Goin' up, goin' down: the 2021 Portuguese GP


Ups, downs, side to sides – they've all been charted in our F1 barometer

Lewis Hamilton Portugal

Lewis presumably pointing to someone in the lower echelons of our list

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For a grand prix venue that has crosswinds worthy of Blackpool on a bad day and a layout with almost as many elevation changes as the seaside resort’s fairground rides, the Portuguese Grand Prix might not have been quite the classic everyone was hoping for.

Still, plenty of moments of interest across the weekend – with as many lateral ups and downs as there are literal.

The new ‘MSC’

47 SCHUMACHER Mick (ger), Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari, action during the Formula 1 Heineken Grande Prémio de Portugal 2021 from April 30 to May 2, 2021 on the Algarve International Circuit, in Portimao, Portugal - Photo DPPI

He’s called ‘Quick Mick’ now, OK?

Xavi Bonilla / DPPI

It’s well documented that Mick Schumacher normally takes one season to play himself into a new championship, before dominating the next. He did exactly that in both FIA F3 and F2, ultimately winning both titles.

It’s been different this time though. ‘Quick Mick’ has regularly outpaced his Haas team-mate Nikita Mazepin, finishing a minute ahead of him in Portimão.

Not only that, the new ‘MSC’ also overtook Williams’ Nicolas Latifi. The latter was driving a car which was challenging for the points in Imola. By rights, Schumacher’s rather unwieldy Haas should be well behind the Grove machine, so passing and finishing ahead of the Canadian in Portugal was mightily impressive.


Undulating circuit design

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - MAY 02: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on May 02, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

‘Up down, side to side…’ etc, etc

Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Let’s face it, unless you’re playing some classic mid-’90s Micro Machines from Playstation 1, no-one wants to race on a billiards table.

Luckily, the Algarve International Circuit had us covered in Portimão, as the Portuguese hills provided both brilliant passing moves and tracking shots.

Whilst the race might not have been a classic overall, it still provided some great racing. Watching a merciless Max Verstappen hunt down Valtteri Bottas into Turn 4 was thrilling, whilst Lewis Hamilton’s dives past both those two into the rollercoaster dip of the opening turn was just as good. You could also feel your stomach drop as you watched the onboards.


Ocon turns it on

Esteban Ocon Portugal

It’s a big thumbs up from Ocon for our award-winning green arrow graphic

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Alpine and Esteban Ocon were looking a bit lost in the first two races of 2021. A lacklustre pointless finish in Bahrain was followed by two points at Imola only achieved after Kimi Räikkönen’s disqualification.

Somehow though, they appeared to have turned it around. The Frenchman in the French car qualified sixth in at Portimao, just 0.005sec off Carlo Sainz’s Ferrari in fifth.

He was outmanoeuvred by Lando Norris at the start and began to fall back slightly, but then admirably showed some Gallic gumption to pull himself back into the fight.

Ocon ultimately finished a credible seventh, with his team-mate Fernando Alonso seeming to be warming to his F1 career comeback with eight. Allez les bleus.


‘Danny Ric’ fightback

Everyone loves a storming drive through the field.

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Daniel Ricciardo’s comeback drive might not have been quite ‘Wattie‘ at Detroit ’82, but he still put on a show coming through from 16th to ninth.

Seven places may not sound all that impressive to some, but in an F1 midfield tighter than a gnat’s proverbial, the ‘Honey Badger’ had to both pull off some accomplished overtaking moves and show some real Pirelli Preservation Prowess (™) to make his long stint work.

Down the inside of Tsunoda, round the outside of Alonso, almost over the top of Räikkönen, an exciting opening first lap was followed by some typical Ricciardo late-braking overtakes later on in the race to bring home some well-deserved points.

Yuki’s scary radio

We all thought Günther Steiner was the sweariest man in F1, but he might just have a challenger to his throne.

Apparently Yuki Tsunoda learnt the ways of the English expletive whilst in his F2 year with Carlin, and he sounds like the most threatening cute person ever when he demands over the radio that yet another dawdling Aston Martin gets out of his way.

