The data that leaves both Red Bull, Mercedes uncertain of supremacy
Lewis Hamilton topped the crucial FP2 session on Friday as F1 returned to Portugal, but his Mercedes team cannot be sure it has the edge on its Red Bull rivals. As cool temperatures and wind combine with the still-slippery surface to present drivers with quandaries over set-up and tyre warmup, there's still everything to play for come qualifying.
Portimao poses plenty of problems for Formula 1’s teams and drivers.
In 2020, the new track surface was heavy with bitumen and generally oily, which, combined with cool conditions, left the drivers massively struggling for tyre temperature. That meant many mistakes and eventually settled the race result, with Lewis Hamilton critically able to keep his tyres hotter once the damp early laps had passed, which meant he was able to surge past team-mate Valtteri Bottas and claim the win.
In 2021, the track is grippier overall, with the surface no longer so saturated with bitumen, but it is still very tricky – in part thanks to rain at the venue in recent days, with temperatures still on the cool side. There were noticeably fewer lock-ups in practice on Friday compared to six months ago, but the challenges remain stark, with other factors also impacting performance.
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