THERE was a glimmer of hope of something different in the opening laps as Carlos Sainz nosed his McLaren past the Mercedes of the usual duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
But it didn’t last long and, as blind Freddy might have predicted, Hamilton and Bottas had yet another 1-2 win for the Silver Arrows, even though they’re now painted black to satisfy Hamilton’s political whims.
However, it was an entertaining affair with lots of action throughout the 66 laps of the undulating 4.6km Portimao circuit, with lively scraps, and the occasional scrape, among the runners — and it marked Hamilton’s 92nd win, a new record in Formula 1.
With light rain falling, grip became an issue and Hamilton lost his great start to Bottas, who in turn, was passed by Sainz on lap two.
Behind them came Sergio Perez, but the Mexican’s Racing Point was tipped off into the weeds as he passed Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Both made a good recovery though, Verstappen climbing back to third, while Perez looked safe in 5th — but was caught by both Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri and Carlos Sainz in the closing laps.
Ferrari was back on pace again, with Charles Leclerc claiming 4th, ahead of Gasly, Sainz, Perez, the Renault pair of Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo, with Sebastien Vettel taking the final point in 10th for Ferrari.
The pace was such that only the first four cars finished on the same lap.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll made contact with Lando Norris’s McLaren, chalking up a pair of five-second penalties for causing the collision and track limits infringements, before he retired.
Kimi Raikkonen had a fine initial run, starting from 16th to move up to sixth with some scintillating moves in the Alfa Romeo, getting past the Renaults and Gasly’s Alpha Tauri, but the 41-year-old started to drift back while, up front, Bottas led until Hamilton got by on lap 20 — and then simply ran away with the race.
He radioed his pit to whinge about he state of his tyres (while setting the fastest lap) and kept on improving on his lap times several more times.
It was his day and his win in the Portuguese Grand Prix made him Formula 1’s most successful driver of all time.
He grew up watching Michael Schumacher’s successes and has now bettered him with 92 victories.
His comprehensive win in Portugal — he finished nearly half a minute ahead of Bottas — also edged him closer to a seventh Formula 1 title — the last of Schumacher’s major records left for Hamilton.
“I could only ever have dreamed of being where I am today,” Hamilton said.
“It’s going to take some time to fully sink in. I can’t find the words at the moment.”
Hamilton won his first race in 2007 with McLaren but his career really took off when he replaced the retired Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013.
“I didn’t have a magic ball when I chose to come to this team,” he said.
Not quite as happy was Valtteri Bottas, who, like several other drivers, Daniel Ricciardo included, had a torrid time with tyre wear.
However, Esteban Ocon did a marathon stint on his tyres, running for 53 of the 66 laps before nipping into the pits for fresh rubber.
“It was a good race for me,” the French driver, who started from 11th, and finished 8th, said.
‘It was very hard at the start being on the Mediums, but we remained competitive throughout. I completed 53 laps on them.
‘They seemed to last a long time and my pace was strong even towards the end of the stint.
‘In the end I think we did a good job to get both cars inside the top 10.’
Aussie Daniel Ricciardo went from 10th to 8th on the opening lap but had to make two pit stops to remain competitive.
‘I never really had the tyres in the right window so I couldn’t push too hard,” he said. “Still, 8th and 9th isn’t a bad result.”
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul agreed.
“We came away from Germany with a great buzz after Daniel’s podium, so it was disappointing to see that the car struggled massively for grip all the way through the weekend.
“What is interesting about today’s race is that we never managed to make the Softs work, but Esteban’s massive stint on the Mediums was extremely competitive.
‘It is a clear demonstration that the weekend was dictated by the tyre performance: as we go towards the end of the season and we could experience similar circumstances in the next two races.
Next grand prix is at Imola, or Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, to give it its full name, on November 1.
|3||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||66||+34.508s||15|
|5||10||ALPHATAURI HONDA||65||+1 lap||10|
|6||55||MCLAREN RENAULT||65||+1 lap||8|
|7||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||65||+1 lap||6|
|11||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||65||+1 lap||0|
|12||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||65||+1 lap||0|
|13||4||MCLAREN RENAULT||65||+1 lap||0|
|14||63||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||65||+1 lap||0|
|15||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||65||+1 lap||0|
|16||20||HAAS FERRARI||65||+1 lap||0|
|17||8||HAAS FERRARI||65||+1 lap||0|
|18||6||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||64||+2 laps||0|
|19||26||ALPHATAURI HONDA||64||+2 laps||0|
|NC||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||51||DNF||0|
Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Grosjean received a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits.
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