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Lewis Hamilton holds off Verstappen to win F1 Portuguese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton won the Portuguese Grand Prix with a dominant run after a gripping fight to take the lead in the opening half of the race. The Mercedes driver beat the Red Bull of Max Verstappen into second place at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, with Valtteri Bottas in third for Mercedes. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez was in fourth, with Lando Norris another superb fifth for McLaren.

The world champion won after some intense racing to open, during which he dropped from second to third, came back to take second and then made a superb pass on Bottas to take a lead he would not relinquish. Just as he displayed here in Portugal last year, he had a pace on the circuit that simply could not be matched as he took his 97th win, three from a unique century as he attempts to seal a record eighth title.

The win is another big result for Hamilton and his team. Mercedes had considered Red Bull to still have a small advantage in pace over these opening rounds so to deny them wins in two of the first three meetings could prove vital in what may yet be a nip-and-tuck fight for the title. Hamilton now leads Verstappen by eight points.

That Mercedes have maintained their advantage at this circuit, where Hamilton dominated last year, will be a fillip for the team. They had expected their car to be better suited to some tracks and have to make the most of those where they have an edge. How they perform at the next meeting in Spain, where they have traditionally been very strong, will be another indicator of form from these fascinating opening four rounds.

Bottas on pole held his lead through turn one, with Hamilton and Verstappen slotting in line astern. However, a safety car was called on the second lap when Kimi Räikkönen’s Alfa Romeo went out after hitting his teammate. When racing resumed on lap seven Bottas got away well but Hamilton was caught by Verstappen, who made a superb restart, went alongside him and made a gutsy move round the outside to take second place through turn one.

It was a fine piece of driving and the Dutchman went on to hound Bottas for the lead, with Hamilton on their tail. The top three were within one and a half seconds of each other and were swiftly alone at the front of the field. This was tight, high-pressure stuff and Verstappen felt it, making a mistake with some oversteer at turn 14 on lap 10. Hamilton punished him ruthlessly, passing once again through turn one and ensuring it had stuck by turn three by giving the Dutchman no room to come back at him. Glorious, fair but intense racing.

Hamilton appeared to have found his groove with more pace than Bottas but Mercedes allowed their men to race on as they began to drop Verstappen. Hamilton remained tucked up under the rear wing of his teammate but, without a definitive pace advantage, looked as if he could not pass the Finn.

The world champion was not to be denied, however. On lap 20 he barrelled up with DRS on the start-finish straight and, although he was at best only parallel with the Finn, with breathtaking commitment he swept round the outside of turn one, where they approach at 200mph. His extra pace then immediately told as he put 1.7sec on Bottas within four laps.

The race settled as the frontrunners prepared for their only stops, with Verstappen stuck behind Bottas and Hamilton exploiting his clean air by knocking out a sequence of fastest laps. Looking for the undercut, Verstappen pitted on lap 35 to take the hard tyres. Mercedes covered him off a lap later to also take the hard rubber and, after a stop a second slower than Red Bull’s, Bottas rejoinedstill in second place but a charging Verstappen on warmer rubber took the place at the turn five hairpin.

Hamilton pitted a lap later also for the hard tyres and emerged still comfortably in front of Verstappen but, with the Dutchman now free and chasing the world champion, it was a duel between the two.

Pérez led the race, having yet to pit, but the real battle was the three seconds that separated Hamilton and Verstappen. The world champion was in no mood to ease up. More fastest laps ensued as the gap opened up further, with four seconds the advantage by lap 48, and he caught and passed Pérez for the lead on lap 50. It was enough to all but seal the deal.

With nothing to choose in pace between the Mercedes and the Red Bull, Verstappen could not close the gap and Hamilton did not give him any opportunity, driving flawlessly to the close to seal another imperious win in Portugal. Verstappen made a late stop to go for and take the fastest lap but had his time deleted for breaching the track limits, meaning Bottas took the extra point, while Hamilton was satisfied with the honours and the championship lead.

Charles Leclerc was in sixth for Ferrari; Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso seventh and eighth for Alpine; Daniel Ricciardo in ninth for McLaren and Pierre Gasly in 10th for AlphaTauri.

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