Everything You Need To Know About The Portuguese GP
Wait, Pierre Gasly's car caught on fire?
I should be working on my midterm right now, but this felt more important. The Portuguese GP was nothing short of interesting. There's quite a bit of information we need to discuss- in this article, I go over the Track, Podium Finishers, Track Limit Penalties, Lance Stroll, Notable Performances by certain drivers (I'm looking at you, Kimi), and the Hamilton-Bottas duel. Let's dive right in.
The Track: Autódromo Internacional do Algarve
This was the first time this track was used for an F1 race, similar to Mugello. The track was built for pre-season F1 testing back in 2008, but never actually hosted an F1 World Championship Event. The circuit itself is about 5 km and has one DRS zone, right after turn 15 leading to turn 1.
Credit: F1 (https://www.formula1.com/en/racing/2020/Portugal/Circuit.html)
If you take a look at just the circuit map, you won't notice the actual beauty that comes with it: the undulation. The track is actually comparable to a roller coaster, as several drivers have mentioned. The elevation changes make for a lot of excitement for the viewer, but it means the drivers have to be even more careful not to overshoot and exceed track limits. Turn 1, Turn 4, and Turn 14 have all proved challenging for many of the drivers. Here's a picture of the Turn 1 approach followed by a bird's eye view of the entire circuit:
If you haven't watched the free practices or qualifying, please do go watch them because it was packed with action. From drivers having their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits, to Gasly's car catching on fire, Portimão had a lot to give us.
This week's race winners were Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, and Max Verstappen (in that order). This was Hamilton's 92nd race win, making it a new world record. The previous record was set by Michael Schumacher, who famously said, "I always thought records were there to be broken." Lewis Hamilton deserves an absolute hearty congratulations, and who can overlook this sweet moment between Hamilton and his dad?! F1, I told you to stop cutting the onions!
CREDIT: DAN ISTITENE - FORMULA 1
Anthony Hamilton recording his son, the best driver in the world, on an oversized iPad was the heartfelt moment we all needed today.
Track Limits Hurting Drivers
As I mentioned before, the track limits were not messing around with the drivers this weekend. The undulation of the track caused several drivers to miscalculate their turns, including Nicholas Latifi, Lando Norris, Romain Grosjean, Daniil Kvyat, and Lance Stroll. Latifi and Norris were both shown a black and white flag for exceeding track limits often, while Grosjean and Kvyat received one penalty point each as well as a 5-second time penalty each for "leaving the track on multiple occasions."
Lance Stroll's Poor Luck
After this race, many people were upset with Lance Stroll's performance. Though I myself really appreciate and love Lance as a driver, I have to admit that this race was not quite "it" for him. Lance Stroll went over the track limits about 3 times, and was issued the black and white flag during lap 10. He then received a 5-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. This wasn't the only thing that happened to him, however. Lance was doing relatively okay in this race, hovering around the lower half of the top 10. He tried to overtake Lando Norris, but ended up in a tangle that left his front wing broken. Lando Norris had damage that needed fixing as well, and this tangle single-handedly affected both of their races. Norris and Stroll pitted, with Norris leaving the pit at P19 and Stroll leaving at P20. Stroll received ANOTHER 5-second time penalty, this time for "causing a collision." When he came into the pits to serve both penalties, Stroll retired from the race with Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer indicating it was due to damage with the car. It's worth mentioning that this isn't the first time Lance had a tangle with Lando- they collided at Barcelona in 2019.
The issue with Lance's DNF doesn't simply end with Lando- he committed nearly the same mistake with Max Verstappen during FP2. That tangle, however, was due to a mistake on both drivers' parts.
I have to admit, it's incredibly disheartening to see what Stroll has been going through the past couple of weeks. He had an awesome podium finish at Monza alongside Gasly and Sainz, yet was pulled out of the next race at Mugello after a tire puncture. The following race at Sochi, Stroll was taken out of the race by Charles Leclerc on the first lap. Leclerc received no penalty or warning as it was a first race incident, but it was the second DNF for Lance in a row. Nürburgring also proved unfortunate for Stroll, as he fell ill (it was later revealed to be COVID-19). Hulkenberg drove for him instead, finishing 8th. I wouldn't be surprised if Lance's mental health has taken a hit, which would explain his performance on the track. People also need to keep in mind that he is human, just like the rest of us. Battling COVID-19, a disease affecting millions around the globe, and returning after a series of DNF's to drive in a high-speed machine isn't something just anybody can do. While it is normal for any athlete to receive backlash at some level, I can't help but feel as if Lance receives a little bit more than necessary. I'm holding out for Lance, and I have no doubt that he will continue to push for good results. I just hope he figures out where he's making mistakes, and tries to avoid them in the future.
Notable Performances By Drivers
Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Kimi Räikkönen, and George Russell each proved their talent and their tenacity for Formula 1 today.
Sergio Perez had a little incident with Max Verstappen in lap 1 that pushed him to the back of the grid- we're talking P20. Perez, however, was determined to work his way up the grid, fighting his way through the traffic to even P5 at one point. He finished P7, but this said a lot about his driving abilities. It is disheartening to even think that Perez is currently out of an F1 seat for next year, given his tremendous efforts over the past few races.
Carlos Sainz had an absolutely amazing race start today. I suggest rewatching the race start again, especially his onboard, because Sainz drives that McLaren from P7 to P1 within the first few seconds of the race. This confidence combined with the quick thinking is exactly what Sainz brings to the track, and I'd love to see him continue this energy at Ferrari next year. Sainz finished P6, overtaking Perez right at the end.
