Portuguese Grand Prix 2021 Race Preview
Formula One travels to the Algarve International Circuit in Portimão for the Portuguese Grand Prix. It will mark the third race of the 2021 season and only the second time this circuit will be used as a part of F1 World Championship.
The circuit hasn’t been a staple for the Formula One calendar, having been picked to join the list in 2020 to compensate for the missed race due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, it has passed 24 years since F1 last visited Portugal.
In 2020, we saw Lewis Hamilton win at Algarve International Circuit to claim his 92nd career victory to surpass Michael Schumacher’s all-time record. Finishing in second was his teammate Valtteri Bottas, while Max Verstappen ended in third.
The race wasn’t as boring as the podium would suggest. It had quite a chaotic start, with drivers that opted for softer tires enjoying the upper hand. What’s more, we saw Sergio Pérez and Verstappen collide, which forced the former to pit early.
Besides the chaotic start of the race, we got to see a remarkable comeback from Hamilton, who struggled to warp up his medium compounds at first. But when he got into the groove, he took over the first spot and never let go of it.
Whether last year’s results are important is up to debate, but with team changes and car modifications, we would argue that it doesn’t paint a clear picture of how Sunday’s race will end.
Last year the Portuguese Grand Prix was cloudy and cool, with a few spots of rain, but since this year the race won’t be held in October (as in 2020), we can expect a bit warmer temperature with little chance of any precipitation.
The current forecast shows Sunday will be sunny and dry all day long. The temperature is expected to sit at around 21°C, essentially meaning we’re in for perfect conditions for an F1 race.
We might as well not talk about it, since it should be very clear who the favorites are. But for the sake of being consistent, we will go on and mention that Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen enter the third race of the season as two main favorites.
The bookmakers have clear issues trying to split the two top dogs. At the time of writing, Hamilton is a marginal (2.25) favorite over Verstappen (2.37), but we expect the odds to continue moving back and forth.
It’s difficult to pick between the two, since they seem so closely matches. That said, we firmly believe Verstappen has been performing much better this season.
The general consensus is that Red Bull have the fastest cars this year and it’s hard to argue with that, however, it’s also true that Hamilton can drag his Mercedes across the line and still look extremely competitive. If you wish a better indication of how much “worse” Mercedes cars are to Red Bull’s you would have to look at Bottas.
That brings us to our third and fourth favorites to win the race in Sergio Perez (9.00) and Valtteri Bottas (9.50). Although they’re still one of the favorites to win the race, it’s hard to make a case to back either of the two to finish ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton.
Bottas has been struggling this season and hasn’t really impressed thus far. He has finished third in Bahrain with a +37.383s deficit and didn’t finish the Imola race. Perez, on the other side, looked good in Imola, where he qualified in third, but then had a disastrous race and missed the points.
Regardless of Perez’s mishap, we have to consider that he is still adapting to the new car and is like – Verstappen’s former teammates – still learning to drive a new machine. It might take some time, but we expect Perez to improve.
F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Betting Picks
Since it’s incredibly difficult to pick between Verstappen and Hamilton, we will steer clear of betting on the favorite for this match. At the same time, we have no confidence in either of the remaining drivers to win the race. That said, we have put together three picks that are worth taking a look at.
Charles Leclerc Could Take Advantage of Bottas’ and Perez’ struggles
Charles Leclerc has had a fairly decent run so far this season. He has qualified fourth in both races and while he managed only sixth in Bahrain, the Monegasque driver improved his showing in Italy and ended in fourth.
Although Leclerc is clearly not as fast as Verstappen and Bottas, there is not a lot to set him apart from Perez and Bottas. We would go even so far as to say that Leclerc has looked far more consistent than either of the two.
With Bottas’s poor form and Perez still adapting to a new car, this could be a perfect opportunity for Leclerc to pass them and claim his first podium of the season. He was fourth here last year and with the improvements to his car, it’s not too optimistic to believe he can finish inside the top-three.
Prediction: Charles Leclerc podium finish
Since we have established that the struggles of Perez and Bottas leave the doors wide open for underdogs to steal the spotlight, it’s only fair to take a look at another driver that might impress.
Although we have Leclerc as the main favorite to win the “Best of the rest” battle, you can’t really look past Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly. After a DNF in Bahrain, Gasly managed an impressive seventh-place finish in Italy just behind Ricciardo in sixth.
Much of Gasly’s success that day was thanks to Alpha Tauri’s fast cars. While they’re not as fast as Red Bull, Alpha Tauri have the pace – now it’s only a matter of time before they find a way to convert that into good results.
Gasly might not be able to compete for a top-three, but seeing him finish inside the top-six is something we can imagine.
Prediction: Pierre Gasly top 6 finish
Alfa Romeo Remain Positive
Alfa Romeo must be disappointed not to see both of their drivers finish inside the points, and so are we, having backed Kimi Raikonnen to finish in points with our Emilia Romagna Grand Prix betting preview.
Regardless, Raikkonen had a decent run in Italy, where he looked set to finish in 10th, but missed out by two seconds and ended in 11th.
Last year, Raikkonen had a solid run at this track and made up a lot of places after he was set back for starting on soft tyres. He held on 10th place for most of the race despite driving a much weaker car, but – like in Imola – slipped and finished in 11th.
Alfa Romeo look faster this season and by putting two and two together, Raikkonen should finish the race higher up than last year. Although we don’t expect great things from him, he’s worth a bet to finish inside the points at the provided odds.
Prediction: Kimi Raikkonen to finish in the points
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