F1 Spanish GP: Lewis Hamilton extends his Championship lead over Red Bull rival Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton extends his F1 Championship lead over Red Bull rival Max Verstappen with his third Grand Prix win of the 2021 season in Spain

Sir Lewis Hamilton won a cat-and-mouse Spanish Grand Prix to extend his world championship advantage over Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman tried valiantly to hold off a brilliant charge from Hamilton, but his tyres were shot and his pursuer too relentless, and he succumbed at the start of the 60th of 66 laps.

Hamilton drove majestically to claim his third win from four races and extend his lead in the Championship, with Verstappen second and Mercedes’s Valtteri Bottas third.

Lewis Hamilton won cat-and-mouse Spanish Grand Prix with a great win over Max Verstappen

Hamilton drove majestically to claim his third win from four races and extend his lead

Hamilton drove majestically to claim his third win from four races and extend his lead

It was an unexpectedly entertaining afternoon, with the two top men on wildly different strategies.

First, Verstappen passed Hamilton at the opening corner, a bold lunge down the inside.

The two men went at it hard, Verstappen holding on to a slim lead of about a second. Then, he pitted – it was a slow stop. Hamilton stayed out longer, coming out six seconds behind Verstappen but closing fast on fresher rubber.

Then Mercedes sprung a surprise, bringing Hamilton in again. Verstappen stayed out.

It was an entertaining afternoon, with the two top men on wildly different strategies

It was an entertaining afternoon, with the two top men on wildly different strategies

Now we were into the meat of the fight – Hamilton was 23 seconds back with 21 laps to reach Verstappen and pass him. The seven-time world champion put his foot to the floor and turned the timing screens purple.

In large chunks of a 1.5sec, sometimes more, he narrowed the gap. Then he passed Bottas to go second and was right on Verstappen’s back.

The Red Bull’s tyres were shot, and Hamilton cruised past at the opening corner – the place he had been overtaken right at the start.

Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari and Sergio Perez fifth for Red Bull.

Verstappen grabbed the fastest lap and the extra point that goes with it.

Relive Sportsmail’s Ieuan Ivett’s live Formula One coverage of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Advertisement

Lewis Hamilton admits being left in disbelief at reaching 100 F1 pole positions

‘I’ll always remember that one!’ Lewis Hamilton admits being left in disbelief at reaching 100 F1 pole positions after the Brit’s stunning lap at Catalunya sees him pip Max Verstappen on the front row for the Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has admitted to being left in disbelief at taking a 100th career Formula One pole position following a thrilling qualifying session for the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Brit narrowly pipped chief title rival Max Verstappen by just three hundredths of a second to top spot, with his Red Bull rival lining up alongside him on the front row for Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Speaking in parc ferme following the end of the session, Hamilton revealed his gratitude to his support team back in the Mercedes factory in Brackley, who he joined from McLaren ahead of the 2013 season, having being left thrilled at his 100th pole in the sport. 

Lewis Hamilton took his 100th pole position of his Formula One career at the Spanish GP

The Brit battled back from a setup problem to ensure he starts from the front for Sunday's race

The Brit battled back from a setup problem to ensure he starts from the front for Sunday’s race

‘Wow, I can’t believe that we are at 100, and it is really down to the men and women that are back at the factory who are continuously raising the bar and are just never giving up,’ Hamilton said.

‘The support I have, it’s been a dream for me to work for these guys. The journey that we have been on has been immense. Who would have thought in 2013 or even in 2012 when we made the decision to partner we would be qualifying at 100? So I feel humble, very grateful and I’m ecstatic like it’s my first.’

Hamilton’s time of a 1:16.741 was particularly impressive given he had struggled throughout the session after making a bad setup call following attempts to make the car quicker after impressing throughout practice.

Hamilton admitted he has been grateful to the hard work of his Mercedes colleagues who he joined from McLaren in 2013

Since joining Mercedes, Hamilton has dominated F1

Hamilton admitted he is grateful to the hard work of his Mercedes colleagues, who he joined from McLaren in 2013, to help him earn his 100 pole positions

Hamilton has been a constant feature near the front of the grid for Mercedes, pictured taking pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in 2014

Hamilton has been a constant feature near the front of the grid for Mercedes, pictured taking pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in 2014

The Brit was as far back as seven tenths down on Verstappen after the second qualifying session with problems related to understeer but that he was able to adjust the car just in time for his liking heading into the pole position shootout. 

