Hamilton takes historic win in Portugal

25/10/2020
NEWS STORY

On a weekend we've seen the immolation of an AlphaTauri, over 200 times deleted, Sebastian Vettel admit that his teammate is on a different planet, Max Verstappen censured for his radio outbursts and virtue signalling from The Sun, surely anything is possible.

A few weeks back the media was getting excited about Lewis equalling Michael Schumacher's record of 91 wins and then Valtteri went and temporarily spoilt it all. Fast forward and the same media is getting all excited at the prospect of the Briton surpassing Michael's record.

Thing is, who might spoil it this time around?

Valtteri had looked strong all weekend, but courtesy of balls the size of pumpkins and a brave tyre strategy, Lewis raised his game when it really mattered, breaking his teammate's heart in the process.

However, with Max starting on the softs today - whereas the Black Arrows and Charles are on mediums - might the flying Dutchman steal a march on his rivals.

On a track where drivers have struggled for grip all weekend, Valtteri's cause isn't helped by the fact that he starts on the dirty side of the grid, a situation not helped by the fact that there are almost no support races on what was a new track surface to begin with.

Consequently, Valtteri, like the other drivers starting on the same side of the grid - Charles, Alex, Lando and Daniel... are at an immediate disadvantage.

And then, assuming they do get away decently, there's Turn 1.

The first corner has rarely been out of the headlines this weekend, what with the seemingly endless deletion of times for wandering astray, the coming together of Max and Lance and the various other near misses that followed.

Indeed, those members of the media hoping to see Lewis surpass the 'magic 91' might well be advised to turn away from their screens for the first few moments of today's race.

Indeed, on a weekend where the expression 'anything might happen' has become the mantra, it would be foolish to make any predictions.

What we do know however, is that the very nature of the Portimao track, be it the lack of grip, the undulations, the blind corners and even the weather, make this afternoon highly unpredictable... which, when we reflect on the fact that Mercedes has won nine of the races thus far, is exactly what we all need.

Lewis has won the title, it would be foolish to suggest otherwise, but even he wants his rivals to make a race of it, and Portimao offers just such an opportunity.

Indeed such is the excitement at the unpredictability Pirelli totally forgot to include its guide to strategy in its post-qualifying press release.

According to the Italian manufacturer, the fastest strategy is a one-stopper, but Pirelli admits that with comparatively little running in free practice and consequently a lack of data in terms of wear and degradation levels, to predict the best strategy is harder than usual.

On paper therefore, the fastest strategy is to start on mediums and then move onto hards at around lap 32. Of course, the exact opposite can apply, starting on hards and then switching to mediums after 34 laps.

Second-quickest is another one-stopper, using soft for 18 laps, then hards for 48 laps.

A two-stopper is slower, but still an option if lower temperatures favour graining. In this case, the best option would be soft-medium-medium, with the softs for 14 laps and then two 26-lap stints on medium.

While the title(s) might be decided, there remains a lot to play for, not least third place in the Constructors' Championship - the one that decided the prize money.

However, Alex is on notice that here and again next week at Imola he must close the gap to Max or risk losing his seat for 2021. And with Christian Horner admitting that if a replacement is required for the cat-loving Thai, he will come from outside the Red Bull driver pool, what better time for the likes of Sergio to throw their hat in the ring.

George's seat at Williams isn't looking too safe either, and let's not forget that Alpha, Alfa and Haas have yet to confirm their line-ups, so there's plenty to play for.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out. Though there is a lot of cloud they are not expecting rain until after the race ends. On the other hand it is cooler than it has been on previous days.

Air temperature is 20.6 degrees C, while the track temperature is 26 degrees.

Perez is warned of strong tailwinds at Turns 13, 8 and 5. The Mexican is told that he cannot perform a practice start, even though he's seen a McLaren driver perform one.

"It's like on ice, really difficult to get the tyres to work," reports Vettel. Indeed, Gasly is told that a lot of drivers are complaining about grip.

