The Portuguese Grand Prix makes his return to the Formula 1 calendar for the first time in twenty-four years this weekend, and Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams Racing, is excited for the event to get underway.
The circuit was one of those to join the calendar in the wake of the race cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and it will host Formula 1 racing for the very first time, although it was a test venue at the end of the 2000’s.
Robson says Portimão reminds him of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain but with much more elevation changes, and he believes the final corner will quickly become one of the favourite turns for the drivers due to its high-speed nature.
“The twelfth event of the 2020 season takes place at the Algarve International Circuit, Portugal and is the first time that Formula 1 has raced in Portugal since 1996,” said Robson. “The circuit – near Portimão – is a modern facility with an interesting layout, reminiscent of Barcelona, but with much more elevation change.
“The final high-speed corner, which returns the cars to the main straight is likely to become a favourite with the drivers.”
Robson says going to another new circuit will be a challenge, but they are looking forward to that challenge this weekend, although he knows it will be busy on track as they make up for the time lost at the Nürburgring after all of Friday’s running was lost to the weather last time out.
Pirelli are also bringing some prototype tyres to Portimão, with the opening thirty minutes of the second session on Friday being dedicated to tyre testing.
“We are looking forward to the challenge of another new circuit, having enjoyed the experience in Mugello and the Nürburgring,” said Robson. “Losing the Friday running in Germany has left us with a lot of work to get through this weekend, and in addition to our own testing, we will complete some tyre testing for Pirelli during the opening 30 minutes of FP2.”
Robson says Pirelli’s choice of the three hardest tyre compounds for Portimão appears to be conservative, but it is the same for everyone and getting the best out of the tyres will dictate the downforce levels for the weekend.
“Pirelli have brought their hardest tyre compounds to this event and have also brought more Hard tyres than usual,” said Robson. “Depending on the nature of the asphalt and the temperature we find, this may prove to be quite conservative. However, as it is the same for all teams, then it is something that we will need to embrace and make the most of.
“The tyre grip will dictate the downforce level that teams choose to run and one of our main objectives on Friday will be to understand the trades of different rear wing levels. We have some new aerodynamic test parts this weekend and the drivers will share the programme to understand if the new components are behaving as expected.
“We have a busy few days ahead of us and are looking forward to a new venue, some warm sunshine and a productive weekend.”
Russell, Latifi Aiming for Mixed Up but Strong Weekend in Portugal
George Russell has not raced at Portimão since 2015 but he is looking forward to racing there in Formula 1 for the first time this weekend.
He hopes the fact that no one comes to the track with any data will mix up the order, with the Briton still aiming for his first points score of his Formula 1 career.
“I am really looking forward to Portugal as it is a new circuit on this year’s calendar,” said Russell. “It is a really great track and I haven’t raced there since 2015. It is very undulating with a lot of character, which is what all drivers love. It will be a challenge for all of the teams with no previous data to rely on, which will hopefully mix things up.”
Team-mate Nicholas Latifi has never raced at Portimão but has experienced the track in testing, and like Russell, he is hopeful of a good weekend for Williams as they bid to pull themselves off the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship standings.
“I am very excited to get on track at Portugal,” said Latifi. “It is a track that I have only been to once on a test day quite a few years ago. From what I remember, it is a very technical track with lots of elevation changes and very steep changes too, it has a roller-coaster feeling.
“It should be very fun to drive, and it will be a new challenge for everyone to discover and find the setup, as F1 hasn’t raced there. I am looking forward to that and hopefully we have a good weekend.”