Hamilton Makes History! F1 2020 Season Review - Portugal
Lewis Hamilton has broken what was previously considered an 'unbreakable' record.
Formula One has returned to Portugal for the first time since 1996, where the drivers raced around a high-speed, technical circuit in Portimão - and boy was that an exciting circuit to race at! We witnessed Lewis Hamilton make history this weekend, taking his 92nd win in his F1 career that has officially broken Michael Schumacher's 91-win record that he set at the Chinese Grand Prix in 2007.
But wait, we are once again getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can discuss Hamilton's achievement, we must rewind all the way back to Saturday to discuss qualifying...
While Q1 wasn't particularly different to any of the other opening qualifying sessions we have seen this year, the main headline would have to have been George Russell's fantastic effort to get his Williams FW43 into Q2 for the seventh time this season. The Briton was one of the final drivers to start their flying lap in Q1, which turned out to be a good move as track evolution allowed him to set a faster lap time - just beating Kimi Raikkonen into the 15th-place spot. The final Q1 order would be Kimi Raikkonen in 16th, Antonio Giovinazzi in 17th, Romain Grosjean in 18th, Kevin Magnussen in 19th with Nicolas Latifi rounding out the grid in 20th place.
The second qualifying saw Daniel Ricciardo narrowly escape disaster after being caught out by traffic and spinning into the gravel traps towards the end of the session. The Australian lost the rear of his car and gently tapped the barrier with his rear wing, but was able to make his way back to the pits without any serious damage to his car. However, the session was bitter-sweet for Renault, as Esteban Ocon would just miss out on a shot in Q3 by qualifying in eleventh place, followed by Lance Stroll in 12th for Racing Point and Daniil Kvyat in 13th for Alpha Tauri. George Russell did an excellent job in qualifying to put his car in fourteenth place, ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel in 15th.
The final qualifying session looked to be Valtteri Bottas' session to lose, as he was fastest in every practice session of the weekend. However, it was Lewis Hamilton that had the pace when it counted; taking advantage of track evolution to set two laps and finish ahead of his number-77 teammate, who only set one lap at the end of the session. Max Verstappen would follow in a predictable 3rd, alongside Charles Leclerc who did a brilliant job at putting his SF1000 on the second row of the grid in fourth place. Sergio Perez qualifying in fifth place, ahead of Alex Albon in sixth. The McLarens of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris would start in seventh and eighth respectively, followed by Pierre Gasly in ninth and Daniel Ricciardo in tenth for Renault.
Now that we are all caught up with qualifying, let's discuss the race!
As the five red lights went out for the first Portuguese Grand Prix in 24 years, nobody really knew what to expect going into the first corner. The conditions were a strange mix of wet and dry, so it would take a few laps to warm the tyres up enough to get them to a consistent pace.
Lewis Hamilton got the better getwaway to his teammate on the dirty side of the track - as the field approach Turn 1 and Turn 2, Max Verstappen was alongside Valtteri Bottas with Sergio Perez just behind them. Charles Leclerc opted for the risk-free inside line and didn't really challenge those ahead of him when going through the first turns.
Bottas and Verstappen were alongside each other at Turn 3, and Bottas forced the Red Bull driver wide. As Max rejoined the path, he was alongside Perez for the Turn 4 right-hander. Verstappen understeered into the path of Perez (who could have left more room) and caused the Mexican to spin out. The Racing Point driver was able to continue, though he had to drop to the back of the pack and make a pitstop onto the Medium tyre.
Carlos Sainz was one of the winners of the first lap, making his way from seventh to third after the chaos that was the first sector. All the cars around him were struggling to 'switch their tyres on' and sliding around the track, but the McLaren's were immediately setting the pace. At the end of the first sector, race leader Lewis Hamilton started to slow down and many suspected he had a problem, but the Briton later explained that he had a big oversteer moment and he backed off to warm the tyres up and not risk crashing out. Valtteri Bottas was in the lead by the end of the lap, and Carlos Sainz also passed Hamilton to work his way into second place.
At the Turn 5 hairpin on lap two, Sainz would perform the switchback on a struggling Valtteri Bottas to take the lead of the race! In the meantime Lando Norris was able to move up to fourth place for McLaren, jumping Verstappen and Leclerc in the process.
However, the real winner of the first lap was Kimi Raikkonen, who overtook ten people on the first lap, promoting him to sixth place after being another one of the drivers that did a good job of warming his tyres up on the first lap. The Finn said in an interview after the race "I don't know what everybody around me was doing!"
