The Ross Brawn Column – Portuguese Grand Prix edition

Mercedes fended off a stern challenge from Red Bull, as Lewis Hamilton clinched a hard-fought victory at Portimao. Formula 1 Managing Director, Motorsport, Ross Brawn discusses the key talking points…

Driver of the Day – Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton was his usual imperial self in Portugal, pulling off brilliant – and ultimately crucial – overtakes on both his team mate Valtteri Bottas and main title rival Max Verstappen to clinch victory.

He really had to work for the win today and it was a fine example of how the consistent challenge that is emerging from Red Bull and Max Verstappen is pushing Lewis to another level.

Lewis may have faced major opposition from his team mate for the last few years, but he’s not had to contend with a threat from outside – and so far, he is responding like a seven-time world champion would.

Verstappen’s mindset has changed

It’s clear that Max Verstappen is approaching this championship in a different way because he finally has a title-winning car. His mindset has changed and he’s got an eye on the whole championship.

And it had to change because when you’re a title contender, the focus has to be on consolidating when you’re not the fastest and when opportunities such as a mechanical issue for a rival or a Safety Car present themselves, you must be in a position to strike.

If Lewis had had an issue or Mercedes made a mistake in Portugal, Max was in a position to react, so while it was frustrating for him today, he can see Red Bull are responding and he accepts that there will be an ebb and flow to this championship.

Barcelona will potentially be different in terms of conditions and the type of track. And Monaco will be quite the event between the two, too, as they are both strong right there.

We’ve had three races on three different tracks and on each, there has been a proper fight between Max and Lewis, which bodes very well for a fascinating title fight this year.

Norris impresses once again

When Daniel Ricciardo joined McLaren, many were expecting him to emerge as the driver to lead the team forward into the future – but his team mate Lando Norris has been the one to beat so far this year.

While his team mate struggled in qualifying, Lando got the car into the top 10 and then secured a big haul of points on Sunday afternoon, ensuring McLaren continue to ride high in third in the constructors’ championship.

It was a very impressive performance.

Alonso makes a step forward

It was exciting to watch Fernando Alonso surge through the field and get into the points.

When Alpine gave him a way back into the sport, they will have been banking on typically gritty performances like this, where he gets everything out of the car.

He was outshone by team mate Esteban Ocon, who finished a place ahead, but it was evidence that Fernando is starting get comfortable with the car.

And this result certainly felt like the first step towards a really strong comeback, having spent the last two years away from F1.

Schumacher shines through

It’s clear the Haas is not one of the most competitive cars on the grid, so Mick Schumacher knew what he would be facing in his rookie season.

But you need to do what you can with what you have – and the little moments count, such as today, when he heaped the pressure on Nicholas Latifi and forced him into a mistake to take the position.

This was certainly a good demonstration of his potential.

Bottas had a reasonable afternoon

There’s a fascinating dynamic within Mercedes right now, in terms of their wish to support Valtteri as much as they can. He had a reasonable race but will be disappointed not to have converted pole into victory.

It is pretty unusual for a Team Principal to come on the radio and speak to a driver – but I think it shows their desire to do what they can to back him in what is a really challenging period for the Finn.