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ANALYSIS: Assessing the field – 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Lewis Hamilton cruised to a dominant win at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix and created history with the 92nd win of his career. Hamilton broke Michael Schumacher’s record for most wins in Formula 1 to add to his many records.

Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen joined the Briton on the podium at the twelfth race of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve circuit in Portimão, Portugal.

It was Hamilton’s race all the way as he overcame the initial challenges to simply streak away from the field and clinched a historic win.

Top of the class…

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:-0.102s | Race margin to team-mate:-25.592s

Lewis Hamilton clinched his eighth win of the season and the ninety-second win of his career after some initial stutters. The Briton started from pole position and made a good start. But in the greasy conditions, Bottas and then Carlos Sainz passed him.

Hamilton overtook Sainz quickly and bided his time behind Bottas. On lap 20, Hamilton breezed past Bottas and never looked back. As the wind picked up and changed direction, Hamilton managed his tyres and pace and was unbeatable on this day.

Hamilton was on the backfoot in the practice sessions but made the right call in the final qualifying session to go for two flying laps and take pole position. The strategic calls and his race management with the ability to think on his feet have made him a well-rounded Formula 1 driver in recent seasons.

The record for most wins adds to his already formidable arsenal of records of most pole positions, most podiums, most career points scored and the ongoing record of forty-five consecutive point finishes.  

Max Verstappen – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate:-0.533s| Race margin to team-mate:-34.468s

Max Verstappen continued to deliver on Sunday as he joined the Mercedes drivers for the seventh time on the podium this season. The Dutchman wrings out the maximum from the second best car on the grid.

Since the F1 engine party mode ban, he has drawn closer to the Mercedes drivers in qualification trim. After an erratic first lap that involved off-track excursions and a clash with Sergio Pérez, Verstappen regained control and third-place by lap 8.

If a strategic roll of the dice or variable conditions have given him an opening, Verstappen has challenged the Mercedes dominance. On this day, he was never a threat to the Mercedes drivers and brought home the points safely for his team.

Charles Leclerc – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate:-0.552(Q2)|Race margin to team-mate:-37.1s

Charles Leclerc finished in fourth position, the place he started the race from. The Monégasque racing driver fell back in the opening lap on the medium compound tyres, but battled his way back to fourth position.

Leclerc is extracting the maximum performance from the SF1000 in qualifying and race trim. He is consistently outperforming his more experienced team-mate Vettel.

Pierre Gasly – Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate:-0.361s|Race margin to team-mate:-94.735

Pierre Gasly finished in fifth position and “best of the rest” after another stellar performance. Gasly started in ninth position and after an extended stint on the soft compound tyres pitted from fourth position.

In his second stint on the medium compound tyres, Gasly clawed his way back to fifth position after he overtook a stubborn Pérez on the penultimate lap.

After his demotion from the Red Bull Racing team last season, a rejuvenated Gasly is outperforming the car and his team-mate every weekend. Unlike other young Red Bull drivers who have fallen away after being cut from the senior team, Gasly has fought back and delivered some stunning performances.

Sergio Pérez – BWT Racing Point F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:-0.497s|Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Sergio Pérez started in fifth position and was dead last at the end of the first lap. A battle with Verstappen spun him around and saw him pit on the opening lap.

With an extended stint of 44 laps on the medium compound tyres, the Mexican battled his way to fifth position. He lost two positions in the final laps, but it was a fine recovery drive that earned him “Driver Of The Day” honours.

Even after missing two races, Pérez is in sixth position in the drivers’ championship with seventy-four points. Every race, Pérez is showcasing his talent and making the case for being on the grid next season.

Homework to do…

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:+0.102s | Race margin to team-mate:+25.592s

Valtteri Bottas lost the lead to Hamilton on lap 20 and was no match to his team-mate for the rest of the race. The Finn dominated the practice sessions and had the edge over Hamilton until the last flying lap in qualification.

Bottas has lost pole position to Hamilton by razor-thin margins on multiple occasions this season. But in race trim, he has been no match to Hamilton and has won only two races to Hamilton’s eight races.

With five races to go, Bottas trails Hamilton by 77 points in the drivers’ championship with five races to go. He has an impossible mountain to climb now.

Sebastian Vettel – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate:+0.552(Q2)|Race margin to team-mate:+37.1s

Sebastian Vettel finished in tenth position for the fourth time this season. Vettel is languishing in thirteenth position in the drivers’ championship.

Vettel is being outclassed by his team-mate Leclerc in qualification and in the race. Vettel started in fifteenth position and made progress to tenth position during the race. But when your team-mate is qualifying fourth and finishing there, it is a poor performance.

The German is set to leave the Ferrari team at the end of the season and it could not come soon enough.

Lance Stroll – BWT Racing Point F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate:+0.497s|Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Lance Stroll struggled the whole race weekend after missing the previous race in Germany. The Canadian was not well at the Eifel Grand Prix and then tested positive for Covid19.

Stroll had an erratic weekend with a clash with Verstappen in free practice. Stroll was outqualified by his team-mate and started in twelfth position and progressed to eighth position.

But in his bid to overtake Norris on the outside, he ran into him and was pitched into the gravel. Stroll was given a 5-second penalty for this incident and another penalty for exceeding track limits. Stroll retired from the race after 51 laps.

After the high of scoring a podium in Monza, Stroll has gone pointless in the last four races even as his team-mate has accumulated forty points.

Alexander Albon – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate:+0.533s| Race margin to team-mate:+34.468s

Alexander Albon qualified in sixth position and finished in twelfth position. He slid back to twelfth position by the end of lap 2 and never recovered.

The Anglo-Thai driver is under pressure as his performance gap to his team-mate Verstappen is glaring at the moment.

The rest…

Esteban Ocon finished in eighth position to bring home a double-points finish for the Renault DP World F1 Team. The French driver with a long first stint of 53 laps on the medium compound tyres finished ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in ninth position.

Carlos Sainz made a rapid start to take the lead in the race from seventh position. The two McLaren F1 Team drivers had their soft compound tyres upto temperature and jumped to first and fourth positions in the early laps. Sainz eventually finished in sixth position. But Lando Norris after running strongly in the points had to settle for thirteenth position because of his clash with Stroll.

Kimi Räikkönen like the McLaren duo made a strong start that saw him jump from sixteenth position to seventh position on lap 1 and gained another position on the next lap. The Finn ran strongly in the points before being overtaken by Vettel for tenth position. Antonio Giovinazzi did not make much progress and finished in fifteenth position.

George Russell started fourteenth and finished in the same position. But the Briton ran in the points from lap 20 to the end of his first stint. Team-mate Nicholas Latifi started last and finished in eighteenth position, just ahead of Daniil Kvyat. Kvyat had another anonymous race even as team-mate Gasly had another strong race.

The two Haas F1 Team drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, finished in sixteenth and seventeenth positions. The American team continues to struggle and these two experienced drivers know they will not be driving for this team next season.

The next race is the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola in Italy this weekend (October 31 to November 1 2020).

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