"Be careful with your radio because it is so loud," begs Kimi.

Race control now reveals that there is a 40% chance of rain...

Other than the Black Arrows and Leclerc, Ocon, Stroll, Kvyat, Russell, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Grosjean and Latifi start on mediums. The rest are t on the softs bar Magnussen who is on hards.

They head off on the parade lap, all getting away cleanly.

The grid forms, Hamilton on his spot some time before Latifi takes his place and slightly behind his marker.

They're away!

The Mercedes pair both get away well, as does Verstappen, but Bottas then appears to struggle allowing the Red Bull and Perez to get ahead heading into Turn 1, as Leclerc also closes in.

In Turn 1, Leclerc is somewhat cautious, while in the process of passing the Ferrari Sainz runs wide.

In Turn 2, Bottas, having found some grip, is side-by-side with Verstappen, the Dutchman running wide as they battle for position.

Perez makes a move on Verstappen and clips the Red Bull sending the Point into a spin, from which he is lucky not to collect a number of drivers who subsequently pass him.

Amidst claims that there is rain, Hamilton begins to lose pace, his cause not helped by running wide in Turn 5, Verstappen repeating the Briton's mistake moments later.

Hamilton continues to struggle, and in the process is passed by his Mercedes teammate, with the battling Sainz and Verstappen closing in.

Sainz passes Hamilton, who continues to struggle and is now under pressure from Norris, Verstappen and Leclerc.

That said, Raikkonen - who has had the mother of all opening laps - is all over Leclerc, the Iceman subsequently passing the Ferrari and closing in on the Red Bull.

Heading into Turn 1 at the end of the opening lap, Sainz is all over Bottas as Perez pits after his clash with Verstappen. Meanwhile Raikkonen, Verstappen, Leclerc and Ricciardo continue to scrap.

It's: Bottas, Sainz, Hamilton, Norris, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly and Stroll at the end of lap 1. Albon is 11th and Vettel 16th.

Following that manic opening lap things appear to have settled down a little... at which point Sainz appears to catch Bottas napping and calmly sweeps by the Mercedes to take the lead as Hamilton also closes in.

Behind, Verstappen is all over Norris, with Raikkonen and Ricciardo right behind.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Portimao, here.

After 3 laps, Sainz leads by 1.1s.

Bottas goes quickest on lap 4 (23.195), as Verstappen sweeps by Norris as Raikkonen lines up the McLaren.

In clear air, and like the race leader on softs, Verstappen posts a 21.965 as he closes on Hamilton.

Heading into Turn 1 on lap 6, Bottas passes Sainz for the lead.

No investigation necessary regarding the first lap clash involving Verstappen and Perez.

A lap later and Hamilton emulates his teammate in passing Sainz, as Verstappen closes in also.

Leclerc passes Ricciardo, as the mediums begin to come into their own.

At the start of lap 8, Verstappen nails Sainz as Leclerc passes Raikkonen for sixth. Vettel passes Grosjean for 15th.

A new fastest lap from Bottas (21.642), as Ricciardo passes Raikkonen. Behind the Finn, Gasly and Stroll make up the remainder of the top ten.

Gasly makes short work of Raikkonen, while Stroll receives the black and white flag for exceeding the track limits three times.

Albon is under intense pressure from Ocon as they battle for 11th, while Gasly has passed Ricciardo for seventh, DRS making overtaking just a little too easy today.

After 11 laps, Verstappen has dropped to 5s behind Hamilton as Raikkonen is the first driver to make a tyre stop. The Finn switches to the mediums.

Gasly closes on Norris while Leclerc has passed Sainz for 4th.

Verstappen really suffering from graining, the Dutchman surely unable to continue for much longer.

Sainz is told that the soft only looks good on Verstappen (!!!) and Gasly.

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 14, as Hamilton reports: "left-front doesn't feel that great". He's on mediums remember.

Lap 15 sees a new fastest lap from Hamilton (21.421) as Stroll is all over Norris.

