PRIXVIEW – Portuguese Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round twelve takes F1 to the Algarve for the first time for the Portuguese Grand Prix. After a twenty-two-year hiatus, the race returns as a one-off race to the modern circuit in Portimao which host its first Grand Prix. The circuit last used by F1 for post-season testing in 2008 receiving praise from the drivers.

The first Portuguese Grand Prix was a sports car race in June 1951 on a street circuit in the city of Porto, the circuit was like many of the era running on public roads. It then moved to the capital Lisbon another hazardous street circuit with sweeping corners and elevation changes.

The first championship race saw British drivers Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn battle for the championship, it proved dramatic. Hawthorn was disqualified after restarted his car had driven a few yards in the wrong direction, however, Moss challenged the FIA and gave evidence to get Hawthorn re-instated, thus costing himself the world championship by a point.

Moss took victory the following season when Jack Brabham hit a telegraph pole after swerving to hit the twice lapped Mario Cabral; Brabham was thrown out of the car and landed on the track; he was then narrowly missed by American Masten Gregory.

After a twenty-year hiatus, the race moved to Estoril where it stayed until 1996 when it was last held. Alain Prost won the race but lost the championship by a single point to teammate Niki Lauda, a few months later marked the beginning of Ayrton Senna’s rise to the top.

The Brazilian, in what would become his trademark performed excellently on a wet April weekend. He took pole in the Lotus before taking control to lead the race by thirteen seconds by the end of lap ten, doubling it to thirty by lap twenty as conditions deteriorated. The race continued with Senna winning by just over a minute.

1986 saw Prost win his twenty-eight Grand Prix, breaking Jackie Stewart’s 14-year-old record; and 1988 was to see controversy between Prost and his McLaren teammate Senna. This would later become a legendary rivalry between the two drivers, and the following season Prost and Senna battled with Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger.

1989 saw yet more controversy; Mansell, now driving a Ferrari, overshot his pit lane entrance; and, against his team’s gesticulations, went into reverse gear and backed into his pit stop position, which was against the rules. Later in the race, Senna turned into the two Ferrari’s and destroyed his championship.

Mansell would win in 1992, but Ricardo Patrese had a horrific crash after he hit the back of Gerhard Berger’s McLaren and was launched into the air while next to the pit lane. The car came down and scraped alongside the pit wall; no one was injured.

Like Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, Portimao is a modern venue with elevation change baked into its layout. The Ricardo Pena-designed 4.6-km lap sends drivers swooping uphill and down dale, before culminating in a plunge down to the final right-hander at Galp leading back onto the pit straight.

The circuit on the Algarve appears to resembles old Nürburgring and Spa-Francochamps, mainly because of its constantly undulating nature. There should be opportunities for overtaking, but we don’t know how the circuit will perform under race conditions.

Facts and figures

Round 12
Race Formula 1 Heineken Grande Premio de Portugal 2020
Venue 2020 Grand Prix Circuit, Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Portimão, Algarve, Portugal
Circuit Length 4.654 km (2.891 mi)
Laps 66
Race Distance 306.826 km (190.652 mi)
Lap Record* 01:42.774 (Max Biaggi, Aprilia Alitalia Racing, 2010, SBK)

01:28.719 (Pedro de la Rossa, McLaren, 2008, testing)

Most wins drivers Nigel Mansell
Alain Prost (3)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (7)

*closest configuration to the Grand Prix circuit, in length

Fast facts

  • Ayrton Senna used to base himself within an hour of the circuit and the Algarve puts you squarely in one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations.
  • The world-class facility was opened in the autumn of 2008, with the construction of the permanent circuit completed in just seven months, costing €195 million.
  • Like Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, Portimao is a modern venue with elevation change baked into its layout. The Ricardo Pena-designed 4.6-km lap sends drivers swooping uphill and down dale, before culminating in a plunge down to the final right-hander at Galp leading back onto the pit straight.
  • Near Portimao is the ancient capital of the Algarve. Silves contains an imposing castle, heavily fortified walls and a delightful historic centre

Event timetable





P1 11:00-12:30
P2 15:00-16:30


P3 11:00-12:00
Qualifying 14:00-15:00


Clocks go back one hour in the UK & Portugal at 02:00GMT

Race 14:10

What happened in 1996?

Jacques Villeneuve took victory despite messing up the start keeping the championship alive going to the final race at Sukuza, beating Damon Hill in a straight fight. The Williams driver emerged as the force – as we knew the team would. The clouds were threatening rain as the teams prepared for qualifying.

Hill took pole by nine-thousandths of a second, but Villeneuve got the victory he needed to stop the title being decided. The British driver started on the clean side of the grid, the McLarens were only seventh and eighth on the grid, Mika Hakkinen not far ahead of David Coulthard.

Ferrari’s Jean Alesi made the better start to take the lead ahead of Hill, who then became trapped behind the two Ferrari’s and his teammate. Williams then brought the Canadian in for his stop, but on lap 22 stumbled while trying to find a way past the backmarkers, which included the Tyrrell of Ukyo Katayama and the Arrows of Ricardo Rosset which were battling mightily.

Villeneuve over the coming laps would close the gap and go faster than Hill, the Canadian got passed when his teammate made his pit stop, before building up a nineteen-second lead to take the victory.

Eddie Irvine had a solid day. He ran sixth early on but was able to get ahead of Alesi’s Benetton teammate Gerhard Berger at the first pit stops. He held the advantage at the second stops – being on the same two-stop pattern as Gerhard – and managed to hold off the Austrian in the closing laps.

Race Result – 1) J. Villeneuve, Williams-Renault, 01:40:22.915, 2) D. Hill, Williams-Renault, +19.966, 3) M. Schumacher, Ferrari, +53.765

What to watch for?

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s ninety-one wins and Portimao represents his first chance to surpass Schumacher in a number of wins, and extend his record for most wins at different Grand Prix’s, Circuit’s and countries. However, Hamilton has only won once on a circuits debut since 2014 and that was at Mugello.

This circuit hasn’t been used by F1 since 2008 for testing so it’s a bit of an unknown, but looking at the design it appears to be a circuit which rewards downforce. So it’s possible that Mercedes could be under a bit of pressure from Red Bull, but we don’t know until we see Friday practice.

You need to believe that we will see mistakes throughout the weekend, and this means that drivers will need to be able to react to ongoing events. We don’t have any information about how the track performs, Red Bull will look to take the advantage of it being a new circuit where Mercedes didn’t run in 2008.

The midfield battle will be close again between McLaren and Racing Point as we have seen in recent races, its possible that the circuit will give opportunities for overtaking. I think Racing Point will be leading the midfield because of the design of the circuit, however, we saw at Mugello that there were numerous accidents, they need to be careful as drama and accidents can happen.

A lap of Portimao

We start the lap running along the outside of the circuit before light braking for Primeira and stays at a lower speed for Turn Two. Then to the outside through Lagos which drops him down to the ninety-degree Four which goes uphill and on to the inside kerb. Dropping downhill and around the Torre Vip hairpin, to the outside before dipping downhill into seven.

Rising uphill for Samsung before going downhill through Craig Jones and then running up towards first part of Portmao which dips downhill. Through the flat out eleven before braking for the hairpin before running to the outside. Good line through the long Sagon corner before building the speed through Galp and returning to the start line.


White Hard (C1)

Yellow Medium (C2)

Red Soft (C3)


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