And Then There Were Two - Hamilton romps to 91st race win
Hamilton extends his championship lead with a record-equalling win, as Daniel Ricciardo secures a Renault podium - all that and more
"Fantastic job from you Michael" - These were the words uttered by Ross Brawn to Michael Schumacher fourteen years ago when the Ferrari driver set a record which has remained unparalleled, until today.
Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line in first for the 91st time in his career, meaning the 25th October 2020 could very well be the day that record which has stood for 14 years could be broken. It was a classic Hamilton drive, capitalising when his teammate (who later retired, more on that soon) locked up to take the lead. But it would not be that easy, as a safety car reduced Hamilton's huge lead to zilch. It was then a drag race to the end between Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen, where the Dutchman had to settle for second for the fifth time this year.
Speaking of Verstappen, it was a classic "Verstappen drive" so to say; kept out of trouble, focused on his own race and finished on the podium once again. He will certainly be left to rue what could have been, as his practice and qualy pace suggested a potential battle for the win, but it was never realistically on. It must hurt carrying Red Bull on his shoulders like this.
And our third-placed man - Mr Smiley, Daniel Ricciardo! For his first podium since Monaco 2018, and the Renault team's first since 2011, it was a cool, calm and collected drive to hold off the charging Sergio Perez. The midfield battle burst into life during the race, with both McLaren's in high positions, looking set to increase their lead over Racing Point - then it all went wrong.
A potential second career podium perhaps for Lando Norris, his car spluttering to a halt around the mid-point of the race, after suffering power-related issues a few laps prior, allowing Sergio Perez to finish fourth for the second race in succession, outscoring McLaren's Carlos Sainz. But "super-sub" Nico Hulkenburg wanted to get in on the act as well, and secured four points for Racing Point after finishing 8th - with no practice... starting 20th. Madness. Hulkenburg's 8th was also enough for the Pink Panthers to leapfrog McLaren in the Constructor's Standings.
Kimi Raikkonen sends Russell flying (Image: F1TV)
Hamilton was not the only driver involved in the "record equalling/making" business, as Kimi Raikkonen set a new record for most race starts - 323, to be specific. It was an eventful 323rd start for the Finn, as he catapulted George Russell into the air, and with it collected a 5 second penalty.
Meanwhile, AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly continues to drive the wheels off of his car and Charles Leclerc somehow manages to drag that boat of a Ferrari to points, but I don't see the Italian outfit joining the midfield battle anytime soon.
The Drivers' Championship battle is essentially over, Lewis Hamilton being 69 points ahead of his closest rival Valtteri Bottas, but the battle for "Best of the Rest" rages on with Ricciardo leading the way - likewise in the Constructors'.
An exciting prospect coming into the Portuguese Grand Prix - the first time the Portimao Circuit has been used in F1.
SHOCK OF THE RACE: Alexander Albon
An utterly shambolic performance from Albon. Clumsily runs over and destroys Daniil Kvyat's front wing, flatspots two sets of tyres and then complains that the man he replaced, Pierre Gasly, is racing him too hard. I'm lost for words.
OVERTAKE OF THE RACE: Daniel Ricciardo on Charles Leclerc (Lap 9)
He had a dive into turn 1, couldn't make it stick so switched to the outside for turn 2 where he finished it off. Absolute perfection. Mwah!
DRIVER OF THE DAY: Nico Hulkenburg
Deputising for the taken-ill Lance Stroll - he started last, finished 8th, doing all of that with no practise aside from qualifying whatsoever. How this man hasn't got a full time race seat yet is beyond me. Oh, and he's scored more points in two races than three teams have done this entire year combined. Just putting that out there. Gasly a close second for DoTD.
OVERALL RACE RATING: 7/10
Pretty good this one. Hectic start, died down into the mid race before bursting back into life again with that safety car restart. Full of close racing, but imagine what it could have been like with some rain. Can we race here next year please?