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We’re just six races into the 2021 season, and what a rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been through! Despite having a couple of less than exciting races, there was enough action just in Azerbaijan to make up for that, let alone the rest of them. We’ve seen wet racing, tyres destroyed, and the closest championship battle we’ve seen for many years, and there are still so many races to come. Here are some of my favourite moments from the last 6 races, although it was impossible to choose.

Bahrain:

The season opened where it all but closed last year, in Sakhir, and it did not disappoint. We saw the first of what would be many Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton battles, this one going Hamilton’s way. Max tried desperately hard to overtake Hamilton when pitting onto fresh tyres, and he succeeded. It became clear very quickly, however, that Max got through off the track and, therefore, the place would have to be given back. This was the last opportunity for the young Dutchman, and he ended the race in P2 but would have won had he waited to pass on a less windy part of the track. This gave us the first glimpse of the biggest title fights in years, and we immediately knew the 2021 season would be different.

Italy:

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix came next and got us excited for different reasons entirely. A wet race! Within seconds of the race start, we could see it would be a dramatic one as none of the drivers could be seen through all the spray. If we couldn’t see them at home, it must have been impossible to see from inside the Formula 1 cars. Within a few laps, cars were beginning to spin and slide all over the track and while it, unfortunately, ended the race for Latifi, and we saw a horrific crash between Bottas and Russell, it also spun Hamilton off the track and almost into the wall, almost costing him a race finish. He came back from P9 to finish an impressive P2, much to everyone’s surprise. This race also brought one of my favourite driver/engineer moments in recent times. Mick also spun into the wall during the race, and the calm and collected nature of his engineer Gary saved him from panicking, and the F1 rookie’s race continued after a front wing change. We’re very used to hearing very technical and heated conversations between drivers and engineers during a race, and it was lovely to experience the supportive role these engineers also play.

Portugal:

The race in Portugal was far from the most thrilling but did have one moment, which was nice to see, again involving Mick Schumacher. The young German driver was able to overtake Latifi during the race, and therefore, his Haas car did not finish with only his teammate behind him. While, of course, the battle for the bottom places is rarely important or even noticed during the race, but it was nice to see. Knowing how underpowered the Haas car is compared to even their nearest rivals and the constant press attention the team has been subjected to, none of which is his fault, it was nice to see him take a place on the track. I’m sure that improved his confidence as a rookie F1 driver hugely, given he’d spun in the two races before this.

Spain:

Barcelona was yet another race showcased a Hamilton vs Verstappen showdown, as every race seemed to have at this stage. What made this race special was that the role of strategy became so much more obvious compared to most races. With the front running teams often going for almost identical strategies during a race, it is rare to see a strategic win as we saw in Spain. Hamilton pitted late onto fresh tyres to take Max Verstappen close to the end of the race, and that he did. It surprised everyone both in the paddock and at home as the pit crew appeared in the pitlane at the very last moment. This caught Red Bull completely by surprise, and they immediately knew they’d been outwitted on this occasion, and Mercedes were likely to take the win. Even if this was another race with the two drivers taking all of the glory, this one showed a different side to the sport.

Monaco:

The race in Monaco was surprisingly underwhelming, with very little surprise apart from the pace of Ferrari and the lack thereof at Mercedes. After weeks of Red Bull vs Mercedes rhetoric, it was interesting to see a different team on top. My favourite moment in Monaco was seeing Charles Leclerc on pole, even if it ultimately went disastrously wrong on Sunday. Seeing the Monegasque driver on top at his home GP was really exciting and knowing that Ferrari was on the path to fighting back was lovely to hear.

Azerbaijan:

Asking me to choose a favourite moment from the Grand Prix in Baku is totally impossible! I loved every second of the drama we saw during that race. Of course, I’m most happy that both Stroll and Verstappen were okay after such scary crashes, but the action was intense. We went from thinking the title would stay in Verstappen’s hands to thinking Lewis would take over after Max’s DNF to realising neither of them got points. From this, we got the most random but by far most exciting podium of 2021 so far. Sergio finally getting the Red Bull to work in his favour was thrilling, even if it was due to Max’s misfortune. What made it so crazy was seeing Vettel in P2, however. Aston Martin struggled throughout the season and seemed so off the pace, but the 4-time world champion pulled through. Hopefully, he has found some new confidence that will ensure he continues to fight at the front of the grid, as we know he’s capable of doing. I can’t ignore Pierre Gasly either, as he was strong all weekend and totally deserved that podium. Seeing Gasly succeed after all of the dramas of recent years will never stop making me very happy. He is such a talented driver and deserves to be a front runner in years to come.

This weekend marks the second-ever Formula One race at The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. It hosts the Formula 1 Heineken Grande Premio De Portugal 2021 or, to most fans, the Portuguese Grand Prix. As we’ve only raced here once before in F1, here’s a quick stop guide on everything you need to know about Portimao.

Why are we racing here?
Last year, due to many calendar changes and the impact of Covid-19, the sport returned to Portugal for the first time since 1996, excitement = intensified. However, this year, it wasn’t on the original provisional calendar released at the end of 2020. Although, there was a TBC, and many fans were hoping for the return of Portimao. In March this year, it was confirmed that the Portuguese Grand Prix would be returning to the calendar once more. Will it become a more permanent feature of the F1 calendar? I could only dream.

Okay, but give us the details of the track!
Alright, the track itself was built and finished in 2008; it took just 7 months to complete but cost a whopping €195 million. As mentioned earlier, although the track was used for F1 pre-season testing in the winter of 2008-09, it hosted its first Formula One race in 2020. The stats in terms of the most wins or pole positions at this track are a little slim, but they both belong to Lewis Hamilton, in case you’re interested. The length of the track is 2.891 miles or 4.653 km. It has 15 turns and hosts an elevation change into the layout, like COTA. It sends drivers up and down (like a rollercoaster) with the big downhill slopes and right-hand turns after the main straight and is pretty good for overtaking because of the circuit width.

Nice, so what happened last year?
A new track, new impressions – and it definitely left good ones on the drivers, with many of them praising the track and its unique layout. Pierre Gasly even compared it to the butterflies you get in your stomach when on a rollercoaster. Challenging, a lot of blind corners, high-speed, low speed and a smooth surface. Lewis Hamilton started from the front of the grid after achieving pole position over his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, by a tenth of a second. At the start of the race, Max Verstappen passed Bottas with ease as the whole grid struggled to find grip.

Once the latter positions switched back once again, the Dutch driver made contact with Sergio Perez, spinning him to the back of the pack. Bottas took the lead as Lewis battled with the slippery surface, and Carlos Sainz moved up to third, promptly passing Hamilton into second. In a surprise event, the tricky conditions played to the Spaniard’s favour as he sailed his way past Bottas and led the race until Lap 6. As a McLaren fan, my little papaya heart was beating way too fast – although that could’ve been the racing ritual Monster Energy. Mercedes eventually found themselves back at the front where they belonged, and on Lap 20, Lewis took the lead. In terms of race drama, we had a small Lance Stroll and Lando Norris collision when fighting for position, and Pierre Gasly went on the hunt for 5th place. The podium was a standard Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, but I still really enjoyed the race.

So, that’s everything we need to know about this weekends race, but what do you think of the track? Should it become a permanent feature of the F1 calendar?

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