Who were the Winners and Losers of the Portuguese Grand Prix?
We’re running out of superlatives to describe Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes racer hitting yet another level with a superb record-breaking drive to victory in the Portuguese Grand Prix. But that was just one of a number of standout performances. We pick out the winners and losers from Portimao.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
The opening lap was not Lewis Hamilton-esque, but his performance thereafter most certainly was, the reigning world champion biding his time and delivering a masterclass in tyre management to snatch back the lead and secure a record-breaking 92nd F1 victory – which is the same tally as Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna combined.
The Mercedes driver now holds the all-time records for most wins, podiums, points, races led and pole positions – while victory was on 28th different circuit in his F1 career – improving his own record.
And then there’s his consistency, which has been the bedrock of his recent dominant run, the Briton extending his streak of points finishes to 45 in a row. For context, no other driver has scored in more than 27 successive races.
Loser: Valtteri Bottas
Make no mistake, Valtteri Bottas is a quick driver – and if Hamilton wasn’t his team mate, his performances have been strong enough this year that he would be leading the championship. However, Hamilton is there and right now is proving unbeatable.
Even when Bottas got ahead of Hamilton at the start, his tyre management was inferior and he simply had no answer to the six-time world champion’s stunning pace.
He now trails Hamilton by 77 points – more than three race wins – with only five Grands Prix left. It’s mathematically still possible to win the title, but the reality is his hopes are now over for another year.
Winner: Charles Leclerc
On Friday, Charles Leclerc said he reckoned he’s driving better than ever, even if the results aren’t as stellar as last year, and it’s hard to disagree with him. The Monegasque is grinding out results and outperforming his Ferrari with ruthless consistency. It’s a hallmark of a future world champion.
In Portugal, he was at his brilliant best, qualifying fourth – an then finishing fourth – with the pace to avoid being lapped to boot. This was his fourth top-four finish this season, but arguably his best in terms of pure performance. He’s very much in the fight for P4 in drivers’ championship – which would be a staggering achievement.
Loser: Lance Stroll
This has not been a great few weeks for Lance Stroll. The Canadian missed the Eifel Grand Prix with what turned out to be Covid-19 and while he tested negative and competed in Portugal, he wasn’t on the pace of Racing Point team mate Sergio Perez.
He collided with Max Verstappen in Friday practice at Turn 1 and then erroneously turned in on Lando Norris at the same corner in the race, pitching him into the gravel and causing damage that ultimately ended his race.
He has now failed to score in four successive races, trails Perez by 17 points and is not making the most of what is the third-fastest car on the grid.
Winner: Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly is in the form of his life, the Frenchman’s miserable time at Red Bull feeling like a blip that was a lifetime ago. His drive in Portugal was exceptional, finding stunning pace on the soft tyre to finish a superb fifth – his second-best result of the year.
It was his second consecutive top-six finish, bringing his total to 63 points after 12 races with AlphaTauri, which is the same as what he scored in his first 12 races with Red Bull, after which he was demoted.
He is also just one point behind his replacement Alex Albon in the drivers’ championship.
Loser: Lando Norris
Lando Norris needs some luck.
The McLaren driver spent much of the season in P4 in the drivers’ championship – and deservedly so. But he’s now on a run of three races without a point, his race wrecked by Stroll turning in on him with a rash move at Turn 1.
He’s now down to P7 in the drivers’ championship, 15 adrift of Daniel Ricciardo in fourth by only six clear of team mate Carlos Sainz.
Winner: Carlos Sainz
A damp and slippery surface, that requires exquisite car control, are tailormade conditions for the Sainz family and in the way rally legend Carlos Sainz Sr would dance his machine around a stage, his son seized his opportunity with a tyre temperature advantage to snatch the lead in Portugal.
He had the pleasure of passing not one but two Mercedes, plus his old team mate Verstappen, and enjoyed a handful of laps in the sun before his rivals got heat into their tyres and used their far superior pace to get back ahead.
Sixth was a strong result – his first consecutive points finish since the opening triple header and suddenly, a top-five finish in the drivers’ standings isn’t looking so unlikely after all.
Loser: Alex Albon
Red Bull boss Christian Horner challenged Alex Albon to “claim” his seat for 2021 over the next two races, in Portugal and Imola, and unfortunately, the Thai driver struggled to deliver an emphatic result.
As team mate Verstappen scored his ninth podium of the season, Albon could do no better than 12th and now sits just one point ahead of Gasly, the driver he replaced, in the drivers’ championship.
He desperately needs a stronger qualifying to make his life easier in the race.
Winner: Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen’s first lap in Portugal was so rapid, he “wondered what the others were doing” as he gained an incredible 10 places to run as high as P6.
The Finn faded courtesy of the lack of pace in his Alfa Romeo, but he used every ounce of his experience and fighting spirit to almost snatch a point, before his friend and former team mate Sebastian Vettel snatched it at the death.
Nonetheless, Raikkonen proved he’s still got what it takes to compete in F1, and it’s great news he’s set to extend his stay for at least one more year with Alfa Romeo.
Loser: Daniil Kvyat
Daniil Kvyat’s purple patch in the Italian Grands Prix and Russia seems like a long time ago, the Russian following a non-score in Germany with another one in Portugal.
He was at a loss to explain the lack of pace and it comes at the wrong time, as Red Bull look to finalise their line-ups at the senior team and AlphaTauri for 2021.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Every race Max Verstappen has finished this year (nine out of 12), he has finished on the podium, the Red Bull driver finishing a comfortable third in Portugal.
He didn’t quite have the pace to challenge Mercedes for victory, a threat that was tapered by the fact he started on the soft rather than the medium, but it’s clear in the hands of Verstappen, the Red Bull is closing the gap to the Silver Arrows.
And at 17 points adrift of Bottas, the possibility of second in the drivers’ championship is still a very real possibility, which would be some achievement.