Lewis Hamilton overtook 2021 rival Max Verstappen and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas on his way to a typically assured victory at the Portuguese GP as the world champion extended his early title lead.
Hamilton eventually won comfortably ahead of Verstappen at Portimao, but that didn’t tell the story of his start to the race as he dropped to third behind the Red Bull following a Safety Car restart.
But, critically, Hamilton passed Verstappen into Turn One soon after, before a superb sweeping move around the outside of the pole-sitting Bottas gave him a race lead – one that he never looked likely to relinquish.
“What a phenomenal race by Lewis,” said Sky F1’s Nico Rosberg. “Verstappen is starting to understand how good Hamilton is.”
Hamilton, with two race victories to Verstappen’s one to start the season, now holds an eight-point lead over the Dutchman in the championship.
Mercedes, ominously, appeared to have a faster car than Red Bull on race day, but Verstappen was offered some much-needed solace by pulling off an overtake of his own on Bottas for an eventual second place as Red Bull pulled the pit-stop trigger before Mercedes.
He did lose out a fastest lap bonus point after exceeding track limits on his final tour, which was instead taken by Bottas, who completed the podium but had a frustrating day on the whole.
Sergio Perez secured his best race finish for Red Bull in fourth but was never a contender for the top positions, not helped by slipping behind Lando Norris after the Safety Car – caused by Kimi Raikkonen’s stricken Alfa Romeo as he shunted into team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi on the straight.
Norris eventually finished fifth to continue his storming 2021 start, with the young McLaren driver still third in the standings.
Charles Leclerc was sixth for Ferrari, whose other driver Carlos Sainz fell out of the points after qualifying fifth.
Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso scored double points for Alpine in seventh and eighth, with the two-time world champion particularly rapid in the closing stages as he overtook Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren.
But Ricciardo will be happy with his race day after starting 16th.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel is still waiting for his first points as an Aston Martin driver despite a much-improved weekend.
Do Mercedes now have the edge on Red Bull?
Through the first two weekends of the season, Red Bull had, by paddock consensus, the fastest car – despite failing to win the Bahrain opener. But Mercedes hit back at their rejuvenated rivals at Portimao.
Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were all evenly-matched through the opening medium-tyre stages, but Verstappen found himself a “sitting duck” on the straight as Hamilton came storming past.
He was then frustrated in third and unable to overtake Bottas towards the end of that stint.
And it was only a sweetly-timed pit-stop from Red Bull that gave Verstappen the chance to overtake Bottas, as he darted down the inside of the Mercedes, struggling for grip, at Turn 5.
But even after that, Bottas was hunting down Verstappen before his efforts were halted by a car sensor issue.
Hamilton, meanwhile, surged into the distance.
“This is beginning to look like the Mercedes of old, but with an improved Red Bull keeping them more than honest,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle.
The Hamilton and Verstappen title battle still looks to be an epic one, with the star drivers having shared the top two positions in each of the first three 2021 races.
The season continues next weekend with the Spanish GP.
Portuguese GP Race Result
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:34:31.421|
|2) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+29.148|
|4) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+39.735|
|5) Lando Norris||McLaren||+51.369|
|6) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+55.781|
|7) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+63.749|
|8) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+64.808|
|9) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+75.369|
|10) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+76.463|
|11) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+78.955|
|12) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+1 lap|
|13) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1 lap|
|14) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1 lap|
|15) George Russell||Williams||+1 lap|
|16) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|17) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+2 laps|
|18) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+2 laps|
|19) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+2 laps|
|Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo|