The Eifel Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, while Max Verstappen finished second, and Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s win saw teammate Valtteri Bottas’ title fight dealt yet another serious blow, with the Finn retiring due to a power unit issue.
This weekend, we find ourselves in Portugal, with the Portugese Grand Prix returning to Formula One for a one-off event, after a 24 year absence. Formula One’s return to Portugal comes with a change in the race venue too, with the race moving from the Circuito do Estoril to the Algarve International Circuit.
Ahead of the weekend’s first on-track action, we take a look at things to lookout this weekend
The Circuit – Algarve International Circuit
This weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix will be held at the Algarve International Circuit, also known as the Portimao Circuit. The Portimão Circuit is a permanent motorsports complex located in the town of Portimão. The complex was built in 2008, and has hosted various series since then, such as the FIA GT Championship, the Le Mans Series, and the FIM World Superbike Championship.
The track features a total of 32 configurations, ranging from 3.465km to 4.684km, with several elevation changes. Formula One will use the 4.684km variant of the circuit, without the Turn 1 Chicane. The track may be new to the Calendar, but it is not new to Formula One, having been used for testing previously.
The track features a number of flowing fast corners and elevation changes, alongside a fast final sector, which is reminiscent of Catalunya in it’s original form..
Things to Watch:
How much overtaking can we expect to see this weekend? For Formula One fans who desire to see some overtaking action, the outlook appears to be good. Portimao is a relatively wide circuit, with hard braking zones that could provide opportunities for drivers willing to take the risks.
How do we expect teams to perform?
Given the nature of the circuit, expect teams to run cars in a medium downforce aero configuration. For the podium, it looks to be a Mercedes v Red Bull battle again, while Renault, McLaren and Racing Point will be eying a spot on the podium, should a car from Red Bull or Mercedes face issues.
Ferrari-powered teams could see themselves having yet another woeful race, with the high-speed third sector being a potential issue for the teams, owing to the Ferrari engine being down on power. Charles Leclerc qualified 4th, but given the nature of the track, it is likely that he will slip down the order…
Can Bottas keep his title hopes alive?
Mercedes have had a clean sweep of pole positions this season, although Red Bull have shown that they can potentially give a challenge on Saturday, with Max Verstappen having put the RB16 on the front row of the grid twice this year.
In addition, while Mercedes has effectively ended any development on the 2020 car, Red Bull has continued to push updates to the car, which has allowed the team to close the gap to Silver Arrows. The updates have also appeared to fix the RB16’s inconsistency in rear grip, with Verstappen having reporting at the Eifel Grand Prix that the team had seemingly fixed the issue.
Will Alex Albon perform?
Ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Red Bull has effectively issued a firm ultimatum to Alex Albon. Perform in the next 2 races, or you’re done here. In the words of Team Principal Christian Horner: “I think everybody in the team wants to see him do that. He’s had a couple of difficult weekends, so he needs to bounce back here I think, and particularly Imola with a strong weekend from start to finish. So that’s our focus, that’s our objective.”
For today’s race, Alex Albon starts from 6th on the grid, 3 places behind Max Verstappen. Could Albon rise up the order to 4th, ahead of Perez and Leclerc? This is a possibility, given the nature of Portimao. It’s something that the Anglo-Thai driver will hope to do too, with his seat on the line after the ultimatum…