"It's not going to be a holiday on the mediums," Albon is warned as drivers on the yellow-banded rubber encounter graining.

After 18 laps, it's: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Norris, Ocon, Albon and Stroll. At which point Stroll goes off at Turn 1 as he battle Norris, the Canadian incurring some damage in the process.

"What the ****," says Norris, who reports wing damage.

As Stroll and Norris both pit, Hamilton closes in on Bottas.

At the start of lap 20, Hamilton - courtesy of DRS - sweeps by Bottas heading into Turn 1, the Finn unable to offer any resistance.

Meanwhile, Albon pits. He rejoins in 18th, ahead of Norris and Stroll.

In clear air, lap 20 sees Hamilton post a new fastest lap (21.134).

Perez, who pitted on lap 1, passes Kvyat to take 11th.

"OK, it's starting to rain again," Sainz reports.

In no time at all, Bottas has fallen 3s behind Hamilton, though he enjoys an 11s advantage over Verstappen.

Perez is into the points having made short work of Giovinazzi.

Stroll is given a 5s time penalty for causing a collision (with Norris).

At the end of lap 23, Verstappen pits, rejoining in 6th on mediums.

"Tyres are pretty good," reports Hamilton, "is there more rain coming," he asks. "Negative," comes the reply.

Out front, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (20.775) as he builds a 3.8s.

"Showers in the distance," reports Hamilton, but he is advised that the clouds are not heading towards the circuit.

Other than Hamilton, Perez is the fastest man on track, the Mexican now hounding 8th placed Vettel.

Sainz pits at the end of lap 26, as does Grosjean. They rejoin in 14th and 17th.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 27, the German rejoining in 15th on hards.

Gasly pits at the end of lap 28, as Bottas falls 7.3s behind the race leader. Giovinazzi also pits.

A new fastest lap from Hamilton (20.537).

"We're going to keep stretching this," he is told, "we're not seeing anything on the radar."

Ricciardo is carving his way back through the field, having passed Raikkonen he closes on 9th-placed Gasly. Indeed the Australian sweeps by the AlphaTauri and sets about closing the 8s gap to Russell.

Meanwhile, another 5s time penalty for Stroll, this time for track limits violations.

The wily old fox, Raikonen is having a blinder, he is currently all over the back of Gasly.

As Magnussen pits, Sainz makes a bold move on Raikkonen, going around the outside of the Finn in Turn 1. However, the veteran is having none of it and subsequently retakes the position. Brilliant, determined driving from both men who keep it nice and clean.

Meanwhile, Bottas reports an overheating warning on his dash.

Now Ocon and Perez are battling, corner after corner the pair are side-by-side, neither willing to give an inch. Eventually however, the Mexican has the advantage.

Meanwhile, at the end of lap 34, Leclerc pits. He rejoins in 4th on hards, 5s clear of Perez.

Stroll pits at the end of lap 35, the Canadian serving his two time penalties in the process.

Russell pits from 7th at the end of lap 37. The Williams driver rejoins in 14th on hards.

Meanwhile, Bottas is warned about track limits.

Kvyat is the latest driver to get the black and white flag.

At the end of lap 39, Hamilton is told, "box, box, box, box."

He duly obliges, and shortly after rejoins in 2nd, still almost 40s ahead of Verstappen.

"What are we doing right now," asks Stroll, who is currently last. "Shouldn't we be saving the engine?" he asks. "We're hoping for rain or a safety car," he is told.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 41, rejoining in the midst of the Giovinazzi/Russell battle, 11s down on his teammate, with Verstappen only 9s behind.

As Bottas is passed (un-lapped) by Kvyat, it is clear the Finn is struggling for grip.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Portimao, here.

Told he needs 100% pace despite a slow puncture, Norris replies: "I am 100% pace!"

After 43 laps, Ocon is the only driver yet to stop. He is currently 6th, 21s ahead of his Renault teammate.

