By Shwetha Surendran
BU News Service
Alberto Ascari, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher – just some of the Formula One legends who will welcome Lewis Hamilton into their elite club. Hamilton crossed the finish line first at the Portuguese Grand Prix Sunday, taking his 92nd career win and rewriting history in the process.
Autódromo Internacional do Algarve
This race weekend was marked by unpredictability. The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, commonly known as Portimão, returned to the Formula One calendar for the first time in 24 years. The word “rollercoaster” was thrown around a lot by drivers describing the circuit – and a rollercoaster of a race it was.
Despite an impeccable pace from Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton defeated his teammate in Saturday’s qualifying session to take pole position for Sunday’s race. However, an eventful race start saw the formidable Mercedes duo fade into the pack as the papaya-colored McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. zoomed past to take an early lead.
Recovering from the poor start, Bottas overtook both Hamilton and Sainz in subsequent laps, only to lose the lead to Hamilton a few laps in. From then on, there was no looking back for Hamilton, who cruised to a dominant win.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished third and was chaos incarnate from the start, running wide at turn four with cold tires and taking out Racing Point driver Sergio Perez. The first-lap collision was looked at by stewards, but eventually deemed not worthy of any further investigation.
The real first-lap hero was Kimi Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo. Räikkönen overtook ten cars on lap one but slowly stumbled down the order and finished the race just outside the points in 11th place.
With Perez in last, Racing Point’s struggles continued as Lance Stroll collided with McLaren’s Lando Norris at the first turn. Stroll was slapped with a pair of five-second penalties for the contact and breaching track limits before Racing Point eventually retired his car. The team’s only respite came when Perez put together an incredible comeback, finishing the race seventh and winning the Driver of the Day award.
Drizzle made sporadic appearances during the race, but misery rained down on Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, who seems to be at the risk of losing his seat in 2021 after a string of bad performances. A poor start saw him fall down the grid and never recover positions, ending his race in 12th place while getting lapped by his teammate Verstappen.
This tale of opposing fates for teammates continued with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. Young Leclerc was in glorious form all weekend and finished fourth, with his lap in Saturday’s qualifying session lauded as the “F1 Lap of the Season.”
Despite Ferrari’s progress through the season, Vettel still seems at odds with the SF1000. Over the weekend, Vettel admitted that teammate Leclerc is not just beating him, but driving in another league this season.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly continued his excellent run of form, crossing the line fifth after a last-lap battle with Sainz and Perez. Despite an extraordinary drive that saw him as high up as seventh, Williams driver George Russell finished 14th.
The road to Imola
Despite making its first appearance on the modern Formula One calendar, the dramatic opening lap and the action-packed race has fans on Twitter already calling for Portimão to be kept on for next season.
But as the action wraps up in Portugal, it’s abundantly clear that no matter what, the circuit will always be memorable because of Hamilton’s record-making moment. It’s history in the making with 92 wins and counting.
Next week, it’s back to Italy as the season continues at the Formula One Emirates Gran Premio Dell’Emilia Romagna 2020.