‘P3 [practice three] was looking good I think we had been strong all weekend. I had anxiety about the changes that we were potentially going to make for qualifying. You are always trying to make the car better but it’s a bit of a gamble because you have to keep the race in mind.

‘We made the changes and soon as I got out there I was like “this is immediately the wrong one”, and it was my call at the end, but it was really hard,’ he added.

‘That was why I was always behind through qualifying. I was making small tweaks here and there to elevate pace. The first was the best lap [in pole position shootout] that I got through the session which was great. I tried to improve the next lap and I was a tenth and a half up but I couldn’t keep it.  

Just one tenth separated Hamilton (middle) from Verstappen (top) and Valtteri Bottas

Just one tenth separated Hamilton (middle) from Verstappen (top) and Valtteri Bottas

Hamilton and Verstappen shake hands following Saturday's thrilling qualifying session

Hamilton and Verstappen shake hands following Saturday’s thrilling qualifying session

‘The setup I had, had so much understeer so the car was very lazy and wouldn’t turn around corners like I want. So you are waiting, waiting and waiting. So I was making small adjustments to get the car to turn and that is the combination of many things and then it is just pulling every millisecond together and it was my cleanest lap. I’ll always remember that one.’

Hamilton will be looking to extend his championship lead from eight points over Verstappen having edged out the Dutchman 2-1 in victories across the first three races of the season.

Since joining Mercedes in 2013 and winning his second world title a year later he has won every world championship since bar 2016 and is looking to land an unprecedented eighth world title in 2021. 

Advertisement

Bottas receives unwanted endorsement from Red Bull chief amid doubts over his Mercedes future

Under-pressure Valtteri Bottas receives unwanted endorsement from Red Bull chief Christian Horner amid doubts over his Mercedes future

  • Valtteri Bottas is on a one-year contract and under pressure from George Russell
  • The 23-year-old Briton who excelled when filling in for Lewis Hamilton last year
  • The Finn is 37 points behind Mercedes team-mate Hamilton after three races

Valtteri Bottas has received a dreaded vote of confidence — from the boss of Mercedes’ rivals!

Bottas is on a one-year contract and is under pressure from George Russell, the 23-year-old Briton who excelled when filling in for Lewis Hamilton last year. 

As Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday, some Mercedes engineers are losing faith in the Finn, who is 37 points behind Hamilton after three races.

Mercedes are losing faith in Valtteri Bottas, who may be replaced before the end of the season

Enter Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. 

Asked if he thought Bottas could be axed mid-season, Horner said: ‘Valtteri has done a great job over the last few years. I’d be surprised if they did switch Valtteri and George around.’

A struggling Bottas would suit Horner as he tries to deny Mercedes an eighth consecutive constructors’ title. Red Bull are 18 points adrift in the standings.

The Finn is 37 points behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton after three races

The Finn is 37 points behind Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton after three races 

Valtteri Bottas is on a one-year contract and under pressure from George Russell (above)

Valtteri Bottas is on a one-year contract and under pressure from George Russell (above)

Advertisement

F1: Seven things we learned from the Portuguese Grand Prix

The Portuguese Grand Prix produced a similar looking story with Lewis Hamilton heading an easy race win in front of title rival Max Verstappen and team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Yet it wasn’t all easy for the seven-time world champion who had to battle back from a poor start where he dropped to third before making his way up into first and then strolling on to victory.

While it was business as usual for Hamilton following his Imola defeat by Verstappen last time out, there was plenty happening behind the seven-time world champion in the pack as Sportsmail looks at the seven things we learned from the Portuguese Grand Prix. 

Lewis Hamilton (centre) celebrates his Portuguese Grand Prix victory with Valtteri Bottas (R)

Hamilton had to pass Bottas as well as title rival Max Verstappen (top) to win at Portimao

Hamilton had to pass Bottas as well as title rival Max Verstappen (top) to win at Portimao

Hamilton reasserts Mercedes dominance

This was a classic Lewis Hamilton performance and is an example of why he is the best in the business and that it is not ‘all about the car’.

Although it certainly does help to have an all-conquering machine like a Mercedes, it’s only as useful as the guy behind the wheel and his recovery drive to secure a comfortable victory was that of a driver looking to win a record eighth world championship. 

