With Hamilton starting second on the grid, an early Safety Car after Kimi Raikkonen had crashed into his Alfa Romeo team mate Antonio Giovinazzi saw the seven-time champion drop to third behind Verstappen at the Lap 7 Safety Car restart.
But Hamilton then fought back brilliantly, passing Verstappen back for P2 four laps later before claiming the lead with an incisive pass on Bottas into Turn 1 on Lap 20 of 66 – eventually coming home for his 97th F1 victory, and extending his lead at the head of the drivers’ championship.
Like Hamilton, Verstappen maintained his record of finishing all three races of 2021 so far in either P1 or P2 – but had to be satisfied with the latter result, the Dutchman able to pull away from Bottas in the latter stages of the race after the Finn suffered a sensor issue on his power unit, but having been unable to do much about Hamilton at the front.
Meanwhile, after late stops for both Bottas and Verstappen to try and claim the fastest lap bonus point, it was ultimately Bottas who got the job done, after Verstappen had a faster lap deleted for a track limits infringement.
Sergio Perez still has yet to finish on the podium as a Red Bull driver, but at least claimed his best result of the year with P4, ahead of Lando Norris, the McLaren driver having now finished in the top five at every race this season so far.
Norris in fifth led the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in sixth, while the Alpine pairing of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso completed the team’s fine weekend with P7 and P8 – Alonso in particular having driven brilliantly in the race’s latter stages.
After starting a “grim” P16, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo fought back to P9 at the chequered flag, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly taking 10th after a late pass on Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
At the front though, the story of 2021’s fascinating Red Bull vs Mercedes battle had another chapter added to it at Portimao – with the wind now in the sails of the Silver Arrows.