Sunday Standouts: Portugal Pursuit
If a poll were made this weekend, most would say that Portugal left much to be desired. Viewers were certainly spoilt with the thrilling racing in the first two Grands Prix this season, and this Sunday simply seemed duller. There were some interesting tidbits, like the early safety car, Sergio Perez leading the race with a long stint on his mediums (prompting Lewis Hamilton to calling for blue flags as a driver clearly unused to being second) and as a special shoutout, who isn’t familiar with the soothing encouragement of Mick Schumacher’s race engineer Gary Gannon at this point? Nevertheless here are my top 5 winners (with me doing my best to exclude the podium trio) and 3 misses for the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix.
————— Wins —————
5. Mick Schumacher
Speaking of the German, here he is. P17 is far from a shiny trophy, but for Schumacher last Sunday this was a massive win. The Haas has been regarded as the worst car on the grid, so for the rookie to have pressured Williams’ Nicholas Latifi into a mistake for an overtake is a testament to his growing confidence with the VF-21. He was also running a minute ahead of his teammate and seems to have a much better grasp overall on the car, so hopefully he will be able to show more of his skills in a faster car.
4. Charles Leclerc
Leclerc is certainly determined to remain Ferrari’s young star. Although he qualified lower than teammate Carlos Sainz, he had much better tyre management and came in P6 for the second time this year. The prancing horses seem to be regaining much more of their former speed, and paired with their faith in the talented Monegasque who has a six! year contract, perhaps there will be a new Ferrari world champion.
3. Daniel Ricciardo
When Saturday rolled around no one was expecting the seven time race winner to be knocked out in Q1. But the Aussie didn’t let it knock him down (excuse the pun) and gave an admirable performance to launch him from P16 to P9. Portugal was only Ricciardo’s third Grand Prix with McLaren, and it seems that he has not yet found his groove. It took him two years in Renault to start claiming podiums, and with luck, Ricciardo improves much quicker with his new team. The car clearly has the pace, given Lando Norris’ impressive third place drive last race weekend, and it will be up to Ricciardo to get himself up to speed.
2. Lando Norris
Portugal was only the third race of the season, but Norris has truly come into his own in the MCL35M. The Briton has moved beyond his rookie years into his third season with McLaren, and he has made that experience count. A podium in Imola and two top-five finishes has awarded Norris with provisional P3 in the drivers’ championship, 5 points ahead of last year’s runner up Valtteri Bottas. He has speed on both qualifying and race day, and he has proven himself to be a consistent points scorer for the team. This could be the breakout season for Norris who, for the past two years, has been left out of the pool of championship contenders.
1. Esteban Ocon
Alpine seemed to have much better pace than the last two weekends, and this will be the third race in a row where Ocon has beat former champion Fernando Alonso. Before the start of the season, none would have expected the Frenchman to come out on top, especially with his record compared to previous Renault teammate Daniel Ricciardo. But Ocon seems to be adjusting to the new Alpine car much better than Alonso, which is to be expected as it will be his second year with the team. Hopefully the 24-year-old will now take this chance to lead Alpine along with the younger generation of drivers.
————— Misses —————
3. Kimi Räikkönen
The seasoned Iceman made a rare error this afternoon when he plowed into fellow Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi on the second lap of the race. Räikkönen revealed that he had been looking down at his steering wheel, and did not see how close Giovinazzi was. The Finn tore off his own front wing, and because it became lodged under his tyres, left him unable to stop his car from rolling into the gravel. Fortunately Giovinazzi’s car was fine and he finished the race in P12.
2. Carlos Sainz
Starting from P5, bad tyre management left Sainz struggling for pace near the end of his medium stint. The Spaniard admitted himself post-race that, contrary to last year’s dismal showing from Ferrari, it was not a lack of pace that was the problem. (As proven by teammate Leclerc’s consistently higher points finishes) He had simply pushed too hard too early to make the undercut work, and combined with his strategy of an early pit stop, this meant that he finished just outside of the points at P11.
1. Nikita Mazepin
Despite finishing last on the grid, the Russian has once again ended up at the top of the misses list. This was yet another lacklustre weekend for Mazepin, and if he were to be commended for anything it would be his consistency in staying behind his teammate. He also gained a penalty for not obeying blue flags when he was being lapped by the other drivers. With Callum Ilott’s appearance at the track this weekend as reserve driver for Alfa Romeo, this will only have fuelled fans’ frustration at the Haas team and Mazepin himself.
That is it for my Sunday Standouts for the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix, if you enjoyed it share it on Twitter! This a regular series for the 2021 season, so make sure follow my Twitter @castorscorner and fill out the subscribe form to stay updated!