Skipping forward to lap six, and both Mercedes had fully warmed their tyres up and started to rapidly catch Carlos Sainz, who was still leading the race. As they joined the start-finish straight, Valtteri Bottas got the much better exit and was able to use the slipstream to pass the McLaren going into Turn 1. Lewis Hamilton would make the same move a lap later.
While the McLaren was definitely the fastest midfield car of the day, Verstappen would pass Sainz on Lap 8 and Leclerc would pass him on Lap 12, dropping the McLaren driver down to fifth place as the tyres started to get older. Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to stop on lap 15, and switched his Soft tyres for a set of Medium tyres. At the same time, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest laps on the Medium tyre - the compound that Mercedes decided that both drivers should start the race on.
On lap 17, Lance Stroll attempted a bold move around the outside of Lando Norris at Turn 1, but the pair made contact. Norris had already defended the outside against Stroll, but the Canadian found a gap and went for it, drawing alongside the papaya-coloured McLaren as they reached the fast right-hand corner that is Turn 1. However, Stroll didn't leave enough space on the inside for Norris, causing the pair to make contact and spin the Racing Point around. Both cars had wing damage that they pitted for at the end of the lap.
On Lap 20, Lewis Hamilton had caught up to Bottas and was in the slipstream of his teammate on the pitstraight. Bottas swerved to the right hand side of the track and flicked dust into Hamilton's face in a determined defense, but Hamilton was able to carry the speed and make the move stick going into Turn 1.
Over the next ten laps Lewis Hamilton starts to pull away from his teammate while the midfield continue to battle and make pitstops. Alex Albon - who had an awful start, struggling to warm his tyres up - pitted on lap 20 for a set of Medium tyres and emerged in 18th place, while Perez was working his way through the field on his Medium tyres.
Verstappen pits on Lap 24 to change his Soft tyres for a set of Mediums, but the Mercedes coontinued to go deeper into the race - it seemed that Verstappen would not be challenging for a spot in the top two during the race. George Russell was one of the last drivers to pit during the first stint of the race, meaning he was running in seventh place for a little while; however, he would not make it back into the points after his pitstop.
Lap 33 saw an epic battle between Carlos Sainz and Kimi Raikkonen for tenth place after the McLaren made his pitstop. The battle would last the entire first sector, with the pair of drivers alongside each other for 7 corners, though Raikkonen was able to keep the position. A lap later, an almost identical battle would occur between past teammates, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. The duo would be alongside each other for the whole first sector before Perez is able to make the move stick at Turn 7.
Lewis Hamilton made his pitstop on lap 40 with a ten second lead to teammate Valtteri Bottas, and emerged in second place with a huge gap to Max Verstappen in third. The six-time world champion opted to run the Hard tyre; and Valtteri Bottas would respond a lap later by coming into the pits. Bottas asked on the radio if he should fit the Soft tyres, but Mercedes decided that the Hard tyre would be the better move in the dying stages of the race.
Lando Norris and Lance Stroll's race would go from bad to worse following their incident on lap 17, with the number-4 driver being told that he had a slow puncture on lap 43. Lance Stroll would also receive two 5-second penalties: one being for the collision with Norris, and another for track limits. The Candian would serve these penalties at his next pitstop, but eventually retire on Lap 54 due to damage.
The last 10 laps would see a battle between Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz for fifth place. Perez made a pitstop on Lap 46 to switch his Medium tyres for a set of Softs, which was a massive mistake as the tyre struggled to make it to the end of the race (meaning Mercedes' call to put Valtteri on the Hard tyre was a good decision). Meanwhile, Albon came into the pits for his final stop, where Red Bull broke the world record the fastest pitstop in a perfect 1.8 seconds!
On Lap 55, past teammates Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen battle for the final points scoring position, with Vettel coming out on top, while Norris passes George Russell in a nice move around the outside of Turn 6.
As we move forward to the final few laps, the battle between a charging Pierre Gasly, and Sergio Perez is starting to get close. Gasly gets into the DRS and slipstream of Perez and switches to the inside to make a dive into Turn 1, but Perez makes a questionable, last-minute switch to the inside that Gasly considered to be quite dangerous. This didn't knock the confidence on Gasly though, as a lap later he was able to make the move stick at Turn 1.
Perez's tyres were finished at this point, and he tried his absolute best to defend from Carlos Sainz; but the Racing Point was no match for the McLaren, that was able to pass at Turn 1 on the final lap. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton would cross the line to win his 92nd grand prix, a fantastic accomplishment!
Overall, I would rate the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix a fair 7 out of 10. There was a lot of overtaking, and the first laps were very exciting, but the race could have completely turned on its head if there was more rain or a safety car. What did you think of the race? Be sure to let me know in the comments below.
You can find the race results here:
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