F1’s return to Portimão failed to deliver on the hype of the opening two rounds of the season, but still marked another important race in the championship battle.
Like with Imola it felt like a lot of drivers reached around where they’d have expected to, there weren’t many overperformers or underperformers that jumped out.
Where there were standout performances – for better or for worse – it was often teammates with a large deficit between them, such as McLaren, Haas and Alpine.
There’s also the natural settling of the running order that’s occurred by now, the likes of Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc finishing fifth and sixth feel more normal now.
With that all said, here we look at the winners and losers of the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Winner – Lewis Hamilton
Every race win for Hamilton this season seems to be one worth savouring, and yet again the Brit didn’t have it all his own way.
After missing out on his 100th career pole position and then slipping to third after the safety car restart, Hamilton didn’t panic and retook his title rival with a clinical move into turn one.
Whilst he had a large straight-line advantage to help with that pass, it just looked so cold-blooded when riding on-board with the Mercedes and left Verstappen completely defenceless.
His overtake for the lead was even more impressive, an imperious sweep around the outside of turn one with a third of the race gone.
It was really difficult to decide the fate of his two rivals for the race win – Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas – in this list. Ultimately both of them had up-and-down weekends that didn’t warrant an inclusion in either category here.
Loser – Portimão
Of the recent additions/returns to the F1 calendar during COVID, Portimão was the circuit many were most looking forward to.
On paper it seemed like it could be perfect for current F1 but so far it’s failed to deliver memorable races. Verstappen certainly didn’t like it, based off his post-race comments.
When thinking of circuits that F1 should return to in 2022 and beyond, tracks like Sepang, Istanbul, the Nurburgring and Hockenheim and even Imola are probably ahead of it in terms of fan favourites. While there’s not much it can actively do, because it’s a track not a sentient being, this feels like an opportunity missed to really put the case forward for a permanent Portuguese Grand Prix.
Winner – Esteban Ocon
Ocon looked on it all weekend, and outqualified his teammate Fernando Alonso for the second consecutive race.
The Alpine A521 seemed to suit the Algarve International Circuit but even with that context, Ocon’s sixth place on the grid exceptional. He looked racey on Sunday and made big moves on a glittering trio in Norris, Leclerc and Gasly, on his way to seventh place.
Alonso took the chequered flag just a second behind Ocon, completing an underrated recovery drive.
But Ocon’s probably exceeded expectations in terms of how he’s handled Alonso’s arrival and deserves his own spot here.
Loser – Daniel Ricciardo
So far the Australian has been able to escape these lists thanks to Norris’ star displays, but no longer.
It felt a shock to see Ricciardo exit in Q1 – a sign of how much McLaren have improved since 2018 – but to provides an important reference point to the teammate rivalry.
Previously, the difference has more been in race pace and therefore not so difficult to quantify, but there’s nowhere to hide for Ricciardo this time around and it finally quantified that something isn’t right on his side of the McLaren garage.
He did actually recover pretty well, thanks in particular to a monster first stint, but he was taken late on by Alonso. There’s still a lot of work for Ricciardo to do, but surely it can only get better from here.
Winner – Mick Schumacher
The way Mick’s managed to stay under the radar as the son of the most successful father in F1 history is testament to both his focus on his task this season, and to the way Haas are struggling so completely at the back of the pack.
But this weekend Schumacher was quietly impressive, comfortably beating his teammate each day and being rewarded by a step out of the bottom two.
He tracked Latifi for a significant period before finally taking the Canadian with a few laps to go, and came home a minute ahead of the other Haas.
Meanwhile his countryless teammate again struggled, with his only major airtime being a near collision with then-leader Sergio Pérez.
Loser – Kimi Räikkönen
A driver who raced with Mick’s father when Michael set his pole positions record, Räikkönen was the only retirement yesterday.
The Finn broke the golden rule of motor racing when he crashed into his teammate on lap two of the race.
Räikkönen moved out of Antonio Giovinazzi’s slipstream when attempting to pass the Italian down the home straight but didn’t quite pull out far enough and knocked his own front wing, which then got caught underneath his car and beached him in the gravel.
It looked as if Giovinazzi may have made a late move slightly back to the left but the responsibility was on Räikkönen to make the move safely and he didn’t leave enough of a margin for the pass.
Alfa Romeo are still a bit difficult to evaluate, they’re currently pointless but have shown decent pace and racing nous that seems to be an improvement on last year. There comes a point where they’ll have to start converting that to the scoreboard though.
Giovinazzi qualified 12th in Portugal with both cars making it to Q2.
Winner – Sebastian Vettel
He made Q3. Admittedly he finished behind his teammate in the race, dropping three places but these are baby steps for Vettel.
It’s genuinely the first positive on-track performance we’ve seen from Vettel at Aston Martin, and that’s why he’s here as a winner.
He was half a second ahead of Lance Stroll in Q1 as he reached Q3 for the first time since Silverstone 2020, and this is exactly the springboard that will help get his confidence back on track.
This can’t be an isolated incident, it needs to be the start of a continued progression back to his form of previous years. So his race was disappointing, but if he can make another step in Barcelona next week then that’ll be positive.
Loser – AlphaTauri
After such a positive few weeks at Bahrain, AlphaTauri seem to have taken a step back this weekend.
So far Yuki Tsunoda has been unable to recreate his buccaneering form of the season opener, and he struggled again here and finished 15th – the last of the non-Williams and Haas drivers.
For the Faenza-based outfit, the problem remains getting consistent double-points finishes.
Since Gasly joined the team in late-2107, they’ve managed to get both cars within the top ten just seven times, and that’s the next step they need to take.
More than anything, this performance just reinforces the opportunities missed in the opening two rounds to bag solid points – Gasly actually did well to maximise his potential from this weekend and sealed a point late on by passing Carlos Sainz.