- Round 3 of the 2021 Formula 1 season moves to the Algarve this weekend for the Portuguese Grand Prix
- Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen tied on 43 points after opening two races
- McLaren eyeing successive podium finishes after strong season start
PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL – As Round 3 arrives in Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix, can Max Verstappen record back-to-back F1 wins for the first time?
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All go again in the Algarve
After two whirlwind races opened the 2021 Formula 1 season, this weekend, Round 3 rolls into Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Having not appeared on the F1 calendar since 1996 and after the Algarve International Circuit made its debut last October, the paddock leaves behind the unseasonably cooler conditions of Imola a fortnight ago, for warmer Mediterranean climes and the undulating hills of southern Portugal.
Though the Emilia Romagna GP was rather chilly and damp to say the least, the action in the shadows of Bologna was anything but, as Max Verstappen claimed his 11th career win and first of the campaign.
On a Sunday that saw both George Russell and Valtteri Bottas‘ tempers fray, the Verstappen negotiated the, as some would say in Italian, ‘lo scompiglio’, to cruise home.
Drawing level on points with seven-time and four-time defending World Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton – the Briton staging a remarkable fight back to finish runner-up himself – Verstappen’s win was vital for his early chances of a season-long duel, and in Iberia will be looking to break a career duck.
Verstappen hunts double first
Tied with Hamilton on 43 points after two races will be no small victory for the Dutchman and should he claim a successive win this weekend, it will be a first for Verstappen.
Now in his fifth season in F1, the 23-year-old from Hasselt in Belgium is yet to record back-to-back race wins, since his maiden victory in Barcelona during May 2016.
In that race, Verstappen became the youngest driver in history at the tender age of 18-years-and-228-days-old to take an F1 race win, but he has yet to finish on the podium’s top spot twice on the bounce, now in his seventh year of trying.
That is not to say he hasn’t come close however. On five separate occasions Verstappen has come in runner-up after a previous race win – twice in 2019 in Germany and Hungary, and again across both the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi GPs.
Surely a double is only a matter of time now, and in conditions that could suit the Red Bull Honda engine to a greater degree, Verstappen could finally tick one momentous box this weekend in Portugal.
McLaren eye successive podiums
As Red Bull and Mercedes’ duel looks set to go the distance this season, attempting to cling to their coat-tails are McLaren, who themselves have made an impressive start to 2021.
Following on from Lando Norris‘ second podium at Imola a fortnight ago, Zak Brown‘s Brackley-based team look to have built on their progress made last term, and arguably appear a greater force with Daniel Ricciardo now in tow.
As for Norris, the Bristolian’s early indications of his growing credence were met with P4 in Bahrain also, leaving the Briton now sitting in the heady heights of third in the World Drivers’ Championship, even at this early juncture.
But Ricciardo also has backed his teammate up with two top-seven results, with the men in orange looking suitably spick and span if the early weeks are a pointer for the upcoming season.
Arriving in Portimao this weekend, McLaren had a less than fulfilling previous trip to the Algarve with Norris taking P13, whilst former cohort Carlos Sainz Jr, came home in sixth.
If their exploits of the opening month of the campaign are anything to go by however, improving on that will be no stress at all. For the moment at least, the McLaren garage is right to be filled with smiling faces.
Ricciardo has even gone a step further this past week with his comments, and as the former Red Bull and Renault driver bullishly claimed – as quoted by F1.com – the Perth man is convinced he could in the future win a world title with McLaren.
“The rule changes are going to change everything next year. But I just feel like what the team’s done – and it looks like this year’s another step in that direction – I don’t know… the structure, stability, everyone’s really… guns are a-blazing down here and it’s really cool to see and that fills me with a lot of confidence.”
The 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao.
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