It's: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Ocon, Ricciardo, Gasly, Sainz and Raikkonen.

On lap 44, Norris makes his second stop of the afternoon.

"Nothing significant on the radar," Hamilton is told when he asks about rain, "just a few drops." The Briton posts a new fastest lap (20.467).

Gasly sweeps by Ricciardo in Turn 1 to claim 7th, as Perez makes his second stop of the day. Switching to softs the Mexican rejoins in 6th.

As Hamilton posts another fastest lap (20.366), Verstappen continues to reel in Bottas, getting to within 7s of the Finn.

Now Sainz blasts past Ricciardo to take 8th, as Albon makes his second stop of the afternoon. The Thai driver rejoins in 12th on softs.

Bottas finally appears to have got to grips with his hards, the Finn posting a new fastest lap (20.034).

As the leaders carve their way through the back-markers, Verstappen closes on his Red Bull teammate.

Russell passes Giovinazzi for 13th, as Albon is advised that he has already received two warnings for exceeding the track limits at Turn 1.

Talking of teammates, Vettel is now 0.5s down on his former teammate, Raikkonen as they battle for tenth.

Stroll pits at the end of lap 53 and drives straight into his garage.

Next time around, Ocon finally pits. Switching to softs, he rejoins in 8th, just ahead of his Renault teammate.

Kvyat is handed a time penalty for track limits infringements.

Vettel passes Raikkonen to claim 10th.

"The wind is picking up, it's really difficult," reports Russell.

Meanwhile, lap 56 sees a new fastest lap from Hamilton (19.502), as Verstappen complains about the wind.

After 58 laps (of 66), it's: Hamilton, Bottas (+ 17.3s), Verstappen (+ 9.7s), Leclerc (+ 20s), Perez (+ 30.9s), Gasly (+ 5s), Sainz (+ 1.8s), Ocon (+ 2.4s), Ricciardo (+ 1s) and Vettel (+ 0.8s).

"I've got cramp," complains Hamilton, the world champion clearly feeling the effects of this most physical of tracks.

Ocon appears unable to make a dent in Sainz' advantage.

"Light rain in the pitlane," Sainz is warned.

Gasly closes on Perez as he eyes 5th place.

"What's the fastest lap?" asks Verstappen. No sooner is he told 18.9 than Hamilton bangs in an 18.7.

Gasly makes his move on Perez heading into Turn 1, but the Mexican well and truly slams the door in his face.

Next time around, Gasly isn't taking no for an answers, going around the outside of the Racing Point, as Sainz also closes on the soft-shod Mexican.

As Hamilton begins his final lap, moments later Sainz nails Perez before they even reach Turn 1, the Mexican's softs simply no match for the mediums.

Hamilton takes the flag. Bottas takes second, ahead of Verstappen, Leclerc, Gasly, Sainz, Perez, Ocon, Ricciardo and Vettel.

Raikkonen is eleventh, ahead of Albon, Norris, Russell, Giovinazzi, Grosjean, Magnussen, Latifi and Kvyat, with Stroll being the only retirement.

So, history is made, as Lewis becomes the winningest driver in the history of Formula One, the Briton almost certain to raise the bar ever higher.

While the history books will reveal a podium that echoes so many of the previous races this year... and the year before... and the year before, today's race certainly produced some thrills.

Being that this was the first time that F1 has raced here, lessons will hopefully have been learned, certainly in terms of a DRS zone that made a mockery of the word overtake.

Nonetheless we witnessed some great racing and a number of strong individual performances, not least Charles, Pierre, Sergio and Esteban.

On the other hand, it was another miserable day for Seb, while Alex did himself no favours.

Sad not to see George or Kimi walk away with something for their efforts, while the Weather Gods could have made things even more interesting.

However, the day belongs to Lewis, and once again the Briton has made history in the best possible way, claiming pole, fastest lap and the win.

We salute you Mr Hamilton.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Portimao, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 25/10/2020
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