The Formula 1 circus moves to Portimão this weekend as we gear up for the third round of this year’s FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
The 2021 Formula 1 grid has been very tight so far. With Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes snatching victory in Bahrain thanks to some clever strategic calls and Red Bull and Max Verstappen claiming to be serious title challengers with a near faultless victory in Imola, this year’s championship is poised to go down to the wire.
Mercedes have repeatedly stated they see themselves “off the pace” from this year’s RBR16B, while the Milton Keynes-based team have insisted it’s just a ploy by their UK rivals to put more pressure on them.
About the track:
With 4.65 km of tarmac and a combination of 15 high-speed and medium-speed corners, the Algarve International Circuit is a fast track with not many opportunities for overtaking.
Since last year’s race was on a new tarmac which resulted in a low grip for drivers, it meant drivers could get away with only one pit stop. Esteban Ocon went as far as completing 53 laps on one set of medium tires.
For this year’s race, however, Pirelli have announced that they would be allocating the C1, C2, and C3 tire compounds, which is the hardest and slowest set of compounds on offer. Apart from that, the race itself will be raced at a different time of the year. That offers some flexibility and a mix-up of one and two-stop strategies should be on the cards.
In the mud:
Aston Martin and Alpine need to get their respective acts together before Saturday’s qualifying session. Both teams started their season with a lot of optimism but have failed to capitalise on any opportunities.
Lance Stroll is the only points finisher from Aston this season, finishing 10th and 8th in Bahrain and Imola respectively. Vettel has failed to deliver so far; all that could go wrong, is going wrong for the four-time world champion. Aston have struggled with their low-rake setup and are not expected to make any gains.
Alpine’s start to the 2021 season has been nothing but a disappointment, with no points finishers in Bahrain and a P9 and P10 finish thanks to a crazy Imola Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso is still not 100% in sync with his machine, while Ocon has showed promising signs by at least outperforming his two-time world champion teammate in consecutive races.
Ones to watch out for:
The MCL35M has been a breath of fresh air to the Formula 1 fans, with Lando Norris finishing 4th and 3rd respectively during the first two races and a solid points haul for Daniel Ricciardo, who’s still finding his feet in his new team. The Algarve circuit is a track that will suit this year’s MCL35M, so McLaren fighting for the last podium spot – or even beyond – is not out of the question.
Charles Leclerc has been carrying the Scuderia Ferrari team on his shoulders for the last two seasons. With an improved power unit and a mature teammate in Carlos Sainz who has looked by far the most settled of all the new driver changes, Ferrari looks to be headed in the right direction. Another strong showing is expected from the Italian outfit in a track that would suit their car very well. If not podiums, they should easily bag a good haul of points.