It’s almost as entertaining as his driving – better than hearing the usual bland “good job man” etc. Yuki’s episode in Netflix Drive to Survive series 4 should be a laugh.


Goin’ down

Nikita ‘I spin, therefore I am’ Mazepin

Haas F1's Russian driver Nikita Mazepin (2ndL) walks with team members at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao on April 29, 2021 ahead of the Portuguese Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP) (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images)

Mazepin tells team where he’s planning to go off next


‘Mazespin’ was up to his usual tricks at Portimao, continuing the ‘Bolshoi-on-wheels’ tribute as he twirls and twists his way through the season – funded by his oligarch-turned-impresario father’s ural-billions.

If Daddy Dmitri does have so many roubles lying around though, maybe he should invest in some stabilisers for the not-so-racy Russian?

He could do endless tests round and round an Oxfordshire airstrip until he learns how drive a car round corners.

Mazepin also did a good job of getting in other cars’ way in Portugal, making Ricardo Rosset look half-decent.


F1 Old Boy’s Club

Raikkonen Portugal

Räikkönen getting nostalgic for his rallying days

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Alonso might have provided a bit of a turnaround, but that was in rectifying a pretty lacklustre qualifying performance.

The ‘Vettel Fanclub’ rejoiced at a marvellous 10th position for ‘Super Seb’ in qualifying, who presumably had to have a bit of a sit down after reaching such heady heights in the Aston Martin – he hadn’t reached Q3 since Silverstone last year, nine months ago.

His defence in the race though was predictably toothless, eventually finishing 13th with team-mate Lance Stroll just behind – at least he didn’t crash into anyone. Maybe Seb’ll have to watch some more of those inspiring ‘IAMF1’ videos his employers keep putting out to find some motivation.

Räikkönen wasn’t much better, encouraging his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi to go a bit faster by ramming him from behind, thus removing his Alfa Romeo’s front wing and ending up in the gravel as a result.


Sore losers

Red Bull Portugal

Red Bull plots its next charm offensive

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Never one to suffer in silence Red Bull oozed charm by whining about Max Verstappen’s fastest lap being deleted.

“Now we’ve lost the victory, fastest lap, and pole position,” cried Helmut Marko, no doubt to coos of sympathy up and down the F1 paddock.

Maybe he has a point – why can’t someone keep their lap time, even if they go off-track when setting it?

I mean, who needs rules like track limits? Or even corners? Or tracks? Tell you what, why don’t we just make each race a straight charge from Milton Keynes to Vienna and back? Sorted.


Cautious compounds

PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL - MAY 02: A Red Bull team member prepares the tyres during the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal at Autodromo Internacional Do Algarve on May 02, 2021 in Portimao, Portugal. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

These guys could probably do several Portuguese GPs over and still look good as new

Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

It’s difficult for Pirelli. We know that. It can never seem right for doing wrong. Whatever it does, Pirelli gets panned. Go too soft on tyre choices, everyone moans about them falling apart. Go too hard, and we end up with boring one-stop races.

Still though, F1 has been to Portimao before, and the tyres have been made more durable this season. Pirelli went with the hardest tyre choices it could, and although it made for some entertaining viewing as drivers struggled for grip, it still brought about a pretty boring one-stop strategy, harking back to some of those mid-2000 classic GPs where almost nothing happened at 200mph.


Watery Bottas

Hamilton Bottas Portugal

Hamilton consoles Bottas on Saturday as they both know he’s going to bottle it on Sunday

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Oh Valtteri. Celebrated his pole as if he hadn’t just inherited it from a ‘backspaced’ Max Verstappen, who would’ve still trounced the Finn if only he’d managed to keep his Milton Keynes machine on track.

It all went a bit predictably south in the race, as both Hamilton and Verstappen made short work of the Finn. Maybe he should try something else – Rallying? Ice hockey? Fixing his girlfriend’s bikes?

That said, if he keeps trundling round in third, it will probably be good enough for Merc to take the Constructors’ and potentially keep the not-so-flying-Finn in a job.