2021 Portuguese & Spanish GPs: Mercedes gives them the old one, two

And in more ways than one. Hamilton is on a charge, and a superb tactical gamble paid off hugely in Spain, says Mark Hughes

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battle in the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

Lars Baron/Getty Images

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These two events were something of a cold shower for the hopes raised by the first two. Bahrain and Imola had suggested a closely-matched title slug-out between Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes and Max Verstappen/ Red Bull. It’s not that Verstappen wasn’t in there fighting in Portugal and Spain – he was. It’s just that Hamilton and Mercedes emerged on top both times to make it three from the first four and that ‘Mercedes success fatigue’ seemed to hang in the air after seven straight seasons of dominance.

But actually, when analysing the patterns of performance over each of the four races, the winning differentiator on each occasion has varied. So it might just be that the sequence of the tracks in the calendar and how they reward/punish different aspects of performance has given a false narrative. Or it may just really be that Mercedes started behind, drew level and by Portimão and Barcelona pulled ahead. A third reading of the situation is that the multi-faceted nature of Hamilton’s brilliance in this mature part of his F1 career is making the crucial difference.

How much is the car and how much is the driver? That age-old question was posed extremely strongly in these two races where Hamilton’s route to victory was different each time.