PRIXVIEW – Portuguese Grand Prix

Features Prixview Testing & Race Reports

Round three of the Formula One season takes us to the Iberian peninsula for the first doubleheader of the season starting with the Portuguese Grand Prix. The circuit in. Portimao made its debut on the calendar last year as the race returned to the calendar for the first time since 1996 last October replacing the United States Grand Prix.

Portimao proved a hugely popular circuit with its undulation and fast corners where there are opportunities to overtake built-in 2007, F1 first visited the circuit for post-season testing the following year. The 2.8-mile circuit proved popular with drivers because of the nature of its design.

Its design is similar to that of Austin, 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.

It takes inspiration from places like the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps, making it a circuit one of the favourites creating many opportunities for hard and close-fought racing. But it’s a new circuit for F1, but one that has potential if it becomes a permeant addition to the calendar to become one of the classics, sharing characteristics with Austin.

Last year’s race will be remembered for the historic achievement of Sir Lewis Hamilton passing the ninety-one wins by Michael Schumacher, becoming the most successful driver in the history of the sport. But this proved that Portimao is a circuit where you can overtake, and one where there is a little bit of risk in overtaking.

The first Grand Prix in Portugal was a street circuit a non-championship race in the capital Lisbon in Monsanto Park. Like with many circuits of the period it was a hazardous street circuit with sweeping corners and elevation changes.

The first championship race in 1958, saw Sir 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 won again in 1959 in a race which saw Jack Brabham hit a telegraph pole while trying to avoid the lapped car of Mario Cabral; Brabham was thrown out of the car and landed on the track; he was then narrowly missed by American Masten Gregory. After this race, Monsanto Park was abandoned, and F1 returned to Boavista in 1960; this race was won by Brabham in a Cooper.

In the 1980s the race moved to Estoril with a title decider of the 1984 season between Niki Lauda and Alian Prost but is best remembered for the emergence of Ayrton Senna. Lauda needed second to take the title by half a point, that race would result in Lauda sealing the world title.

Senna’s drive that day made him a driver to watch, it’s the only race in F1 history that three three-time champions have stood on the podium. Months later in April, the race would see his domination of the race in the wet to take his maiden win, the lotus driver taking pole, fastest lap as well as lapping everyone except Michele Alboreto.

The Brazilian winning the race by over a minute, having led sixty-six laps of the race despite the treacherous conditions and many drivers spinning off or retiring because of accidents, and nine of twenty-six starters making it to the finishing line.

1986 saw Prost win his twenty-eight Grand Prix, breaking Sir Jackie Stewart’s 14-year-old record; and 1988 was to see controversy between Prost and his McLaren teammate Senna.

Coming out of the long Parabolica corner, Prost lined up to pass Senna but, in an attempt, to stop him, the Brazilian squeezed the Frenchman and he nearly hit the wall separating the pit lane from the track; but Prost kept his foot flat and passed Senna going into the first corner.

Senna’s championship left in tatters meaning he had to win the remaining three races to have any chance of winning tatters. The following season Senna, Prost, Nigel Mansell and Gerhard Berger fought for victory, Mansell made a very poor start and nearly took out his Ferrari teammate Prost, which allowed Senna and Berger to slip by and take first and second.

Mansell and Prost fought back; it also saw backmarker Philippe Alliot nearly take out the leader Mansell and crash heavily at the second corner. The race was stopped with Mansell declared the winner.

Williams went on to win four of the next five races at Estoril, Riccardo Patrese, Mansell on his way to his 1992 title, Damon Hill, David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve. The only non-Williams winner was Michael Schumacher in 1993. Hill’s victory in 1994 allowed him to move to within a point of Schumacher in the championship

Last year’s race, saw Sir Lewis Hamilton take his ninety-second career win to pass Michael Schumacher’s total number of wins. With drivers praising the circuit for its design and challenges.

