F1 2021: 5 Drivers who need a good Portuguese GP today

To some criticism, comes naturally and even uneventfully, but never discount them from a contest! Not a stern or rude warning; just an important observation after Valtteri Bottas fired his opening salvo at yesterday’s Portuguese GP qualifying.

The Finn wasted no time whatsoever in answering back Sir Lewis Hamilton, a driver who, in the two races held so far, has maintained pressure over the other Mercedes driver. Bottas controlled the proceedings of a challenging Saturday in usual quiet fashion.

He secured a fine pole, the seventeenth of his growing career. But, will it be enough for a race win on Sunday? But, as fans and inveterate lovers of Grand Prix racing, we can call out the drivers who need to do a lot better than they recently have- can’t we?

On a breezy and challenging afternoon, where there were some gains for Ferrari. There was also a pleasant surprise for the likes of Aston Martin, amid some heartbreaks for McLaren. So, which drivers need to impress today in the Portuguese GP? Here are our picks!

Valtteri Bottas

For a driver who’s found it extremely hard to keep up with the marauding pace of a seven-time world champion teammate, failing to win a single race in two attempts despite having arguably the best machine on the grid, life couldn’t be any tougher for Bottas.

But if there was a driver who could get the hang of a track as undulating as the Algarve, utterly unforgiving on the testing turns and replete with tricky elevation changes, then it is none other than polesitter Bottas.

Bottas has his best chance to win a race since Russia last year.

Beginning the first race of his season from the best-possible view of the laps to follow, can Bottas keep his cool and turn on the heat at Portimao? Not only for the chances of his own world title in 2021, but for his future at Mercedes, he got to hit hard at the very duo who’ll do everything in their might to curb the Finn’s run- Lewis and Max.

Moreover, Bottas needs a significantly improved race result considering at Imola he endured a DNF.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: SENNA AND MANSELL COLLIDE AT ESTORIL

Sergio Perez

The newcomer at Red Bull endured what can only be called a forgettable run at the last round at Imola. In finishing eleventh, despite having begun second on the grid, even ahead of Max Verstappen, the magnificent Mexican will be raring to make amends at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix.

Moreover, P4 on the grid, i.e. a start from the second row isn’t entirely despicable for a driver who knows well the art of damage control. But what would be particularly exciting for Perez would be to spot an opportunity since it’s a given that Max, due to begin from third on the grid, would push hard and immediately to make a way past Hamilton.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Could a chance lay there for Sergio Perez and where can he manage to end the race?

He’d surely love to go better than his best performance so far, that insipid P5 at Bahrain, the season-opener- don’t you think?

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel is a driver who, for the better part of the 2020 season, and the start of this championship, has found himself comfortably beaten by his former and current teammate. The German will be relishing the fact that he encountered a very respectable Saturday afternoon- even if that meant placing his Aston Martin on a P10.

For the first time since the 2020 British GP, Vettel made it to Q3, a fact that he’d be delighted with, but at the same time, will wish to convert into a fighting race finish.

Moreover, that as seen in the first two races of the season, a significantly under-experienced teammate was found getting the measure of a four-time world champion would just not have sat well with Vettel’s conscience.

It is about time that the racing genius answered back his critics and finished with a very healthy result at Portimao to further gain confidence since it’s a long season ahead.

But can Vettel do that?

READ MORE: WILL VETTEL REGRET HIS ASTON MARTIN MOVE?

Charles Leclerc

A driver so capable of turning a contest by the scruff of its neck, all that Leclerc’s managed thus far in 2021 is a best race performance of P4, not entirely a glittery performance for his standards.

But on Saturday, as he was found wanting in front of Carlos Sainz’s qualifying pace, there were more than a customary shock of the head at the Ferrari pit wall upon observing Mattia Binotto; there was probably a looming fear that the dashing Spaniard has got the measure of the more experienced Monegasque at Ferrari!

That being said, Leclerc, who managed a competitive P6 at Bahrain and subsequently, a respectable P4 at Imola, finishing in both instances ahead of his teammate wouldn’t want to see the tail of his Ferrari behind that of Sainz.

But surely, it must be said, that on Sunday Leclerc’s challenges would be doubled as he’d have to do something special to match the duo of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, both cars seemingly matching the Ferrari’s corner and straight-line speed.

So, can the Ferrari challenger put up with a daring act at the Algarve?

READ MORE: CHARLES LECLERC: F1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION

Kimi Raikkonen

A year back at the very venue, under tense and slippery conditions, the laconic Finn ended up sixth at the end of the opening lap of the Portuguese Grand Prix. This is when he’d begun his Algarve challenge from sixteenth on the grid.

Mathematically speaking, what Kimi’s managed one year later is a single grid slot improvement in his qualifying result, doing no better than P15, an effort that knowing his intolerance for mediocrity he’d be simply hating. How far can he go tomorrow?

Moreover, Giovinazzi, who Kimi’s beaten fair and square in the two previous races, finished significantly higher in the quali run, gathering a very fine P11 compared to Raikkonen’s P15. This is something Kimi would surely struggle to solve in his mind.

So, what might Kimi do on Sunday is something that’ll form a question of key interest to the watchers of the midfield. All that can be said is that Raikkonen, the most-experienced driver on the grid, can do significantly better on the mediums come the race day. But again, F1 is as unpredictable as rain amid a balmy sunny morning.

What he and his fans would certainly love is to see the Finn at least open his account this season!

READ MORE: WHY GIOVINAZZI HAD A BETTER 2020 THAN MOST THINK AND WHAT IS IN STORE FOR 2021?

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to yesterday’s qualifying? The Grid Talk crew have you covered, as Ruby Price hosted Karl King and Steve Jackson in their qualifying analysis. Audio version of the show is below:

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