From qualifying second on the grid, Hamilton endured a poor start to the race, admitting calling himself ‘an idiot’ following an early safety car where he briefly dropped behind third-placed Max Verstappen.

Hamilton celebrates after strolling towards his second race win of the 2021 season

Hamilton celebrates after strolling towards his second race win of the 2021 season

‘We got the Safety Car and I did everything to keep the temperatures right in the tyres but the restart, I literally took my eyes off Valtteri for one second to see where Max was and Valtteri had gone,’ he told Sky Sports.

‘So that was a mistake. Then following that, one other mistake was that I was in the tow of Valtteri and I just should have just stayed there. But instead I moved over and gave Max the tow and he came flying past me.’ 

Hamilton though battled back well from adversity, easily and calmly passing his chief title rival and his team-mate to waltz into the lead and from then on enjoying a comfortable afternoon on his way to a second win of the season.

Mistakes have curiously crept into Hamilton’s scrappy start to 2021, but his talent is mopping those up and ensuring he remains top of the F1 tree. 

Hamilton's dominant victory has thrown the momentum behind Mercedes again

Hamilton’s dominant victory has thrown the momentum behind Mercedes again

Bottas blew title credentials

Every action has a reaction and while Hamilton is showing that 36-year-olds can still rule the roost in competitive sports, his team-mate Bottas suffered as a result of it.

Much of the early season talk has been about how this year’s title fight will be between Hamilton and Verstappen, and the Portuguese Grand Prix was the Finn’s chance to shoehorn his name into the mix – especially after grabbing pole position.

But Bottas could not keep up on race day, with Hamilton breezing past to take the lead, while he even fell behind Verstappen late on to finish a highly dispiriting third. 

Team chief Totto Wolf admitted the Sunday decline down the order was exaggerated after a sensor issue cost Bottas around five seconds in his fight with Verstappen.

Pole man Valtteri Bottas led away at the start but gradually fell to third during the race

Pole man Valtteri Bottas led away at the start but gradually fell to third during the race

‘That was unfortunate, because he really caught up well to Max, and then it kind of stabilised at 1.5, 1.6 seconds, but he had more to come at the end of the race,’ Wolff said.

‘We made a switch change, in order to basically override a sensor that was saying we are running too hot on exhaust temperatures, and we couldn’t override it. So the engine went in protection mode and cost him five seconds.’

While Bottas can take a little heart from this, it still appears to be an issue that had Hamilton stumbled upon it would not resulted with him dropping from pole to third by the end of a race.

Bottas will have more chances in 2021 to try and prove his title credentials but in his first big audition he has fallen flat. 

Bottas blew a good opportunity to assert himself into the drivers' title mix on Sunday

Bottas blew a good opportunity to assert himself into the drivers’ title mix on Sunday

Mick Schumacher is starting to settle

Being thrown in the deep end of Formula One usually means landing a debut drive in your rookie season at an established team, but it can prove just as difficult out of the spotlight.

It looks like being a tough year for Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael, who with the struggling Haas outfit has a car that seems very difficult to drive and likely to be propping up the field for the majority of the season.

His first couple of races saw him make a few errors in terms of spins, but he is now starting to settle on the grid after an impressive drive that enabled him to see off team-mate Nikita Mazepin with ease, and the bonus of passing Williams’ Nicholas Latifi for 17th place late on.

Mick Schumacher enjoyed a promising weekend behind the wheel of the Haas at Portimao

Mick Schumacher enjoyed a promising weekend behind the wheel of the Haas at Portimao

Schumacher even admitted targeting George Russell in the sister Williams and post race his strong display gave him confidence to target bigger results for the rest of the season. 

‘We had a lot more pace. It was unfortunate we didn’t get by earlier because I think otherwise we had a decent race in terms of lap time in front of us,’ he said.

‘Maybe we could have even caught up to George [Russell]. But I feel like we were a big, big step forwards from where we were at Imola and I think if we keep on making those steps we will be in a very good place at the end of the year.’  

Schumacher believes the team now have the pace to challenge Williams during a race

Schumacher believes the team now have the pace to challenge Williams during a race

Red Bull need more from Sergio Perez

Red Bull’s lack of a stable No 2 driver has proven a problem since Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of 2018 following over two years battling hard with Max Verstappen.

Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon have tried to replace the now McLaren driver during that time, with neither having any success in being able to at least provide capable back-up to Verstappen.

It’s hurting Red Bull at the front too as it leaves Verstappen vulnerable to Mercedes who can tactically use Hamilton and Bottas as an advantage to see off any threat from the Dutchman.

Sergio Perez’s arrival this season was in part to help neuter that Mercedes advantage but he has found himself in a similar position to his predecessors in battling teams beneath him.

Sergio Perez (left) was left battling Ferrari and McLaren in the early stages at Portimao

Sergio Perez (left) was left battling Ferrari and McLaren in the early stages at Portimao

Admittedly after falling behind and then repassing Lando Norris’s McLaren, he strolled to fourth place, albeit a distant one behind the podium finishers.

The Mexican is showing promise though and improving race-by-race but Red Bull still need more from their No 2 driver especially if they want to be able to pressurise Hamilton and Mercedes for both world championships.

Perez admitted after the race he had misjudged his battle with Norris thinking he was going to be let past after seemingly being illegally overtaken by the Brit. 

‘I looked at my mirrors and I thought Lando was totally off the track limit,’ he said.

‘Therefore, I didn’t fight the position hard enough, thinking that he was going to give me back the place,’ he explained. ‘But I probably misjudged that one.

‘It took me a couple of laps to get past Lando and that created a gap to the leader that I was basically off the race by then.’

Red Bull will be happy with Perez's improvement but will hope there is still more to come

Red Bull will be happy with Perez’s improvement but will hope there is still more to come

Ferrari struggle with strategy again

Ferrari may not be the basket case team they were last season, but they are still finding incredible ways to throw away advantages on race day.

The Italian team showed good pace in qualifying with Carlos Sainz placed fifth and in with a shout of battling old rivals McLaren on race day.

Early on those calls looked justified but both drivers struggled with medium tyre pace. Sainz in particular struggling most on the compound after dropping all the way down to 11th and out of the points by the end of the race.

Typically, Leclerc battled well and impressively grounded out a sixth-placed finish despite also struggling on the medium compound. 

Carlos Sainz qualified fifth for Ferrari but tyre issues on race day saw him finish only 11th

Carlos Sainz qualified fifth for Ferrari but tyre issues on race day saw him finish only 11th

Sainz said post-race: ‘We didn’t have a good day. Even though I got a good start, the race was very tough after the pit stop.

‘During the first stint I was feeling very good on the Soft tyre behind Lando, Then, we tried the undercut by changing quite early onto the medium and it didn’t work. From there on, it was a big struggle to make it to the end with that compound due to the graining.’

Admittedly conditions on the low-grip Portimao surface did not make the hard tyre a very inviting option, but Ferrari should have had some clue as to just how bad their cars would perform on the medium compound.

Both Sainz (left) and his team-mate Charles Leclerc struggled although the latter placed sixth

Both Sainz (left) and his team-mate Charles Leclerc struggled although the latter placed sixth

Ocon and Alonso lead Alpine improvement

After a mediocre pre-season Alpine could be one of the teams to keep an eye on following a steady improvements since the opening race in Bahrain. 

The Portuguese Grand Prix was their best yet with Esteban Ocon finishing seventh and Fernando Alonso producing a strong drive after a poor qualifying session that had left him 13th to come in one place behind his team-mate.

So far the two-time world champion has been edged out by his younger team-mate in Ocon, but both are helping the British-French outfit up the grid.

Fernando Alonso is getting up to speed again as he continues his Formula One return at Alpine

Fernando Alonso is getting up to speed again as he continues his Formula One return at Alpine

Alonso enjoyed a late race surge past Gasly, Sainz and Ricciardo to take eighth and is now confident the team formerly known as Renault can lead a fight to the likes of McLaren and Ferrari above them in the constructors’ championship.

The 39-year-old said: ‘It was a very good weekend in general. The car has performed well, and we’ve made a big step forwards, fighting with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren in the race, which is different to where we were in Bahrain and Imola.

‘It was the first race weekend where I felt comfortable and could push the car hard.’

Alonso battled back from a poor qualifying result of 13th to take a credible eighth on race day

Alonso battled back from a poor qualifying result of 13th to take a credible eighth on race day

Track limit row is F1’s VAR fury equivalent

Track limits are becoming one of the most controversial topics in Formula One – the equivalent of football’s VAR. It appears to be splitting fans over how harshly rules are applied to cars sticking on a circuit, or not being applied at all.

