Saturday, October 24, 2020

Hamilton On Top After Unique F1 Pole Battle In Portugal

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Hosting Formula 1's first Portuguese Grand Prix since 1996, the Algarve International Circuit (or also known as the Portimao Circuit) was constructed in 2008 and has been the site of MotoGP, several sports car competitions as well as a 2009 A1 Grand Prix event. Formula 1 teams have visited the track for pre-season winter testing in 2009 but a competitive grand prix had never been held until this year receiving a date as part of the modified 2020 race schedule.

A 15-turn, 4.653-kilometer race course, the Portugal’s Portimao Circuit has been described in many accounts for having elements of older tracks with numerous elevation changes and tight turns. In the practices leading up to qualifying, drivers also noted the slipperiness of the track’s recently resurfaced asphalt. The challenges presented in the tricky track have resulted in Pirelli bringing their three hardest compound slick tires. The process of setting the grid for Sunday’s 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix would involve several instances of ingenuity. 

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli

Whether in a long-established grand prix or one of the improvised outings for 2020, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team continues to show supremacy when it comes to pace. Valtteri Bottas ended all three practice sessions at the Portimao Circuit at the top of the time charts. Bottas’ teammate and current drivers’ championship points leader Lewis Hamilton was second-quickest in two of three of the sessions encountering difficulty with high winds and two red flags in the second Friday practice. In Saturday’s qualifying, it was Hamilton’s turn to take the top spot on the time sheet.  

Besting his teammate with a 1-minute, 16.652-second lap time, the pole-winning effort by Lewis Hamilton was accomplished in an unorthodox fashion. Not only was the fastest time set on the weekend’s  medium compound tire, Hamilton’s #44 car undertook multiple hot laps in the final Q3 run. Completing three laps in the successful effort to post the top time, Hamilton clinched his 97th Formula 1 career pole position. Beaten by 0.102 seconds around the 4.653-kilometer Portuguese track, Eifel Grand Prix pole sitter Valtteri Bottas settled for second on the grid securing the Mercedes-AMG team another 1-2 in 2020 Formula 1 qualifying. 

Max Verstappen’s appearance in third place following Portuguese Grand Prix qualifying continues to trend of seeing the Dutch Red Bull Racing driver closest to mirror the dominant Mercedes-AMG entries. Verstappen’s top Q3 time was 0.252 seconds slower than Hamilton’s pole-sitting lap time. Joining the Honda-powered Red Bull on the second row is a pleasantly surprising effort from Scuderia Ferrari with their driver Charles Leclerc. The fourth place starting spot for Leclerc appears to show some progress being made in the development of the SF1000 race car. A new diffuser debuts this weekend on the Ferrari team as the latest of several technical upgrades. While Leclerc will be positioned high on the Portuguese Grand Prix starting grid, teammate Sebastian Vettel is starting deeper in the field in 15th place.  

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez recorded the fifth fastest time in Q3 accompanied by Red Bull Racing driver Alexander Albon on the third row. In seventh and eighth place, the McLaren race cars set almost identical Q3 lap times. Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly claimed an edge over teammate Lando Norris prevailing by just 0.005 of a second. Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and the Renault race car of Daniel Ricciardo round out the top-10 of the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix’s starting order. 

Returning to on-track action in Portugal is Lance Stroll. Initially pulling out of the Eifel Grand Prix due to stomach discomfort, Stroll was made aware he had contracted COVID-19. Following a difficult Friday practice session where he and Max Verstappen collided, the Canadian Racing Point driver will start the Portuguese Grand Prix in 12th place.   

Shaping up to be a potentially unpredictable 66-lap race, the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix will run Sunday at 2:10 P.M. local time (9:10 A.M. Eastern Time).


2020 Formula 1
Portuguese Grand Prix
Starting Grid

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