F1 2021
Round 3

Race Setup - #PortugueseGP

pt Portimao

Portimao is back! After much debate pre-season, the Portuguese Grand Prix returns to the F1 calendar for a second year having been added to the schedule as the sport scrambled for available venues in the uncertain landscape of the pandemic.

Race Setup - #PortugueseGP

The track, opened in 2008, is a modern venue with drastic elevation changes designed to test car, driver and engine over its challenging 4.6km layout. Although 2020 may have been Formula 1’s first visit to the Algarve Circuit, it wasn't our first trip to Portugal. Honda was here in 1992 at Autodromo do Estoril, where Gerhard Berger and Ayrton Senna powered on to a double podium, finishing second and third just behind our old friend Nigel Mansell in the Williams.

Max and Pierre raced to P3 and P5 finishes last year, so we'll be hoping for more as we return in 2021. Our next win will mark Honda's 80th trip to the top step in Formula 1 - and it would be the first time since 1992 for Honda power to win two grand prix in a row, if successful this weekend.

Max takes the win at Imola
Max takes the win at Imola

Toyoharu Tanabe
Toyoharu Tanabe
Honda Racing F1
We are having our best start to a season since Honda returned to Formula 1 in the hybrid era, with a second place and a win for Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing Honda in the first two races.
Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda has also performed very well in the very close competition right behind the top teams. However, after just two rounds, we know we still have a long season ahead of us. We’ll try to maximize our performance and results in every single race with our four drivers and both teams.

Last year, Formula 1 visited the Algarve circuit for the first time as part of the unusual calendar as a result of the pandemic. Although not far from the beach resorts in southern Portugal, it is set among the hills and offers a unique challenge with many ups and downs and severe gradient changes. This weekend, everyone will have last year’s data to rely on when it comes to our preparation and so we should be able to start off in better shape than last year. So far, the weather forecast is predicting a high possibility of rain on Friday. 

We will therefore need to work as efficiently as possible in the limited amount of free practice time, to update our new PU data, in order to be fully prepared for Saturday and Sunday.

Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly 10
Scuderia AlphaTauri
Looking back at the last round in Imola, there are some positives to take away from what was a disappointing weekend in terms of the result. We were in the top ten for all free practice sessions and were again in the top five in Qualifying - three and a half tenths off the pole time - which must be one of the best Qualifying times for the team. Seventh in the race is still a good result, even if we know we should have done better. We’ll discuss it as a team and see how we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Last year I had a good race in Portimao, finishing fifth. It’s a really unique circuit with all the gradient changes, going up and down like a rollercoaster. It’s fun driving there and very different to what we’re used to - as a low grip track, the car slides a lot and it’s not easy to get the tyres up to temperature. We will be running the C1 hard tyres and last year, especially in FP1 they were very hard to warm up, but this time we have a bit more knowledge and experience and the weather will certainly be warmer this year.  So, we will face a different challenge to the ones from the first two races.
After two races, we are now used to only having an hour for each free practice session. It hasn’t changed our work programme, but it does mean the track is busier with more cars out at the same time, so there is a bit more action and you spend less time waiting in the garage. I quite like it, as the sessions are more intense.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen 33
Red Bull Racing
It was of course great to win, after missing out in Bahrain it felt very satisfying to win the race in Imola. There were definitely a few things that we wanted to learn from the Bahrain race, which we did, and we could bring home the win. We also know that it’s a very long season, so we just have to stay very focussed and I am always looking ahead, Imola wasn’t perfect so we have to keep pushing.

It’s always tricky to know what’s going to happen but it felt like I had a good launch, I didn’t maximise performance on the Saturday so it definitely felt good to lead the race from Turn 1. I’m happy with what we have with the RB16B, it’s faster, it has more grip and better balance. We lost downforce with the floor, but I think we lost a bit less than other teams and it shows that we made a good step forward. We’re starting the season strong, the best we’ve had since I’ve been with the Team. It’s a long season, and if we want to fight for the championship, we have to keep improving.

I am looking forward to going back to Portugal, we were on the podium there last year and I think we have a better car now so I’m looking forward to extracting everything we can from the car and have a bit of fun out there. Every race weekend so far, we’ve really felt that there is a chance to win, it feels like a different mindset now when you know you can fight for pole. We’ve definitely learnt a lot over the years, I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.  It won’t be easy but we are going to do everything we can to stay in the fight this season.

Yuki Tsunoda
Yuki Tsunoda 22
Scuderia AlphaTauri
I learned a lot of lessons in Imola. It was quite the opposite to Bahrain which had gone well. I had very high expectations for Imola and so had the team. Everything had gone smoothly in free practice but then I made a huge mistake in Qualifying, which meant I had a very tough race. I had not had a bad crash for two years, so this was a lesson which I can learn from going into the next races. The race was also the first time I had driven a Formula 1 car in the wet and using the intermediate tyres was really tricky, so I had to build up my speed gradually. But we have a car that has been competitive at the first two tracks, capable of running in the top six.
The track in Portugal is new to me. I don’t know what to expect, although I have done a couple of sessions driving Portimao on the simulator and I’ve watched last year’s Grand Prix. It is a beautiful circuit with interesting corners like Turn 1 and the off-camber Turn 13 which looks quite unique, as well as so many up and down sections and blind corners.  I think it could be tricky for track limits, but I will build up my pace gradually. It will be a completely different situation to the previous two rounds, as I had already driven a lot in Bahrain and Imola before the race weekend. During free practice I hope to complete a significant number of laps to adapt to the track as soon as possible and hopefully be well prepared for Qualifying.

Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez 11
Red Bull Racing
I was very pleased with my progression after qualifying on the front row at Imola. I think I even surprised myself to be that quick in only my second race weekend at Red Bull, and to be able to extract the maximum from the car in such a short amount of time. Looking back at it, I think being able to adapt to such a different car and driving style definitely gives me a big confidence boost and it showed me I can adapt well. I am starting to understand the car and that was the main positive.

The motivation is sky high. The way we work at Red Bull, we prepare our race weekend to take the maximum from it because we know if we do everything right we have a realistic chance of winning the race. Everyone in the Team is also pushing really hard to try to improve the RB16B so we can maximise every single weekend with both cars – that’s the target. Imola was a missed opportunity as I think we should have finished 1-2 but hopefully we can achieve that this weekend.

Imola is a pretty tough track to get on top of and maximise, especially if you’ve recently swapped teams, but in Portugal I hope to be in the mix and get everything out of the car. We know what the car is capable of and the goal is to deliver on its potential. The positive is that the pace is there, we just need to continue building on our form and take another step forwards. 

It’s just time in the car. Obviously the more work you put in, the more you get out, so I analyse, I make notes, I speak to the engineers and I watch back footage. Everything you do just helps get you as ready as possible. You can see with everyone that has changed teams this year, it takes time to get up to speed. Everyone is good, everyone is exceptionally fast, it’s just a process you need to go through before everything comes to you naturally and hopefully we can achieve that in the opening races of the season.

Portugal is a great place to go racing. It’s fairly new to the calendar and last year was tricky with the new asphalt so it will be interesting to see how it is this year in terms of grip but certainly I think it’s a good track. It’s the first back to back of the season and races are coming thick and fast now so it will be important to be on it!

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