Formula 1 returned to Portimao for the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix – the second Grand Prix at the circuit on the Algarve following its introduction last year as part of a hastily assembled calendar in the face of a raft of COVID-19 related cancellations.
Portimao proved itself to be popular with fans, thanks to its old school Grand Prix track characteristics – fairly narrow, elevation changes, gravel traps, grass – that provided an antidote to the modern ‘Tilkedrome’ tracks that have now all begun to blend into one huge five metre wide expanse of ironing-board flat tarmac.
Free practice hinted that Williams might once again be in the fight for points with #1 driver George Russell finishing as high as 7th in FP1.
Saturday qualifying appeared to confirm as much, as George finished 11th fastest – his best qualifying yet in a Williams – just half a tenth of a second shy of taking Williams Racing into their first Q3 for some three years.
So it was with some excitement that we Williams fans approached Sunday’s Grand Prix, hopeful that the team might be able to break its 2021 points duck in the third race of the season.
Sadly, the conditions did not suit Williams’ ‘peaky’ car, and the blustery wind seemed to rob the FW43B of the stability the drivers need to get anywhere near the midfield.
After holding station at the start, George – struggling to race in traffic – dropped like a stone, leaving Williams fans everywhere wondering whether he was suffering some kind of mechanical issue.
Once the race settled down, it was clear that Russell had only the beating of the two Haas cars, and that Latifi – having started 18th and holding station – might slowly become prey to at least Schumacher, the quicker of the two Haas drivers.
Both drivers mirrored the strategy of choice up and down the pitlane, stopping just the once, and soldiered on to the flag, Latifi indeed succumbing to Schumacher to finish last but one.
Russell fared marginally better to come home 16th ahead of his teammate and both Haas.
“Our car does not suit these conditions, when the wind picks up it becomes a real struggle.” George told Williamsf1.com after the race.
“We just have to hope that moving forward we get some slightly calmer conditions which allow us to demonstrate those strengths.”
Nicholas Latifi added: “There is definitely something we are missing at the moment, and we need to try and improve it ahead of Barcelona.”
It was acknowledged pre-season that Williams’ car would perform better in some conditions that others and that on an off day might be really off the pace, so Williams fans should expect races like this from time to time.
Let’s just hope Barcelona next week proves to be as still as the Las Ramblas human statues.