Facts and figures

Round 03 of 24
Race Heineken Grande Prémio de Portugal 2021
Venue Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Portimão, Algarve, Portugal
Configuration 2008 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 4.653 km (2.891 mi)
Laps 66
Race Distance 306.826 km (190.653 mi)
Lap Record Race 01:18.750 (Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2020, Formula One)
Outright 01:16.652 (Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2020, Formula One)
Most wins drivers Alain Prost (3)

Nigel Mansell

Most wins manufacture Ferrari (7)

Fast facts

  • Three of five British winners of the race when it has been a world championship race have gone on to be knighted by the queen.
  • Williams have more Portuguese Grand Prix wins than any other team. As well as Mansell’s double and Villeneuve’s ’96 triumph, the team also won with Riccardo Patrese in 1991, Damon Hill in 1994 and David Coulthard in 1995.
  • the Algarve International Circuit (also known as Portimão) in the south-west corner of Portugal, a modern circuit with state-of-the-art facilities that was completed at a cost of approximately €200m in 2008. Soon after it was opened in 2008, it did welcome McLaren, Honda, Ferrari and Toyota for test sessions.
  • The closest world championship battle ever was decided in the 1984 season final at Estoril, with Niki Lauda pipping McLaren team-mate Alain Prost to the title by just half a point.

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

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

Saturday

P3 12:00-13:00
Qualifying 15:00-16:00

Sunday

Race 15:00

What happened in 2020?

Sir Lewis Hamilton had appeared to struggle throughout practice to get his tyres into the right operating window, but when it mattered on his final lap in qualifying. Teammate Valtteri Bottas had topped all three practice sessions, but he opted only to do a single run in Q3 before Hamilton found a tenth over Bottas and two and a half over Max Verstappen to jump to fastest and secure pole number ninety-seventh.

Hamilton went on to take victory after getting past Bottas after his Mercedes teammate and Carlos Sainz got ahead of him when he made his first pit stop, Bottas had begged Mercedes to switch him to the alternative strategy to try and chase Hamilton, but it proved to be not enough to stop his teammate. Sainz at one stage led the race, after making an incredible start from seventh on the grid to lead by the end of lap two.

Hamilton eventually regained the lead after passing Sainz and Bottas by lap nineteen from where he managed to control the race only giving his teammate the lead when he made his pit stop. The race remained an exclusively Mercedes battle as Red Bull’s Verstappen dropped further behind.

However, he crashed into his 2021 teammate Sergio Perez with the Racing Point driver recovering to seventh. But the day belonged to Hamilton who passed Michael Schumacher’s ninety-one wins and moved him nearer to his seventh world championship.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:29:56.828, 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +25.592, 3) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +35.508

What to watch for?

This race is going to be about Mercedes v Red Bull who go into this weekend having won one race each, Portimao is a very different circuit to Imola with it being high speed and downforce with more open corners increasing the possibility of overtaking. But last year we saw Sir Lewis Hamilton build a sizeable gap early in the race because of the performance of the car.

Last October we saw in practice and qualifying that drivers needed three laps to get the tyres in the correct operating window, Hamilton’s pole time was on the slower medium tyre. But this is a different time of year, we need to see how the tyres react in practice to understand how the tyres in warmer conditions they are also a step harder to the opening two race.

Ferrari also looked to have decent race pace, but we didn’t see Charles Leclerc able to mount a challenge, but in fourth he was the only car apart from the top three to finish on the lead lap of the race. This circuit you need to believe is one similar to Barcelona in terms of its layout you need to believe if teams go well they will go well in Barcelona and Monaco.

McLaren, I think are going to be the team to beat in the midfield, Lando Norris has performed brilliantly in the opening races and the circuit should suit the team. But we know at Imola both Alpine, Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin had a difficult race, leaving Norris and Leclerc to take advantage on the restart.

Alpine and Aston Martin I believe are going to be close again, it appears to be the regulation tweaks have set back Aston and dropped them into the midfield behind McLaren. We should I think get answers to the McLaren-Ferrari battle as well, though I think Ferrari will struggle slightly more than at Imola because of the type of circuit we are at.

This I believe will give us an understanding for Barcelona and Monaco, as the twisty sections between Torre Vip and Turn Seven, as well as the hairpin at Thirteen, are similar to the final sector in Barcelona, before this year, that should tell us who may be the ones to watch in four weeks’ time.

2020 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2020

01:18.410 01:17.940 01:16.654 01:16.828 01:16.466 01:16.652 01:29:56.828 01:18.750

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 the first part of Portmao which dips downhill. Through the flat out eleven before breaking 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 li

Tyres

White Hard (C1)

Yellow Medium (C2)

Red Soft (C3)

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.