RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton got the job done on track in Portugal with some spectacular overtakes to extend his championship lead and send out an ominous message to title rival Max Verstappen. There were intriguing battles elsewhere, too, with some leaving Portimao happier than others. We’ve picked out six winners and six losers from Sunday’s race…

    Winner: Lewis Hamilton

    There’s a glint in Lewis Hamilton’s eyes these days because he knows he’s in a proper title fight. And he’s relishing every minute, not least in Portugal when he had to pass both title rival Max Verstappen and Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas to clinch his second win in three races.

    It was his 97th Grand Prix win, extending his record, and among one of his grittiest. After being bullied and beaten by Verstappen for the lead in Imola, he struck back which a bullish pass of his own, reminding his young rival that he has no intention of giving up the top spot.

    READ MORE: How shrewd race craft and brilliant tyre management allowed Hamilton to snatch victory in Portugal

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    Hamilton still found a way to win - despite dropping to P3 in the early stages

    He now leads Verstappen by eight points in the championship, having scored for the 150th time for Mercedes. Incredibly, he has only failed to bring home points for the Silver Arrows nine times since he joined the team in 2013.

    Loser: Kimi Raikkonen

    Oh Kimi. The Finn had made an impressive start, to climb two places and run behind Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi when he momentarily looked down at the steering wheel to change some switches and by the time he looked up, it was too late to avoid contact with the Italian.

    Raikkonen – who owned up to his mistake - broke his front wing, which then got stuck under the car, and sent him skidding into the gravel and out of the race. Fortunately, Giovinazzi escaped without any damage, and could continue, having a strong race to end up just outside the points.

    There’s potential in this Alfa Romeo, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi just need to find a way to extract it.

    READ MORE: ALfa Romeo lose appeal over Raikkonen Imola penalty

    2021 Portuguese Grand Prix: Räikkönen's front wing explodes

    Winners: Neutral fans

    This is shaping up to be a mighty title fight, with Hamilton striking back to win and Verstappen delivering damage limitation for second.

    Given we’ve raced on three different tracks and each have seen Mercedes and Red Bull locked together on pace, this bodes well for a title race that could well go the distance, especially given both will be switching full attention to 2022 soon and thus not developing this year’s cars.

    READ MORE: Hamilton explain why he got jumped at the Safety Car restart - and how he fought back to win in Portimao

    Even better, we have two drivers giving us proper fights for victory. Sure, Hamilton had it slightly easier here once he got in the lead, but Verstappen wasn’t far off and should have got a point for fastest lap without the track violation. It’ll only serve to motivate him further in Spain.

    Loser: Max Verstappen

    Max Verstappen never looked comfortable on Portimao’s slippery surface this year, the Dutchman lamenting the conditions throughout the weekend.

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    So far these two have raced hard but fair - will that continue, or will the gloves come off?

    Nonetheless, he would had been on pole had he not exceeded track limits, and was penalised for the same reason on Sunday to lose the fastest lap, so he still had some impressive pace. He just couldn’t control it – and that allowed Hamilton to stretch his championship lead from a point to eight.

    Second is not what Verstappen wanted, as he looks to build a title challenge, but he should take heart from the fact this is his best ever start to the season with one win and two second places.

    READ MORE: Red Bull race pace 'not good enough' to challenge Mercedes in Portimao says Verstappen

    Winner: Lando Norris

    Lando Norris is staying grounded and will tell you he’s not getting carried away with his form as it’s only been three races out of 23. But there’s no denying the way he has started this season is extraordinary.

    He’s finished in the top five in each of the first three races of the season – that run is four if you include the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – and has scored points in eight straight races.

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    Norris' points are proving valuable in McLaren's fight with Ferrari for third in the constructors' championship

    The McLaren driver retains his grip on third the drivers’ championship, five points ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, and his consistency has ensured McLaren are flying high in the same position in the constructors’ standings.

    READ MORE: 'It was a lot of fun' - Lando Norris revels in McLaren's pace after third straight top-5 finish

    Loser: Valtteri Bottas

    Valtteri Bottas was riding high after snatching pole position, which was his first since the Sakhir Grand Prix last year and also tied him with Sir Jackie Stewart on 17 career poles, now just one behind fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen.

