This weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix is the twelfth round of this unusual Formula 1 season and it is also the second venue this year to make its debut hosting a round of motor racing's blue riband category. The first was Mugello and this time it's the turn of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, commonly known as Portimao. A couple of Formula 1 teams tested there several years ago, but otherwise this weekend marks Portugal's return to the calendar after an absence of 24 years. The last race was held at Estoril in 1996, when Michael Schumacher finished third for the Scuderia. The race on Sunday 25 October will be run over 66 laps.
The track is in the south of Portugal and opened in November 2008. It sits in over 300 hectares in the hills around the town of Portimao. 4.692 kilometres in length, it features several climbs and drops that make it very technical and demanding. The main straight comes close to a kilometre in length and flows into two fast right handers. Then comes the first heavy braking point into turn 3, a very slow right hand hairpin, where understeer can be a factor. The track then climbs through a fast, blind left hand turn, leading on to a short back straight. Another left hand hairpin is followed by the fastest section. The cars accelerate through turns 6 and 7, gaining a lot of speed before braking for the right hand turn 8. After this comes another climb to 9, a fast left hander followed by a downhill run to 10, the hardest braking point on the track. The final part consists of two long right hand turns, the first features negative camber, while the second is rather bumpy and leads onto the start-finish straight.
Sunday's race is the 26th to go by the name of Portuguese Grand Prix, but only the 17th to count towards the Formula 1 World Championship. Scuderia Ferrari has won twice in a row in Portugal, in 1989 with Gerhard Berger and the following year courtesy of Nigel Mansell, taking the last of his three wins for the Maranello marque.
Sebastian Vettel: "I've never raced at Portimao, so I have no first hand experience on which to assess it, but I always find it very stimulating to race at a new track.
"From studying the layout, I can see there are a lot of gradient changes and several blind corners which will be difficult to judge. It will be important to make the most of free practice to get the hang of the circuit as quickly as possible.”
Charles Leclerc: "I've raced just the once at Portimao, in 2015 in Formula 3. From what I remember, it's great fun to drive with a lot of climbs and drops. It's a modern and interesting circuit and the weather should be a lot warmer than at the last race in Germany.
"It will be interesting to check the handling of our car on all the different types of corners with higher temperatures."
Check out our Thursday gallery from Portimao, here.