Kurt Verlin
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2020 Portuguese Grand Prix: Let’s Go Back

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Pierre Gasly leads Carlos Sainz at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix
Pierre Gasly leads Carlos Sainz at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix
Photo: Honda
2020 Portuguese Grand Prix Top 10

The Portuguese Grand Prix, the first since 1996, was amazing for the first seven laps. On a slightly damp track, Valtteri Bottas took the lead from Lewis Hamilton, only to be overtaken by none other than Carlos Sainz. Needless to say, it was an exciting start.

A combination of the weather and varying tire strategies had led to an incredible mismatch in the drivers’ initial pace relative to their starting position, and for a magical if brief time, the race was utterly unpredictable.

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Once the track dried and the tires got up to temperature, it was unfortunately back to the usual business. Sainz fell back, Hamilton retook the lead from Bottas, and Kimi Räikkönen, whose mystifying first lap had made everyone look like amateurs, eventually finished outside of the point.

Still, the Algarve International Circuit, constructed in 2008 and hosting an F1 grand prix for the first time, made a good impression with its fast, unsighted corners and abrupt elevation changes. When he designed it, architect Ricardo Pina supposedly aimed to make an anti-Tilke track (Hermann Tilke is the man behind most of the circuits on the current F1 calendar), and it showed. On the F1 subreddit, commenters joked that Algarve should win the usual “Driver of the Day” vote.

A few drivers also stood out over the weekend, especially Sergio Pérez, Charles Leclerc, and Pierre Gasly. Leclerc continued to make Sebastian Vettel look like a second-rate driver, and Vettel himself admitted his teammate was simply untouchable in qualifying, though both had a strong race. Pérez and Gasly put on an overtaking show on Sunday, with Pérez having a bigger challenge of it after been spun off the track by Max Verstappen on the first lap.

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Lewis Hamilton must also be mentioned. After Bottas led every practice and every qualifying session up until Q2, Hamilton put his car on pole and absolutely smashed his teammate in the race, finishing 26 seconds ahead to take his 92nd victory and officially becoming the winningest F1 driver in history. There’s a lot to be said about the cars he has had the privilege to drive over the years, but like it or not, the man is a legend.

Next week, F1 will head back to Italy to race at Imola for the first time since the 2006 San Marino Grand Prix, a race won by Michael Schumacher — now only the second-most winning driver in F1. So far, all the circuits that made a surprise appearance on the 2020 calendar because of the COVID-19 pandemic have produced pretty good races. Let’s hope Imola follows the pattern.

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix Championship Standings