Here are six storylines to look out for across the next two weekends at the Portuguese and Spanish grands prix, which marks the first double-header events of the campaign. 

1. The Bottas-Russell fallout 

There will be plenty of interest surrounding how Valtteri Bottas and George Russell respond to their huge race-ending collision at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. 

Both drivers were left furious at each other after they came together while fighting over ninth place in an action-packed race at Imola and subsequently began initiating the blame game, much to the annoyance of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. 

With emotions having cooled from the initial heat-of-the-moment fallout 24 hours after the race, Williams driver Russell issued a public apology to Bottas and revealed his intention to call the Finn and clear the air with him over the incident.

Bottas and Russell will face the media on Thursday in Portimao and it will be intriguing to hear both side’s views on the events of the last race now that there has been proper time to digest and reflect. 


2. Who will hold the edge after back-to-back races?  

The 2021 F1 title fight is delicately poised after the opening two rounds, with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen each sitting on one pole position and one victory apiece. 

Verstappen’s brilliant victory at Imola last time out has seen the Red Bull driver reduce Hamilton’s championship lead down to just a single point. 

Verstappen beat Hamilton off the line to immediately snatch the lead at the start, before holding onto it by fighting off Hamilton’s attack at the first chicane. Following a rare mistake that almost ended his race, Hamilton was forced into a superb recovery drive to salvage second place. 

The opening two races have perfectly set the tone for what promises to be a mouth-watering, season-long title battle between Hamilton and Verstappen that will be defined by marginal moments. 

Upcoming races in Portugal and Spain could lay the foundations for a crucial and early momentum swing in the title race for either Hamilton or Verstappen, but who will take the ascendancy in the next two weeks?


3. Hamilton eyeing more F1 history

Returning to a venue where he surpassed the record for most victories in F1 last year, Hamilton has another chance to create yet more history in the sport, providing he can once again beat the Red Bulls and his teammate to pole position at Portimao.

A second consecutive pole at the Algarve International Circuit would mark the 100th time Hamilton has topped qualifying and see him break into triple figures to become F1’s first-ever pole centurion.

Given there are still 21 races to go this year, it seems likely the 36-year-old will achieve the remarkable statistic and continue to extend his record pole tally even further before the end of 2021.

4. Will Norris keep on shining?



Lando Norris has made an exceptional start to the season with some extremely impressive performances across the opening two weekends in 2021.

The McLaren driver followed up a strong P4 in the Bahrain season-opener by taking his second career podium at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with another outstanding drive as he bounced back in style from the devastation of missing out on his best-ever qualifying result on Saturday at Imola.

Norris valiantly kept Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes behind for a while before he ultimately had to settle for third place on the podium, finishing some 27 seconds up the road from his new McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo. His performance at Imola drew praise from McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl, who said that Norris has shown he has made the “next step as a driver”.

The 21-year-old sits third in the championship standings on 27 points, seven clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Can he continue his great form in Portugal and Spain?

5. Can Vettel and Alonso overcome bad starts?

For two multiple world champions, the start of the 2021 F1 season has not gone quite according to plan.

Sebastian Vettel has endured a difficult start to life at Aston Martin following his release from Ferrari, having had a horrible couple of races in Bahrain and Imola. Not only has he been outpaced by teammate Lance Stroll at both events, he is yet to get off the mark while Stroll has landed a pair of points finishes.

A clumsy collision with Esteban Ocon in Bahrain resulted in a penalty that left Vettel 15th at the chequered flag. Overheating brakes, another penalty and gearbox problems hampered the four-time world champion’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and ultimately forced him to retire in the closing laps.



Things haven’t been much better for Alonso. Returning for a third stint at the rebranded Alpine squad, the two-time world champion’s comeback race in Sakhir ended prematurely after a sandwich bag became lodged in his brakes, causing them to overheat.

Having been outperformed by Esteban Ocon all weekend at Imola, Alonso did at least take home his first point of his F1 return, albeit only due to post-race penalties handed out to those ahead of him.

Like Ricciardo at McLaren, both Vettel and Alonso are finding it challenging to get comfortable and fully up to speed at their respective new teams but will be hoping to make a step forward in Portugal.

6. How will Tsunoda respond to Imola errors?

After his magnificent points-scoring debut in Bahrain, Yuki Tsunoda came crashing back down to earth at Imola with a bang - quite literally - as he suffered a hefty qualifying shunt that left him facing a back-of-the-grid start at Imola.

Having failed to meet his target of a maiden Q3 appearance, a spin shortly after the Safety Car restart while passing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes for P8 ruined what had been up until that stage a very impressive recovery effort.

Tsunoda ultimately came home in 12th as AlphaTauri was left to rue another squandered opportunity to maximise its seriously fast 2021 F1 car.

Mistakes were always expected for Tsunoda in his rookie season given that he faces such a steep learning curve. How he responds to them will be key if he is to realise his much-hyped potential.
 

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