Pierre Gasly is the underdog of F1 this season. He is doing so well this season, and we absolutely love to see it. Gasly's car actually caught on fire during FP2, ending his session early. Despite this, however, Gasly still started P9 during the actual race and finished P5. Keep in mind that his teammate, Daniil Kvyat, started P13 and finished P19. The speed and dominance from Gasly is unmatched, and there was a tremendous amount of wheel-to-wheel racing from him this race. It says a lot about the Red Bull-Alpha Tauri connection when considering that Kvyat isn't doing as well as Gasly while Alex Albon was lapped by his own teammate this race. Gasly was dropped from Red Bull mid-season in 2019 for Albon, but Gasly has clearly emerged on top. I wouldn't be surprised if Red Bull expressed interest in having Gasly back.
Let's talk about Kimi Räikkönen for a second- most people think Räikkönen should retire due to his age. Räikkönen raced with Michael Schumacher, and there are talks of him teaming up with Michael Schumacher's son, Mick Schumacher, for the future. Räikkönen did an outstanding job this race and has outperformed his teammate consistently. Whereas Antonio Giovinazzi started P17 and ended P15, Räikkönen started P17 and finished P11. Räikkönen was around P6 at lap 8, and P10 by lap 51. He had a bit of a wheel-to-wheel battle with Sainz around lap 33 for P10/P11. I have no doubt Räikkönen will continue to provide Alfa Romeo with results while pushing the car.
George Russell is the other man with F1 exit talks surrounding him. Media outlets have expressed that Williams will drop Russell for Perez, instead of Russell's teammate Nicholas Latifi (for financial reasons). Russell started P14 and ended P14, but it's the race in between that's worth mentioning. This was the 7th time this season Russell made it to Q2, while consistently out qualifying his teammate. Russell was P13 during lap 9, and then P7 by lap 32. Russell pitted in lap 38, which ultimately dropped him a few places.
It's absolutely mind-boggling how drivers like Perez and Russell are at risk of losing their places in F1. These people have so much to give, and I strongly believe that Russell would perform even better in another midfield seat (like a Renault). At this point, the only thing we can do is wait it out and wait for the official announcements from the remaining teams about their 2021 driver lineups.
Hamilton v. Bottas : What is the issue?
F1. Credit: ("Mercedes retain Bottas alongside Hamilton for 2020")
Before I mention my thoughts, I'd just like to point out that I am one person with one opinion. Please feel free to take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I do want to clarify that I believe both Bottas and Hamilton are exceptionally talented drivers- they are the best of the best. However, I feel as if Hamilton has a slight advantage:
Lewis Hamilton is not just a fast driver, but he is also extremely smart.
If you've been following the races, you probably know that Bottas had pole position at Nürburgring and even won Sochi before that. Even during the free practices and during most of qualifying, Bottas was consistently ahead of Hamilton... up until the very last lap of qualifying. The decision by Hamilton to start a little bit earlier and squeeze in an extra lap or two gave him more chances of putting in a faster time than Bottas. In this particular race, Bottas initially had the lead over Hamilton- even if Hamilton had pole position. Bottas was aggressive and took P1 whilst on the medium tires. By lap 14, there were 2.3 seconds between the two Mercedes. In lap 20, however, Bottas made a crucial mistake that cost him his lead, and ultimately his race. With Hamilton on his tail, Bottas moved to the right on the main straight instead of defending the center. I believe it had something to do with his tires, but that move allowed Hamilton to soar past him. A similar mistake by Bottas, but with a lockup instead, cost him the lead at Nürburgring as well.
Hamilton consistently thinks ahead, and thinks strategically. Bottas has the speed and aggression, but consistently finds himself thinking of ways to overtake Hamilton instead of being smart with moves that will put him in front... which makes sense to some extent. Bottas is probably tired of coming in second to Hamilton all the time. It's the smart strategizing by Hamilton, however, that always has him planning ahead. This is not easy to do while driving a car moving at speeds over 200 mph. One can, however, argue that the team itself is holding Bottas back because Hamilton is the clear leader.
Most people in a similar environment would solely be focused on driving fast and overtaking their way to a win, but as we know, it's more than just driving fast. This is the reason why we have drivers who make silly mistakes from time to time (Stroll in this race, Albon in the previous one) compared to drivers like Hamilton who are constantly asking their engineers for updates to continue thinking ahead. It's the constant calculation that allows for quick thinking, and even allows a driver to let someone else be ahead for a bit because they know they can catch up again at some point. It's like a game of chess. I could be wrong, but I felt like Hamilton did state in his post-race interview that he saw Bottas tend to move to the right about a lap before, which is why he expected it to happen again. Hamilton is also extremely good at preserving his tires and managing them. He knows how to work the tires just enough to get them to work in his favor, but not enough to jeopardize his race. That level of thinking isn't easy. When Hamilton pitted in lap 41, Bottas asked for the opposite of Hamilton's tires. Mercedes refused as it wasn't proper protocol. Perhaps if Bottas pitted before Hamilton, would he have been allowed to make the choice before Hamilton?
It's not easy to say that Hamilton keeps getting lucky- he does have his fair share of problems from time to time (10 second penalty at Sochi and 10 second penalty at Monza). Both of these were for simple mistakes (practice race starts from the wrong place and entering the pit lane when closed). He even had a cramp this race. It's bad enough getting off the couch with a cramp- I can't imagine what it's like driving at fast speeds with a cramp in a claustrophobic environment. I can also understand how annoyed Bottas must feel at times, feeling defeated often. Sky F1 Commentator David "Crofty" Croft compared Hamilton taking pole from Bottas to being dumped on Valentine's Day via text message.
Overall, this was an exciting race, and I'd like to see this circuit stay for future races. It was absolutely exciting, not to mention now a place where F1 history has been made. If you'd like to see more content, you can head over to my YouTube channel ChevyTalksF1. Have an amazing day, and stay safe!