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Why F1's Portugal leveller isn't a reliable silver bullet
A track surface that was reluctant to yield grip left many drivers complaining in Portimao, but created mixed strategies and havoc at the start. Yet, while an enjoyable means of mixing the pack, F1 cannot always rely on it
It was good to see Formula 1 visiting another new circuit in this coronavirus-affected season, especially because Portimao threw up an interesting problem that had even the best of teams scratching their heads. Of course, this being Portugal and past the traditional holiday season, there is always a risk from the vagaries of the weather coming from the Atlantic sea. And, while the threat of rain kept the teams occupied throughout the race, after a few drops at the start brought to mind the 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, this wasn't the major issue at hand.
Rather, it was the freshly-resurfaced track and the lack of grip it delivered. Having only been laid one month before the grand prix, the surface of the asphalt was still oozing oils, and the addition of heavy rain in the few days leading up to first practice only compounded the problem.
OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.
Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition
Just as he did in 2020, Lewis Hamilton had to come from behind to win the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix. Only this time there were two rivals he had to pass, among the several challenges he had to overcome, on his way to securing a 97th grand prix victory
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Lewis Hamilton topped the crucial FP2 session on Friday as F1 returned to Portugal, but his Mercedes team cannot be sure it has the edge on its Red Bull rivals. As cool temperatures and wind combine with the still-slippery surface to present drivers with quandaries over set-up and tyre warmup, there's still everything to play for come qualifying.
As a highly-rated Mercedes junior, George Russell is naturally billed as Lewis Hamilton's heir apparent where Britain's next Formula 1 champion is concerned. But he may face competition for that accolade from Lando Norris, fresh from a confidence-boosting run to third at Imola whose rise is being accelerated by his McLaren team’s revival
The news this week that F1 has green-lit 'sprint qualifying' races that will determine the grid for three grands prix in 2021 was met with a blend of excitement and scepticism. But before those in both camps can be vilified, F1 must first work out what its criteria is for success - and what will justify making them a more permanent fixture
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