The row has puzzlingly now extended into quite a few years, with drivers taking advantage of the ever-increasing tarmac run-off areas off the circuit to take a faster course around the track.

In response F1 stewards have started penalising drivers who in the race do it too often, while in practice and qualifying deleting lap times altogether.

The exploration of track limits came to the forefront at Portimao during the Portuguese GP

The exploration of track limits came to the forefront at Portimao during the Portuguese GP

The trouble is they only police certain corners and sometimes ludicrously rule a kerb (officially not part of an F1 circuit) as being part of the track.

Portimao is a hotspot for running off the circuit, and it led to Perez even thinking Norris had passed him illegally as F1 drivers explore every inch of advantage they can exploit to set the quickest time.

For fans watching, it is utter frustration at the lack of consistency, and it begs the question of why a standard rule cannot be applied to all corners which is easy to follow, like at least one wheel must remain within the white lines around the circuit.

The twist here is that rule is already in place, yet teams and drivers are continually allowed to exploit some corners more than others. One day a world championship could be decided on such matters, and there will be little sympathy with the sport if the situation is not addressed before then.

Teams have often started using the run-off areas as part of a racing line to go faster

Teams have often started using the run-off areas as part of a racing line to go faster

Max Verstappen hopes Formula 1 NEVER returns to Portimao after frustrating Portuguese Grand Prix

Max Verstappen says he hopes F1 NEVER returns to Portimao after Red Bull star endured frustrating Portuguese Grand Prix to lose out to Lewis Hamilton… but Dutchman insists Barcelona will level the playing field

An irritated Max Verstappen wished Formula One will never return to Portimao after the Dutchman conceded ground in the drivers’ championship to Lewis Hamilton following a frustrating Portuguese Grand Prix.

Verstappen impressed last time out at Imola by taking the victory but there were no repeat smiles in Portugal as he finished second.

The result, losing out to title rival Hamilton, keeps him eight points behind the Mercedes star and Verstappen turned his ire on his dislike for the Portimao circuit. 

Max Verstappen was left bemused with the quality of track for the Portuguese Grand Prix

The Red Bull star (back) was beaten by title rival Lewis Hamilton on Sunday at Portimao

The Red Bull star (back) was beaten by title rival Lewis Hamilton on Sunday at Portimao

‘The whole weekend I didn’t enjoy because of the grip levels around here,’ Verstappen told Sky F1. ‘I hope we don’t come back.

‘Barcelona [venue for the next race] is good. It’s a nice track for an F1 car and I think we’ll see more of how the progression of the teams has been from the start of the season to today.

‘I was just clearly lacking a little bit of grip, a little bit of top speed, just not being able to put the pressure on Mercedes.’ 

Verstappen (left) was less-than-impressed as he wished F1 doesn't return back to the circuit

Verstappen (left) was less-than-impressed as he wished F1 doesn’t return back to the circuit

Verstappen started third on the grid and while he finished ahead of pole sitter Valtteri Bottas, he was not satisfied with the display.

The Dutchman thought he had narrowed the gap in the standings to seven points after securing the fastest lap at the end – only to see that time deleted for breaching track limits, something that impacted him in Saturday’s qualifying. 

‘Oh really? That’s a good one,’ Verstappen added when quizzed on it becoming a trend of his 2021 season. 

‘That’s a bit odd because they weren’t checking track limits at Turn 14, but whatever.’ 

It is proving quite the fight between Hamilton and Verstappen as the Mercedes star chases a record-eighth world championship, taking him beyond Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton talked up the 'immense' pressure on drivers involved in this year's title battle

Hamilton talked up the ‘immense’ pressure on drivers involved in this year’s title battle

Hamillton added: ‘None of us here are under any illusions as to just how hard it is, how close the battle is, and how we are all giving absolutely everything in our day-to-day lives to be the best prepared and to deliver.

‘The pressure is immense. Of course, it is great when you have a race like today where you are able to overtake and capitalise on the small margins.

‘But at the same time, Max gave us a great run for our money. We will continue to keep it clean and on the edge. It is down to the respect we have for one another and that is what makes great racing and great racing drivers.

‘It is going to be like this for the rest of the season. It is a great fight between Mercedes and Red Bull and it is clear we will be pushing right until the last race. We will be sick of each other by the end of it.’ 