    But when we spoke at the end of the race, he was at a loss to explain why he couldn’t generate the same speed and tyre performance as team mate Lewis Hamilton.

    As a result, he could do nothing about Hamilton and Verstappen passing him, leaving him third at the flag. When Verstappen’s lap was deleted, he inherited the point for fastest lap – but he trails his team mate by 37 points already.

    2021 Portuguese Grand Prix: Hamilton overtakes Bottas for race lead

    Winner: Alpine

    Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were playing Alpine’s strong pace down on Friday, but that speed was real as they carried it through to the race, with Ocon crossing the line seventh to beat his double world champion team mate for the third straight race.

    Alonso recovered from a frustrating qualifying to score his best result since the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix (though of course he has spent the past two years racing away from F1) with P8.

    READ MORE: Alonso says 'anger' stemming from poor qualifying inspired him to second points finish for Alpine

    The double points finish, their second one in a row, vaulted Alpine up to fifth in the constructors', behind Ferrari in what is set to be a very tightly contested midfield scrap once more.

    Loser: Carlos Sainz

    There were many inside the paddock who felt Carlos Sainz was a strong outside bet for the podium, after a stellar Saturday put him P5 on the grid as he outqualified team mate Charles Leclerc for the first time in a Ferrari.

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    Alonso put in a great recovery drive to make it back into the points in Portugal

    But despite rising to fourth early on, he struggled to get the medium tyre to work in his second stint and gradually fell back down the field, ultimately ending up outside the points as Leclerc took a strong sixth. Sainz is now 14 points behind his team mate.

    READ MORE: 'We got it wrong with strategy' says Sainz as he misses out on points from P5 on the grid

    Winner: Mick Schumacher

    Seventeenth is Mick Schumacher’s worst result of the year, so it might seem odd to find his name in this column. But his performance was significant.

    Not only did he finish more than a minute ahead of his Haas team mate Nikita Mazepin, but he had the pace to fight Williams on pure performance, pressuring Nicholas Latifi into a mistake and then making the pass for position.

    It’s just one pass – admittedly for a lowly position – but it’s moments like this that will make people – including his Ferrari Driver Academy bosses – take notice.

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    The two Haas rookies haven't been afraid to fight it out on track

    Losers: Aston Martin

    Aston Martin’s one lap pace looked a little better this weekend, with Sebastian Vettel making the top 10 in qualifying for the first time in 15 races.

    But he dropped like a stone in the race, ultimately getting passed by team mate Lance Stroll, who started seven places behind, as the green cars lacked the bite on Sunday to fight for points.

    READ MORE: Vettel says Aston Martin 'just didn't have the pace' at Portimao, as Q3 appearance goes unrewarded

    That leaves the Silverstone-based team down in seventh in the constructors’ championship on five points, nearly 50 – the equivalent of two race wins – adrift of McLaren in third.

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    Vettel remains without a point from the first three races of the season

    Winner: Sergio Perez

    Sergio Perez feels like there is so much more to come from him, as he battles to get on top of a very tricky Red Bull RB16B, so the fact he was still able to take fourth, the minimum his team expect from him, is impressive in what is only his third race with them.

    It was his best result since joining the team, and he also enjoyed a stint leading the race, as he made a monstrous stretch on the medium tyres work to allow him to end the race on the softs.

    WATCH: Hamilton's confusion is loud and clear when he overtakes Perez

    Right now, everything is going in the right direction for the Mexican.

    Losers: Williams

    There was a genuine feeling of hope at Williams after George Russell qualified a strong 11th, just 0.06s adrift of the team’s first Q3 spot since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix.

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    Both Williams drivers had a tough day of it in Portimao, fighting towards the back of the field

    But the wind picked up on Sunday – and that made the FW43B undriveable for both Russell and team mate Nicholas Latifi, the latter of which had already been struggling to find the right set up all weekend.

    As a result, they fell out of contention, with Russell and Latifi ending the race one and two laps down respectively. It was a disappointing end to the weekend for the team still on the hunt for their first points since 2019.