Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2020 Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix – Portimão Circuit

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Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The Portuguese Grand Prix is making a return to the Formula 1 calendar after a twenty-four-year absence. The drivers will be racing at Portimão Circuit, officially known as the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.

This race is one of the eight new races added to the 2020 calendar after multiple cancellation of other races such as Monaco, Australia and Singapore due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The track has not had Formula 1 cars race on it before, although there was testing there back in 2008, meaning the team’s and drivers go into the race weekend with little to no knowledge of how their cars will work.

What happened at the Eifel Grand Prix 2020

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of ninety-one-race wins after being victorious at the Nürburgring. The moment was celebrated by Schumacher’s son Mick giving Hamilton a race helmet from Michael’s final season in F1 back in 2012. Joining him on the podium was Max Verstappen in second and Daniel Ricciardo in third. Ricciardo gained his first podium since his Monaco 2018 race win and a first for Renault DP World F1 Team since 2011.

The race was marred with five retirements, four of them coming from drivers running in the top ten. Both Lando Norris and Valtteri Bottas retired due to power unit issues with Alexander Albon having an issue with his radiator and Esteban Ocon had issues with his hydraulics. The only driver whos retirement was a result of a collision was George Russell. Kimi Räikkönen attempted an overtake on the Williams Racing driver on lap thirteen but understeered and went straight into the side of Russell. Räikkönen was subsequently given a ten-second time penalty for the incident.

Lance Stroll was unable to race over the weekend due to an illness. He was replaced by Nico Hülkenberg, who was ready in time for qualifying. Due to getting no practice time on the track, he qualified in twentieth but turned it round in the race to finish in eighth and was voted Driver of the Day for his stellar performance.

What happened at the last Portuguese Grand Prix – 1996

The last time the F1 circus raced in Portugal was in 1996. This time the track was at the Autódromo do Estoril, on the outskirts of Lisbon. The event was the penultimate of the 1996 season. The race was won by Jacques Villeneuve with Damon Hill in second and defending World Champion Michael Schumacher in third. This meant the Drivers’ Championship went down to the wire between Villeneuve and Hill. 

Hill looked set to win the race as he raced off the start from pole position and spent most of his time of the seventy-one laps in the lead. Hill’s fifteen second lead slowly started to demise after he got stuck behind backmarkers Ukyo Katayama and Ricardo Rosset when he was about to lap them.

On his third and final pit, Villeneuve managed to get out infront of him after a poor out-lap and eventually went on to win the race. It was also a race remembered for Villeneuve passing Schumacher spectacularly around the outside of the final turn.

The Circuit

Portimão Circuit is one of the widest tracks on the 2020 calendar so we should hope to get some good overtakes on the circuit. The track has completely been resurfaced in the past couple of weeks, so the characteristics of the surface are currently unknown. 

The circuit is 4.653km in length and the race will consist of 66 laps making a total race distance of 306.826km. 

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors Corners and DRS zones

Portimão consists of fifteen corners, nine to the right and six to the left and another long straight. Only a select few corners have been given official names. Turn 1 is Primeira, Turn 3 Lagos, Turn 5 Torre Vip and Turn 8 is Samsung. Turn 9 is dedicated to Craig Jones, a young motorcyclist who died due a head injury sustained in a fall and then collision at Brands Hatch in the 2008 Supersport World Championship season. Turn 10 is Portmão, Turn 14 is Sagres and Turn 15 is Galp.

Each Sector is split with Turn’s 1 to 4 in Sector 1, Turn’s 5 to 11 in Sector 2 and Turn’s 12 to 15 in Sector 3.

There is just one DRS zone on the track. The DRS detection zone starts going into Turn 15 and DRS is for the duration of the straight going towards Turn 1.

Tyre Strategy

Teams will move away from the standard allocation of eight softs, three mediums and two hards for the Portuguese Grand Prix. The teams will now have seven softs, three mediums and three hards. 

Pirelli have set the hardest compounds for this weekend. The white-striped hard tyres are the C1, yellow-striped mediums at C2 and red-striped softs at C3.

What should we look out for this year?

Hamilton is now just three wins away from claiming his seveth World Championship, equalling Schumacher on the most World Titles. Bottas is still hot on his tail but his retirement at Nürburgring surely would have dented those hopes.

The battle for fourth in the Driver’s Championship is really hotting up. Ricciardo currently sits in that position after gain his first podium with Renault and his first in over two year at the Eifel Grand Prix.

Not too far behind him are Sergio Pérez, Norris, Albon and Charles Leclerc. All four drivers are all within five points of each other. 

Lance Stroll will be hoping to get back in the groove of a race weekend after missing out on the last one, out with an illness.

In the last week, rumours have been circulating that George Russell will be dropped from Williams Racing in favour of outgoing BWT Racing Point Formula One Team driver Pérez. The young Brit has famously been dubbed ‘Mr Saturday’ for his stellar qualifying performances but is still yet to score a point this year. He’ll be hoping for some this weekend if a demotion is breathing down his neck.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 23 October

11:00 BST / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One

15:00 BST / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 24 October

11:00 BST / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three

14:00 BST / 14:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 25 October

13:10 BST / 13:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix.

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