Advertisement

FORMULA ONE QUALIFYING LIVE: Follow the action with Lewis Hamilton and Co in Portugal

F1 QUALIFYING LIVE: Lewis Hamilton hopes to claim another pole position in Portugal as seven-time World Champion’s thrilling battle with Red Bull star Max Verstappen continues

  • The nail-biting F1 season continues with qualifying for Portuguese Grand Prix 
  • Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are favourites to battle it out for pole 
  • Red Bull’s Verstappen topped the time sheet in P3 ahead of Mercedes duo

The compelling start to the new Formula One season continues with qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International circuit.

Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton achieved pole position in last season’s qualifying but has Red Bull’s Max Verstappen breathing down his neck after his victory at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last time out.

Verstappen topped the time sheets in the third practise session ahead of rival Hamilton and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in third.

Follow Sportsmail’s IEUAN IVETT for all the build-up, action and lap times in the race for pole position in Portugal. 

Advertisement

Portuguese Grand Prix 2021: Date, how to watch, UK start time, race schedule and odds

The 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix takes place this weekend with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to go to battle once more: Everything you need to know ahead of the race

  • The F1 2021 season continues on Sunday with the Portuguese Grand Prix
  • Max Verstappen was victorious last time out at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
  • The battle between Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is set to continue
  • Hamilton won the Grand Prix last year, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas in second 

After a thrilling opening two races to the 2021 Formula One campaign, the action resumes once more this weekend with the Portuguese Grand Prix. 

Lewis Hamilton put on a defensive masterclass to claim the first race of the season in Bahrain, but he made a costly error at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as rival Max Verstappen took the victory. 

The action resumes on Sunday at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve with the Portuguese Grand Prix, which was an historic race last year, with Hamilton claiming his record-breaking 92nd race win. 

The Brit is just a solitary point ahead of his rival Verstappen heading into the third Grand Prix of the season, and after such drama in the first lap last year, we can only hope for another race just as entertaining. 

With the intriguing spectacle approaching, Sportsmail takes you through everything you need to know.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his record 92nd Grand Prix win at the Portuguese GP last year

When is the Portuguese Grand Prix?

The Portuguese Grand Prix is set to take place on Sunday, May 2, with the race getting underway at 3pm BST. 

The first and second practice sessions will take place on Friday, April 30, with each session lasting an hour.  

The final practice session starts at 12pm on Saturday morning, before qualifying gets underway on the same day at 3pm. 

How to watch the Portuguese Grand Prix

As with the entirety of the 2021 season, Sunday’s Grand Prix will be available to watch on the Sky Sports Formula One channel. 

Sky Sports subscribers can also watch the race online by streaming it on Sky Go. 

Viewers can also buy Sky Sports day pass from NowTV for £9.99, with a month pass at £33.99.

Channel 4 will also provide highlights of the qualifying rounds at 7.30pm BST on Saturday and the race itself at 6.30pm on Sunday. 

You can also keep up-to-date with the build-up and the race itself on Sunday with Sportsmail. 

Portuguese Grand Prix race schedule 

The race at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve starts at 3pm on Sunday, May 2

The race at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve starts at 3pm on Sunday, May 2

With Red Bull looking so strong this season, qualifying is now more important than ever for the likes of Hamilton and Mercedes. 

Of course, it’s not the be-all and end-all, with Hamilton finishing second last time out having started on pole. 

Nevertheless, both the practice sessions and qualifications will give us an early indication of how the race will go. Below is the race schedule in full. 

Friday, April 30

  • Practice 1: 11.30am
  • Practice 2: 3pm 

Saturday, May 1

  • Practice 3: 12pm
  • Qualifying: 3pm

Sunday, May 2

Portuguese Grand Prix odds

Hamilton and his rival Max Verstappen (right) will once again go head-to-head on Sunday

Hamilton and his rival Max Verstappen (right) will once again go head-to-head on Sunday

With Hamilton and Verstappen claiming a win apiece in the first two races of the season, it comes as no surprise that the pair are inseparable among the bookies.    

As stated, it was Hamilton who emerged victorious at the Portuguese Grand Prix last year, but he and Verstappen come into this year’s race as joint-favourites, while Valtteri Bottas is in third.   

