RACE DEBRIEF

    The Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle looks poised to define the 2021 season, and it was that pair who found themselves at the top of the times after Free Practice 2 for the Portuguese Grand Prix – Hamilton heading Verstappen by 0.143s to complete a clean sweep of Friday practice sessions for Mercedes.

    At a gusty Portimao track – with winds of up 30km/h recorded around the circuit – and after a 10-minute delay to the session start, Hamilton ended up with a 1m 19.837s fastest lap, nearly two-tenths down on team mate Valtteri Bottas’ fastest time from this morning’s Free Practice 1 – Hamilton having finished that session in an underwhelming P5.

    Verstappen slotted into second, overcoming a brake-by-wire scare to finish in the same position as he did in FP1 – Red Bull and Mercedes looking closely matched at this stage of the weekend.

    AS IT HAPPENED: All the action from second practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix

    Bottas found himself third, a scrappy lap leaving him 0.344s off his team mate, while Carlos Sainz confirmed that Ferrari are at the races this weekend by taking P4, 0.016s off Bottas.

    Without doubt the most impressive team performance came from Alpine, who it’s fair to say came from nowhere to take P5 and P6 – their pace seeming genuine too, as Fernando Alonso in fifth finished just 0.015s ahead of Esteban Ocon.

    Formula 1 Heineken Grande Prémio De Portugal 2021

    Portugal 2021

    Practice 2 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes 1:19.837
    2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing +0.143s
    3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes +0.344s
    4 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari +0.360s
    5 Fernando Alonso ALO Alpine +0.383s

    Charles Leclerc found himself outgunned by team mate Sainz as he took P7. Meanwhile, it was an encouraging performance from McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who went eighth fastest, as team mate Lando Norris could only manage P12 – although McLaren are seemingly off the pace so far this weekend, with work for their engineers to do overnight.

    FP1: Bottas leads Verstappen in close opening practice session at Portimao

    Lance Stroll was P9 for Aston Martin – comfortably outpacing team mate Sebastian Vettel, who could do no better than P15, as he continues to try and “put the puzzle together” with the AMR21, as he put it on Thursday – as Red Bull’s Sergio Perez finished a disappointing P10, the Mexican blocked on one of his quick laps by the Haas of Nikita Mazepin.

    Having finished sixth in FP1, Pierre Gasly could only take 11th in FP2 as the fastest AlphaTauri driver – the first time the Frenchman has finished outside the top 10 in a practice session this year – ahead of Norris and Williams’ George Russell, the Briton unable to match his P7 heroics from this morning, as he claimed P13.

    FP2 Highlights: 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

    Gasly’s team mate Yuki Tsunoda was 14th, ahead of Vettel and the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen in P16 – while Raikkonen’s team mate Antonio Giovinazzi was P17 in his first session of the day, the same position Alfa Romeo reserve driver Callum Ilott finished this morning when he took over the Italian’s car.

    MUST-SEE: Confused Vettel stops in the wrong team's pit box during practice

    Rounding out the field was the same bottom three as in FP1, Mick Schumacher overcoming a power unit worry to take P18 for Haas, while Nicholas Latifi endured a trip into the Turn 8 gravel before taking 19th – as Mazepin finished over a second off his team mate in P20.

    So, it was a Mercedes clean sweep on Friday – but can the Silver Arrows maintain that advantage over Red Bull into Saturday’s qualifying? Tune into our live coverage at 1500 local time to find out, as Lewis Hamilton goes in search of an incredible 100th pole position.