By Carol M. Creasey
Formula One arrived in Portimao to warm temperatures, but just like last year, the drivers complained that the grid was slippery.
Sir Lewis Hamilton complained that the Pirelli tyres were too hard, and he was clearly suffering in FP1, as the highest he could manage was fifth fastest. He told his team that his car needed rectifying before he could post competitive times.
In that same session Valtteri Bottas was on top, with Verstappen second. By the time FP2 came round, Sir Lewis’ car problems had been addressed, and he topped that session, with Verstappen behind him, and then Bottas in third. In FP3 it was Max Verstappen’s turn to top the timesheets, with Sir Lewis second, and Bottas third. With the margins being as close as they were, it was obvious there would be a fight for pole position.
Sir Lewis looked very comfortable in Qualifying, being fastest in Q1, but by the time they had reached Q3, it had changed. He had posted the fastest time in Q2 on the medium tyres, but was unable to repeat it in Q3.
Bottas showed that he had put the misery of the first two races behind him, by taking pole position only 0.007s ahead of Sir Lewis. Verstappen came in third and Sergio Perez in fourth. Sir Lewis, as always, congratulated Bottas for a job well done, but it was clear that Verstappen had taken his defeat very badly.
The Press have made much of the world championship being fought between Sir Lewis and Verstappen this year, but they seem to have forgotten that they each have a team-mate in the same car, with an equal chance to shine. Indeed those four drivers occupied the two front rows on the grid, which promised an exciting race on Sunday.
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At the start Bottas held his position, as did Sir Lewis and Verstappen, however after a poor safety car restart, Sir Lewis was overtaken by the Dutch driver. Sir Lewis has mastered the art of not panicking when things go wrong in a race, he kept a cool head and a few laps later he was able to get his position back from a now irate Verstappen, who referred to himself in a radio message as “a sitting duck”. Sir Lewis then overtook Bottas to claim the lead, and he never looked back. He was able to make his tyres last for a long time, and once he got his hard tyres warmed-up after his pit stop, he opened up a gap of over 5 seconds.
Bottas lost power at one point, so he wasn’t able to challenge Verstappen for second place. During the last few laps Verstappen and Bottas both pitted again, to try and get the fastest lap. Initially it went to Verstappen, until his lap was deleted by race control for exceeding track limits. After the race he made it clear that he did not agree with the decision, but it still held.
Sir Lewis has proved once again that he can win without having the fastest car, his tyre management is second to none, and Mercedes’ pit strategy was spot on. So, well done to all concerned!
Red Bull may have the most powerful engine, but Mercedes has Sir Lewis, and once again, that is what made the difference. He now leads the championship by eight points. Now we have to see if Red Bull can strike back in Spain next week.
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