  • Max Verstappen – 5/4
  • Lewis Hamilton – 5/4
  • Valtteri Bottas – 8/1
  • Sergio Perez – 8/1 
  • Lando Norris – 30/1
  • Charles Leclerc – 30/1    

*Odds as per Betfair and correct at the time of publication. 

Portuguese Grand Prix race details

2020 winner: Lewis Hamilton

Circuit length: 4.653km 

Laps: 66

Race distance: 306.826km

Race lap record: 1:18.750 (Lewis Hamilton, 2020)

First Grand Prix: 2020 

Formula One driver standings 

Hamilton sits top of the standings after claiming a bonus point for the fastest lap last time out

Hamilton sits top of the standings after claiming a bonus point for the fastest lap last time out

Formula One constructor standings 

Mercedes remain top of the constructor standings after the opening two races of the season

Mercedes remain top of the constructor standings after the opening two races of the season

Advertisement

F1 could return to Africa for the first time since 1993 – what happened in the final race?

This season, the Formula One world championship will be contested across all continents but one. 

In fact, not since 1993 has the sport touched down in Africa, when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna’s bitter rivalry was renewed for the season opener in Kyalam.

But F1 chief Stefano Domenicali has provided fresh hope that the circus will return to town, hinting that the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari could be on their way back in the near future amid reports of an event in 2022. 

F1 could be on its way back to Africa for the first time since Kyalami hosted 28 years ago 

New F1 chief Stefano Domenicalli has hinted at a return to the continent in the near future

New F1 chief Stefano Domenicalli has hinted at a return to the continent in the near future 

It has been a long 28 years since a race was last held on the continent. So, what happened when Formula One visited Africa for the last time in 1993? 

The narrative heading into the season opener in Kyalami was centred on the feud between two of the sport’s biggest stars: Prost and Senna.

The Frenchman, returning from a sabbatical having made a sour exit two years before amid a breakdown in relationship with former team Ferrari, had caused a storm upon his arrival.

Prost signed for Williams Racing, sending reigning world champion Nigel Mansell packing to IndyCar in a huff.

Williams entered the new season with most competitive car on the track, having dominated with Mansell in the last campaign, and Senna was targeting a switch to the team ahead of the opener.

However, a clause in Prost’s contract with Williams prevented Senna from joining the team, leaving the Brazilian enraged with his arch rival, who he branded a ‘coward’.

‘I think if Prost wants to be called the sole champion, three-times world champion, come back in a sportive way, maybe win another championship, he should be sportive,’ he fumed. 

The 1993 season opener saw Ayrton Senna's rivalry with 'coward' Alain Prost reignited

The 1993 season opener saw Ayrton Senna’s rivalry with ‘coward’ Alain Prost reignited 

Prost joined the dominant Williams team led by Frank Williams (R) and Patrick Head (L), and his contract prevented the team from signing arch rival Senna for the 1993 season

Prost joined the dominant Williams team led by Frank Williams (R) and Patrick Head (L), and his contract prevented the team from signing arch rival Senna for the 1993 season

‘The way he’s doing, he’s behaving like a coward. And if he wants to be sportive, he must be prepared to race anybody, at any condition, at equal terms.’ 

Such was Senna’s fury at Prost’s duplicitous manoeuvre that he threatened to leave the sport altogether for the 1993 campaign. However, the Brazilian opted to take the fight to his rival, joining McLaren on a race-by-race deal. 

And the pair put themselves on the front row of the grid for lights out at Kyalami with fans excited over what was expected to be a high-octane start to the race.

It was the first time the rivals shared the front row since their infamous collision in Suzuka three years earlier, when Senna deliberately collided with Prost to win the World Championship in the penultimate race of the season. 

Behind them, Benetton-Ford’s Michael Schumacher, then without a single world title, qualified in third while young hotshot Damon Hill was making his highly-anticipated debut with Williams, following in the footsteps of his two-time world champion father Graham into the sport.

Senna labelled Prost (pictured) a 'coward' for not wanting to engage in a fair fight for the title

Senna labelled Prost (pictured) a ‘coward’ for not wanting to engage in a fair fight for the title

The Frenchman clinched pole but did not get the procession he had expected on race day

The Frenchman clinched pole but did not get the procession he had expected on race day

The dominance of Williams had left fans and pundits convinced that the season opener would be nothing more than a procession, with Prost expected to lead from start to finish.

