2021 Formula One Portuguese Grand Prix preview: A return to Portimao

Round three of the 2021 Formula One World Champion takes us this weekend to Portugal’s beautiful Algarve region where the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, commonly known as Portimao Circuit, is located.

Although Portugal has been a regular on the F1 calendar from the sport’s earliest years, it was only added last year after a 24-year hiatus as a special round to make up for one of the races missed due to Covid-19 disruptions. It’s back again this year due to the absence of a previously planned Vietnamese Grand Prix.

The Portimao Circuit was only completed in 2008 and thus only held its first F1 race last year. However, it feels a bit like an old-school track, with plenty of elevation changes and an unforgiving layout. The track is quite wide though, which makes several different lines possible and also helps overtaking.

It stretches 2.9 miles and features two very long straights in the first sector, where good top speed is vital, while the second sector is very different, being more twisty. The final part features medium-high speed corners, especially the last one which leads on to the start-finish straight.

Autodromo Internacional do Algarve (Portimao Circuit)

Weather conditions are a bit warmer and dryer this time of year compared to when the race was run last year, with the top temperature during Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race expected to be 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Last year the race was run in cool conditions and with occasional light rain.

Pirelli has nominated its harder compounds, the C1, C2 and C3, the same as last year.

After some initial practice on Friday, Mercedes-Benz AMG’s Valtteri Bottas posted the fastest times, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez close behind him.

Going into the weekend, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton leads the 2021 Drivers’ Championship with 44 points. Verstappen is a close second with 43 points and McLaren’s Lando Norris is third with 27 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes leads with 60 points versus the 53 of Red Bull and 41 of McLaren. Last year’s winner in Portugal was Hamilton driving for Mercedes.

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