For Tiago Monteiro, the fairy tale was tantalisingly close to coming true. At his home event, the Portuguese driver had a comfortable lead in the FIA World Touring Car Cup feature race this afternoon, but on this occasion luck simply wasn’t on his side.
The 44-year old has undergone a resurgence in form during the early part of the 2021 season, and had he taken victory this afternoon, he would have left Estoril with a near 20-point advantage in the overall drivers’ standings.
In the end though, a detached bonnet pin ended his chances of scoring any points at all. As such, he finds himself fifth in the standings instead, albeit still very much in contention as only nine points separates him from championship leader Jean-Karl Vernay.
Nevertheless, this result will have been a particularly difficult pill to swallow.
“It’s character building, isn’t it?” Monteiro said. “First of all, I’m really, really happy for Attila [Tassi]. We’ve spoken about this moment for a long time and every time we are about to be on the podium together something happens, so really congrats [to him for taking the victory].
“But I would have preferred a different way of course. I had a good start and Esteban [Guerrieri] had an issue, but I was really aiming for a good first lap and first braking. But he made my life easier.
“And then everything was going well – too well.
“So it was not meant to be, but the championship is long and the good thing is we have a strong package, we have a good car.”
In a championship as closely-fought as this one though, Monteiro will be ruing the fact that he was unable to fully capitalise while his Honda appears to be at its strongest.
“Of course the Balance of Performance will start to come into play, but it was important to score all those points,” he said.
“It’s a very unfortunate, stupid mechanical failure like this, it’s really annoying. It’s not acceptable almost at this level of championship, but anything can happen and you cannot blame anybody.
“I’m very disappointed and frustrated, but it’s not the first time for me and my career. I’m sure tomorrow I will have forgotten about it and just focus on the next races.”
Despite today’s obvious disappointment, Monteiro knows that this is his strongest start to a campaign since his miraculous recovery from injury, and so with that in mind, the former Grand Prix driver remains in positive spirits about what lies ahead for the rest of the season.
“Whenever we will be heavy this is when it will be important to score good points and as I said the championship is still long and those guys are well aware that until the last few races nothing will be decided.
“The good thing is we can all fight and we’ll keep that to the end. For tonight it will be a hard one to swallow and accept. Tomorrow will be another day.”