Round 12 of the 17-race 2020 F1 season came from Portugal, another new track for F1. The new asphalt surface proved slippery for some whilst Hamilton dominated the weekend to take his record-breaking 92nd race win.
The circuit was re-surfaced recently resulting in a few spins in free practice. Also in free practice, and causing red flags, Gasly’s AlphaTauri caught fire and Verstappen and Stroll tangled.
The stewards were hot on track limits this weekend and decided to revise the rules for turns 1 and 4 after deleting 125 laps in free practice that were deemed to be taken too wide.
Bottas dominated all three free practice sessions but Hamilton pipped him to pole by 0.102 seconds.
The beginning of the race was taken tenderly by the drivers as the slippery track surface was met with a spot of rain. The two Mercedes and Leclerc in the Ferrari started on the colder medium tyres whilst the others in the top ten started on softs. Verstappen and Perez tapped, dropping Perez to last. Hamilton dropped down the order, making me think he may have had a problem, though it appeared he was just taking it cautiously to avoid an incident. Norris was up to 4th whilst Räikkönen was climbing from 16th to 6th. On lap 2, Sainz overtook Bottas to take the lead of the race and managed to maintain the position until lap 6.
By lap 9, the medium tyres had warmed up so Bottas, Hamilton and Leclerc started flying past their competitors. The single DRS zone down the start/finish straight proved to be an easy overtaking point in the early stages of the race.
Those on soft tyres felt graining on the front left tyre and started pitting for mediums from lap 12.
Perez started to make a comeback on lap 14 overtaking Latifi for 18th position and is up to 15th by lap 16.
On lap 18, Norris and Stroll tangled when the Canadian tried to make a move on the Brit. They both sustained damage and had to pit emerging 19th and 20th, promoting Russell and Giovinazzi into the top ten. This wasn’t unlike the incident Stroll had with Verstappen in FP2.
Hamilton made an easy pass on Bottas using the DRS on lap 20 to take the lead. The open rear wing gave him an extra 18kmh.
Perez was still climbing and reached 10th on lap 23. On lap 24, Stroll was issued with a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision and on lap 31, he was issued with another 5-second time penalty for track limits having previously been waved a black and white flag.
Leclerc pit on lap 36 and the two Mercedes pit on lap 41. Bottas requested the soft tyres to be different to Hamilton but was given the hard tyres. He has tried this strategy before but Mercedes said that, as he knows the rules and once Hamilton is locked in with tyre choice, Bottas has to follow suit.
Grosjean was given a 5-second time penalty for track limits on lap 41. Ocon was in 6th and was the only driver left to pit but he was making the medium tyres work well for him. On lap 43, Norris was told he had a slow puncture and pit again dropping him to 17th. Perez also pit for the second time and returned in 6th behind Ocon, ahead of Gasly.
On lap 54, Stroll pulled into his pit box and retired. A run of bad luck for him in this race. Ocon finally pit on lap 55 and returned in 8th. Another 5-second time penalty was issued for track limits, this time to Kvyat.
Minor problems occured for the Mercedes duo on lap 58 as Bottas lost some bodywork and Hamilton gets cramp in his calf from the tough acceleration.
In the closing stages of the race, Perez was overtaken by Gasly and Sainz meaning he finished 7th – not bad having come from last after a first lap incident!
Hamilton crossed the line to take him 92nd race win, a new world record.
“You are rewriting the history books!”
Bottas and Verstappen round out the podium, the second most common podium trio. Leclerc finished 4th whilst his teammate, Vettel, picked up a single point in 10th. Gasly raced well to finish 5th whilst Albon only managed 12th. Both drivers are in contention for a Red Bull seat for next year and so far, Gasly is proving he is best.
Holly’s driver of the day…and loser
Hamilton is obviously my driver of the day, becoming the most successful driver in F1 history. His post-race hug with his father shows just how much this means to both of them.
“I could only have dreamed about where I would be today. I’m proud to make the most of it every single day.”
It should also be noted that Leclerc, Gasly and Sainz drove excellently this weekend.
Stroll is my loser of the day. He missed the previous race with COVID‑19 and struggled this weekend, crashing in FP2 and the race, as well as getting a penalty for ignoring track limits.