The bizarre 2020 season, with its one-off calendar, has produced a few unusual sights this year. Old venues have returned, new ones made an appearance, we had two races in the same venue: before the season is over, we will also experience multiple layout and shortened weekends.
And yet, going to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve will have a different flavour. For more than a decade the track, commonly known as Portimao due to the name of the nearby town in southern Portugal, has been touted as a possible venue for Formula One, hosting testing sessions and shakedowns and featuring on the calendar in GP2: nothing came of all the rumours and hopes, however, and the Formula One train seemed to have passed this venue by - until now.
This may be the first appearance for this track on the F1 calendar, but Portugal boasts a proud history in the sport. Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham won in the first World Championship races staged in the country, in the '50s, before the Circuito do Estoril, the home of the race from 1984 to 1996, saw legendary names such as Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher added to the victors' list. The track was the scene of several firsts, notably Ayrton Senna's maiden win, in 1985, and David Coulthard's first success ten years later, before being struck off the calendar ahead of the 1997 season.
A circuit famed for its changes of elevations and propensity to create good racing, the Algarve Circuit has been compared to the Nürburgring; the undulating nature reminds us of Mugello, too: and since these are the two tracks on which we have most recently scored points, we can only hope for a case of same actors, different venue, same end result...
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: "The Algarve circuit is another step into the unknown for the team, another new venue where we will start our race weekend from scratch. As a team, we've been pretty agile in adapting to a new track and we've brought home points from both occasions in which we've visited a new - or newish - venue, so we can aim to be on the pace once more this weekend. We have been fighting within or just outside the points in recent weekends, which is a good step forward, but we cannot stop trying to make progress as the midfield remains hugely competitive."
Kimi Raikkonen: "Portugal is a new track for all of us and I don't think any driver has any experience there in current machinery, so we are all starting on the same level. At the cost of sounding repetitive, the situation as we go to Portugal is not too different from all the other races. We need to do a good job both on Saturday and Sunday, the car is improving but if we make our life hard in qualifying it is quite difficult to make up ground in the race. We have seen in the last few races that we can be competitive so hopefully we will be in the mix this weekend as well."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "The last few races gave us a welcome bit of confidence: it's always a positive feeling to fight in the top ten and bring home points, so that has to remain the objective for Portugal. I have raced there in F3 in 2015 but, besides knowing the track layout, I don't think that experience will mean much with one of the modern F1 cars. I think it'll be a fun track to drive, it has a lot of changes of elevations and should make for some good racing: I would be happy to make some good memories there."