Lewis Hamilton is the most successful driver in Formula One history after claiming a record-breaking 92nd victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimão.
Hamilton started from pole but in drizzly conditions slipped to third at the end of the first lap behind teammate Valtteri Bottas and the fast-starting McLaren of Carlos Sainz.
But the blip lasted only until Hamilton managed to get some heat into his tyres in the overcast and blustery weather. He and Bottas resumed their place at the front of the pack by lap seven, and by lap 20 the Briton had built enough momentum to pass the Finn to take back the lead.
This article originally appeared in The Phuket News.
Bottas had no answer to his teammate’s pace. By the end of their first stint on lap 40 he had fallen more than 10 seconds adrift, and he fared even worse in the second stint on the hard tyre, allowing Hamilton to gallop away to a comfortable 25-second lead for a record 92nd win.
“It’s going to take some time for it to sink in,” he said. “I can’t find the words at the moment.
“I owe it all to these [Mercedes] guys here and back at the factory for their tremendous work.
“It’s just been such a privilege working with them, and I’m so grateful for all the moments.”
Bottas finished a despondent second, the gap the largest defeat of the season, to fall 77 points adrift of the championship with five rounds remaining.
“I just had no pace today,” he admitted. “I don’t understand why, but no pace.
“I was pushing hard but couldn’t go faster.”
Max Verstappen came home an anonymous third, Red Bull Racing again an island behind Mercedes but comfortably ahead of the midfield.
“I did my own race,” Verstappen said, now a common post-race refrain for the Dutchman. “Once I went onto the medium tyres [after the pit stop] we had good pace, but by then the gap was already so big we couldn’t really do anything.”
Charles Leclerc validated Ferrari’s recent upgrades to finish fourth, 30 seconds behind Verstappen but another 30 seconds ahead of the rest of the field as the last driver on the lead lap.
His teammate, Sebastian Vettel, fared less well, scoring a solitary point for 10th, albeit after starting a lowly 15th.
Pierre Gasly snatched fifth from Sergio Perez in a thrilling late duel that almost saw the pair come to blows in the braking zone of the first turn.
The Mexican, desperately defending on worn soft tyres, swerved late to block an overtake on lap 63, but the Frenchman made the pass stick using DRS on the following lap.
Now in sixth, Perez subsequently fell into Sainz’s clutches, who demoted him to seventh on the final lap.
It was nonetheless just reward for a powerful recovery drive for the Racing Point driver, who fell to last on the first lap in a tangle with Verstappen at turn four as the Dutchman clumsily rejoined the track after running wide in the slippery conditions.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon held off teammate Daniel Ricciardo by half a second to finish eighth, with Vettel little more than a second shy of the pair in 10th.
Kimi Raikkonen finished 11th after a sizzling start had him as high as sixth in the opening laps.
Thailand’s Alex Albon was an underwhelming 12th after losing six places on the first lap and ending the race lapped by teammate Verstappen.
Albon is fighting to justify a contract extension for 2021, with the team due to make a decision by mid-November.
Lando Norris finished 13th for McLaren after an emergency pit stop after picking up a puncture.
Antonio Giovinazzi led home Haas teammates Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, Nicholas Latifi and Daniil Kvyat.
Lance Stroll was the race’s only retirement in a messy first race back after recovering from COVID-19, crashing with Norris and copping a penalty for repeatedly driving off the track.