Formula One returns to the Algarve for the third round of the 2021 season – the Portuguese Grand Prix – and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is expecting another ‘close fight’, writes Stanley Szecowka.
The current leaders in the team and driver championships and reigning world champions in both categories are facing stiff competition this season from Red Bull and Bahrain’s own McLaren.
“Imola was a crazy race and the kind of grand prix that lives long in the memory: there were so many ups and downs and there were a few moments where it felt like we wouldn’t score any points at all,” admitted Wolff, reflecting on the last race.
“It was a rollercoaster of emotions, from the disappointment of Valtteri Bottas’ scary accident to the thrill of Lewis Hamilton’s recovery drive.
“To come away leading both Championships almost felt like a ‘get out of jail free’ card, because our rivals didn’t maximise the opportunity we gave them. And, it just proves what a challenging season we have ahead of us and how quickly things can turn around in Formula One.
“Last year was our first race in Portimão. It’s an exciting, undulating track and produced some great racing in 2020; we also saw in qualifying and the opening laps that getting the tyres working properly is not easy.
“It’s still quite a new circuit for everyone, which should make things interesting and mean we are learning all through the weekend.
“We’re expecting another close fight with Red Bull, and both McLaren and Ferrari could also be in the mix too. So, let’s see how things play out in Portugal.”