rain or a safety car, having driven on one set of tires to 54 laps – and finished ahead of Daniel Riccardo.
Charles Leclair once again had an outstanding race with Ferrari, finishing fourth, albeit 65 seconds behind Hamilton. Ferrari is definitely making its way to the top, although Vettel only finished 10th. Sebastian is clearly approaching the season, but he needs to perform better to prevent the inevitable and potentially unpleasant comparison for him with Perez, who is leaving the team. But a Racing Point / Aston Martin (heavily Mercedes-influenced) car should suit him better than today’s Ferrari.
During the weekend, I did not see anyone who would not like to play in Portimao, although under normal conditions they are unlikely to find money to pay for the race. I hope you enjoyed it too. These tracks have refreshed the calendar a lot, and this week we will spend the weekend on another track of the old school – in Imola, which will also please the riders. And it will be followed by one of the best “new” tracks in Istanbul.