However, the beginning of the race served a far different reality to what had been expected.

Prost suffered a horrendous start, slipping to fourth place as Senna, Schumacher and Hill breezed past the pre-race favourite. 

The Frenchman soon gained a place after Hill spun out later on in the opening lap, and was fortunate not to have been involved in a collision with any passing cars.

The Williams driver dropped down the field and later retired from the race after a collision on lap 16, a disappointing showing on his debut with the team. 

Prost then set his sights on Schumacher in his Benetton-Ford. He made light work of passing the German, getting the better of him on lap 13, before gearing up for a battle with old foe Senna. 

Prost fell to fourth after the opening lap and was forced to wrestle back the lead from his rivals

Prost fell to fourth after the opening lap and was forced to wrestle back the lead from his rivals

In his far inferior McLaren, the Brazilian was not expected to hold onto his lead for long against Prost’s all-conquering Williams, but Senna put up an almighty fight against the Frenchman.

Schumacher, back in third, was treated to a display of masterful defensive driving as Senna doggedly held onto the racing line to keep Prost at bay time and time again. 

Prost eventually got the break he was looking for. He took the outside line on Turn 1, which resulted him in getting the inside track on Senna into Turn 2 and his lead was restored on lap 24.

From there, it was the procession that many expected for Prost, who steadily built an insurmountable lead at the front. Rain began to fall in the final knockings of the race and Prost slowed down to such an extent that drivers unlapped themselves, indicative of the Frenchman’s advantage over his closest rivals.

Prost got past Damon Hill after he spun out and was later forced to retire on lap sixteen

Prost got past Damon Hill after he spun out and was later forced to retire on lap sixteen

A young Michael Schumacher could not fend off Prost and failed to overtake Senna for second

A young Michael Schumacher could not fend off Prost and failed to overtake Senna for second

An angry Schumacher storms down the pits after retiring from the race in South Africa

An angry Schumacher storms down the pits after retiring from the race in South Africa

Senna and Schumacher were engaged in a battle for second before the German spun out on lap 39 and was forced to retire from the race.

As a result, Britain’s Mark Blundell capitalised to bring his Ligier-Renault car over the line for third, the team’s first podium finish since Detroit seven years earlier. 

Prost went onto dominate the rest of the season, winning seven of the 16 races to romp home to his fourth and final title. 

As the paddock packed up and moved onto Brazil, very few would have envisioned that the sport would not be returning to the continent for another 27 years. 

Kyalami had hosted the F1 in 1992 and 1993 and played host from the late 1960s until 1985, when the race was boycotted in protest against the Apartheid regime. 

Senna settled for second while Britain's Mark Blundell took third as Prost coasted to victory

Senna settled for second while Britain’s Mark Blundell took third as Prost coasted to victory

The track had been popular among fans and provided several whirlwind races but adaptations made to the circuit for 92 and 93 had altered it for the worse. 

More worryingly, the race promoter, Mervyn Key, was arrested for charges of fraud and forgery, which were later dropped, while the parent company that owned the track had collapsed and liquidators stayed their hand and opted to allow the 93 race to go ahead.

Formula One has not returned to Africa for two main reasons. First, no track currently meets the FIA’s standards required to host an F1 race, and second, no promoter has been willing to host an event.

Kyalami has not been revisited but its owner has expressed an interest in hosting. Meanwhile, a street circuit in Cape Town and a track in Marrakesh, Morocco, has been mooted

Kyalami has not been revisited but its owner has expressed an interest in hosting. Meanwhile, a street circuit in Cape Town and a track in Marrakesh, Morocco, has been mooted

Lewis Hamilton has backed a return to Africa amid talk of plans going in the right direction

Lewis Hamilton has backed a return to Africa amid talk of plans going in the right direction

The first of those two issues could be solved, however, with Kyalami’s current owner, Toby Venter, expressing an interest in providing the modifications required to gain the FIA’s approval. 

A street circuit in Cape Town has also been mooted, while Marrakesh, Morocco, currently hosts a Formula E race. Morocco hosted the first ever F1 race in South Africa in 1958, when the sport visited Casablanca.  

Domenicali’s latest comments have inspired renewed optimism over a return to Africa, while reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has been an advocate of racing on the continent. 

With new venues being added with more regularity these days, a return to Africa would be more than welcome.