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Portuguese GP preview

Lewis Hamilton in Imola. Credits: Daimler Global Media Site.

Only two races into the season and things are already intriguing thanks to the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, and the battle in the midfield is closer than ever as well. 

After the races in Bahrain and Imola, Mercedes and Red Bull have the same number of victories and pole positions. Plus, Max and Lewis are only separated by one point. The battle for the win of the championship is still extremely long, but both of them know that they cannot make mistakes. 

It was not the best weekend for Mercedes in Imola, where Valtteri Bottas crashed with George Russell and did not score any points. Also, Hamilton hit the wall during the race but still managed to finish second. It was surely a better performance than the one seen in Bahrain, and in Portugal, the Silver Arrows can surely fight for the victory against Red Bull.

The latter does not seem the favorite by a great margin anymore, but Verstappen is in great shape, and he knows how to beat Mercedes. Sergio Perez as well did not perform very well in Italy after a strong debut in Bahrain. However, if Red Bull can put everything together, beating its main rival in Portimao could not just be a dream, but it can become reality. 

A strong performance was the one shown by McLaren. Lando Norris stepped on the podium, and he almost managed to qualify in P3. Even though Lando feels the car very well, it is not the same for Daniel Ricciardo, who still has to fully adapt and did not manage to match his teammate’s performance. However, the McLaren duo proved that it can be the British team that can be third in the constructor championship.

Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, and Charles Leclerc racing in Imola. Credits: Red Bull Content Pool.

It will not be easy, though, because the fight with Ferrari is going to be as hard as it was in Imola. Charles Leclerc fought against Norris, and the performances of the MCL35M and the SF21 are almost equal. Carlos Sainz as well is finding his rhythm with the car, meaning that the Italian team can outperform McLaren at the Portuguese venue.

Many people also suggested that AlphaTauri could be in the fight for third place in the constructor championship. However, the team was a bit unlucky in Bahrain and played a wrong strategy with Pierre Gasly in Imola. Therefore, it did not score as many points as it wished so far. However, the car is fast, and if they can put everything together, Yuki Tsunoda and Gasly can achieve some good results in Portimao. 

After a difficult start in Bahrain, Aston Martin showed a slightly better pace in Italy, but it is still far away from the performance needed if they want to be at least third in the standings. Lance Stroll is proving to be a fast driver and that he deserves to be in F1, while Sebastian Vettel is still struggling. Scoring points in Portimao will not be easy for them, but if they will bring new updates, they might gain some positions. 

Alpine managed to have both cars in the points with Fernando Alonso in P10 and Esteban Ocon in front of him. Both cars were in the top ten also thanks to the penalties given during and after the race. However, they can hope for good results ahead of the Portimao GP since the new upgrades brought to Imola worked quite well, as Alonso confirmed. 

Alfa Romeo continues to be unlucky even if the performance seems to be there. Antonio Giovinazzi lost a lot of time since he had some problems with the cooling systems of the brakes, and Kimi Raikkonen received a penalty after the race, which dropped him outside the top ten. The performance of the team was not as good as the one in Bahrain in terms of pace, which means that in Portugal, Alfa Romeo might struggle and might continue its streak of not scoring any points in 2021. 

The weekend started extremely well for Williams, which put both cars in Q2, something that did not happen for quite some time. The path to the top is still long, but at least the team proved that the car can compete for the points in some races this season. Nicholas Latifi was finally able to extract a good performance from the car, but he crashed on the first lap of the race. George Russell as well was on his way to score his first points for Williams, but a heavy crash with Valtteri Bottas prevented him to do so. Scoring points in Portimao might not be a dream anymore for them, but they need a perfect performance and maybe a bit of luck as well.

Finally, Haas was the slowest team on the grid once again, but it was not something unexpected. At least, in Imola, both drivers finished the race, even though they still made some mistakes, but that is part of the process. The best result they can hope for in Portimao might be a Q2 on Saturday and seeing both drivers finish the race for the second time in a row. 

Many things can happen in Portimao. The fight between Mercedes and Red Bull is going to be incredible. If that is not enough, the battle in the midfield is going to be entertaining as well, with Ferrari, McLaren, and AlphaTauri separated by a very thin margin. 

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