Six of Portugal's best F1 moments


Villeneuve on Schumacher; Mansell on Berger; Senna on everyone – there's a been fair few classic Portuguese GP moments through the years. We've picked six of the best

Portimao 2020

Portimão brought thrills aplenty last year – will it do the same this weekend?

Grand Prix Photo

After being a mainstay of the grand prix calendar from 1984 to 1996, F1 stayed away from Portugal for 14 years. This weekend though, we’re back for our second Portuguese Grand Prix in as many seasons, racing on the undulating and flowing Portimão circuit.

Previous Portuguese venue Estoril provided plenty of action, but so did the Algarve circuit on F1’s first visit. As a result, here’s a selection of six of the best racing moments from both circuits through the years.


Ayrton Senna – 1985

Senna Estoril

Senna’s scintillating first victory came at a wet Estoril

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Ayrton Senna had long been the coming man in F1, even before his arrival in a race seat. It only took three races for the Brazilian to announce himself in his debut year, as he challenged Alain Prost for victory at a monsooned Monaco in 1984. It was during the next season though, at Estoril, that he showed just how serious his talent was.

After taking pole by 0.4sec from McLaren man Prost, Senna absolutely dominated the drenched race, taking an almost flawless win as far more experienced rivals floundered in the wet.

As his race engineer Steve Hallam put it in an interview about that win last year: “He was so good at maximizing everything to get the absolute best. He was phenomenal.”


Kimi Räikkönen – 2020

Kimi Räikkönen showed that class is permanent as he rolled back the years last season at Portimão. The ‘Iceman’ had been eliminated in Q1 in qualifying, but that seemed to matter not come race day. The Alfa Romeo driver elected to start on soft tyres, a masterstroke when field was presented with a cold and damp track.

From the archive

Using all his asphalt acumen, the Finn scythed his way through the field, eventually overtaking ten cars to find himself in 6th at the end of lap 1. As the race wore on though, the drying track restored order, and Räikkönen was unable to prevent the fall of his inferior C39 car back down the order, eventually finishing just out of the points in 11th after an heroic start.


Sergio Perez v Esteban Ocon – 2020

Perez Turkey

Perez eventually won out in an epic battle with Ocon

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There were shades of Villeneuve vs Arnoux at Portimão last year, as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez decided to go wheel to wheel for several corners as they battled over 5th place.

With both the drivers’ respective midfield teams of Renault and Racing Point badly needing championship points, both drivers fought tooth and nail in a bid to retain supremacy.

Perez tracked Ocon down the main straight, diving round the outside of the Frenchman into the first corner. The Renault driver was having none of it however, hanging him out there on that turn and the next, before using his inside line to get back ahead.

Perez was unperturbed though, getting in the Renault’s slipstream before opting for the outside line going into the hairpin. The Mexican won out this time, staying ahead of Ocon to claim some valuable points.


Senna v Alain Prost – 1988

Prost Senna Estoril

Prost emerges unscathed from the ‘Senna squeeze’

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One of the more unpleasant moments in the Senna vs Prost rivalry (not that it was bursting with pleasant ones), came at Estoril in 1988.

Prost had qualified on pole, but then lost out to Senna upon the race starting. The Frenchman drew close at the end of lap 2 though, and had Senna in his sights. Pulling out of his slipstream as they shot past the pits, Prost took the inside line.

His Brazilian team-mate then decided to test out just how brave Prost really was. In a bid to fend off the Frenchman, Senna squeezed him up against the concrete walls as they headed towards 200mph.

Prost held his nerve and took the lead into Turn 1, but in the turbocharged monsters of the day – which were not exactly stable at high speed – this was scary stuff. Safe to say the four-time world champ was not amused.


Nigel Mansell – 1989

Mansell 1989 Estoril

The first half of Mansell 1989 Portuguese GP went well at least…

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Nigel Mansell had a bit of a horror show at Estoril ’89, but as usual he still managed to entertain.

Starting 3rd the Brit hounded Ayrton Senna for 2nd place early on. After getting past Senna, he then performed stunning triple pass to take the lead on lap 23.

Mansell tracked his Ferrari team-mate Gerhard Berger through the final corner, just as the Austrian was coming up to lap a squabbling Derek Warwick and Stefano Modena.

Throwing all caution to the wind, Mansell decided to use the situation to his advantage. Pulling out from behind Berger, he then dived inside of Warwick and Modena going into T1, going three abreast in a bid to engineer a gap between himself as Berger. It worked, and he took the lead with aplomb.

Later on in the race, he’d overshoot his pit box, reverse in the pitlane to find it again, receive a black flag for his troubles before claiming to see and then crash into Senna as they fought for 2nd again. We’ll gloss over all those bits.


Jacques Villeneuve – 1996

Jacques Villeneuve came into F1 as the typical IndyCar upstart – the North American kid looking to ruffle some feathers.

If one moment encapsulated this the most, it was probably his audacious move on the then-reigning F1 champ Michael Schumacher at Estoril in his debut season of 1996.

Villeneuve had to win this penultimate race of the season if he wanted to stay in touch with Damon Hill in the championship.

He started 2nd behind Hill, but had a bad getaway and lost positions to Schumacher and the Benetton of Jean Alesi.

Luckily, his Williams FW18’s superior performance allowed him to pull up to Schumacher’s Ferrari for 3rd. As they say in F1 though, catching someone is one thing, passing is quite another.

As it turned out, the French-Canadian decided he could use his American oval knowledge on the European road courses.

“Once, during testing, I’d told the team that the final corner was a bit like an oval, and I was convinced it was possible to overtake on the outside,” he told ESPN in 2010.

As they approached that final winding turn, Schumacher came upon Minardi driver Giovanni Lavaggi. The German took his foot off the accelerator slightly so as not to catch the backmarker mid-corner, and Villeneuve saw his chance.

Going into full-on mode ‘IndyCar-mode’, the Williams driver took the outside line and sling-shotted round the outside. It wasn’t a move without its risks though…

“Halfway through the corner I got ahead of him, but I was a little bit too wide and started sliding on the marbles, so Michael pulled next to me again,” he remembered. “It was very close because at some points our wheels were interlocking. It was fun. I’m just pissed off the camera missed it from the outside.”

The incredible move was successful, went into grand prix legend and many an F1 highlights reel as Villeneuve went on to kept his ’96 title hopes alive. The French-Canadian would ultimately lose out to Hill in Japan, but on the way engineered an overtaking manoeuvre for the ages.