This trio of pandemic offspring Formula 1 races was where Lewis Hamilton, having equalled Michael Schumacher’s win record at the preceding Eifel race, could first step into his own unique territory of success. Any further grand prix victories would establish new records and his clinching of the latest title would equal Schumacher’s seven. So there was every chance that by the end of this little run, Lewis Hamilton would become the most statistically successful F1 driver of all time.
F1 had only ever used Portimão in the Algarve as a test venue before, but it was built (in 2008) as a fully F1-compliant track and is a terrific venue. It was only ever the commercial realities that had prevented a Portuguese Grand Prix from being held here before. Those realities have, of course, been turned on their head by the pandemic, in that F1 is this season renting any suitable tracks rather than charging promoters for the privilege. There were even a few spectators allowed here.
The circuit dips and dives its way through the countryside with a mix of blind apexes and medium-high speed sweeps. In its demands on the car it’s quite similar to Barcelona and, as such, Pirelli brought its three toughest compounds, keen to avoid a repeat of the British Grand Prix late race tyre failures. It needn’t have worried. The recently resurfaced track was so short of grip, as the new bitumen continued to ooze from its pores, that there was relatively little strain upon the tyres.