Although the Portuguese Grand Prix centred around Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking 92nd victory, there was more to discover behind the latest easy, dominant Mercedes one-two finish.
Despite the new, challenging Portimao track that offered unusually low grip level because of its new surface and cool temperatures, Mercedes continued its dominant display at last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix. The Anglo-German’s dominance has been ever present since day one of the new hybrid era that started back in 2014, but it seems that they could reach such a level of dominance this year that no one is able to put on a fight against them either in qualifying or races.
The diligent point-scorer – With his latest victory, Hamilton extended his streak of points finishes to 45 in a row - no other driver has scored in more than 27 in a row. The Briton needed some luck for that as he failed to finish in the top 10 at last year’s German Grand Prix, but a post-race penalty for the Alfa Romeo drivers meant that he jumped up to a point-scoring position.
Pit lane excellence – Red Bull might be unable to take on the fight against the dominant Mercedes on track, but the Milton Keynes-based squad has no reason to be ashamed when it comes to the performance in the pit lane. The energy drink company-owned team once again proved how fast they can change tyres by recording the fastest tyre change when they changed the old Pirelli boots for fresh ones on Alexander Albon’s RB16 in an astonishing 1.86s. The Red Bull crew only needed 1.96s to complete Max Verstappen’s tyre change which was the only other sub 2s work in the pit lane on Sunday.
On another level – Mercedes not only scored its fourth one-two finish in the coronavirus-delayed 2020 season, but they also posted the fastest race lap despite completing the end phase of the Portuguese Grand Prix on Pirelli’s White hard compound. Lewis Hamilton posted a 1m18. 750 on Lap 63 of the 66-lap race at Portimao which was just under six tenths of a second faster than the second fastest race lap that belonged to his teammate Valtteri Bottas. McLaren’s Lando Norris was the third fastest on Sunday when it came to the fastest race laps by posting a 1m19.360 on the penultimate lap of the inaugural Portimao race.
Only three double-scoring teams – Only Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault left the venue of the Portuguese Grand Prix with a double point-scoring result. The latest dominant display saw the Anglo-German team score the maximum available point tally by ending up first and second and posting the fastest lap of the race. Although Renault added points to its tally with both its drivers, it was a less successful race for the French outfit as they collected only six points with their highest point prey recorded at the British Grand Prix with 20 points.
The improving Scuderia – The Portuguese Grand Prix was definitely a successful round for Ferrari. Although the team scored more points at the Austrian and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the Portimao race saw the Maranello-based team deliver its best on-track performance in terms of outright pace. For the first time in 2020, Ferrari was arguably the third fastest team behind Mercedes and Red Bull which was a consequence of a tremendous job behind the scenes. The team brought the third step of its upgrade programme at Portimao, completing the developments introduced at the Russian and the Eifel Grands Prix.
Podium or nothing – Max Verstappen continued his impressive streak in 2020 by finishing on the podium for the ninth time. The Belgium-born Dutchman stood on the podium every time when he finished a race – he only failed to see the chequered flag at the Austrian, Italian and Tuscan Grands Prix where he either had a technical problem or fell victim to a crash.
One-stop strategy - Of the 19 drivers who finished the 17th Portuguese Grand Prix, 16 completed the race distance of 306km with a one-stop strategy which was predicted and recommended by Pirelli ahead of the race. Although Sergio Perez also pitted twice for new tyres, his first stop was a consequence of his first-lap clash with Max Verstappen.
Extreme durability - Tyre durability turned out to be an interesting element of the race. While the initial stint indicated that drivers would need to commit themselves to a two-stop strategy, especially those who started the race on the soft compound, the latter part of the race saw both the hard and the medium compound cope very well with the demands of the challenging Portimao track. Pierre Gasly completed the longest stint on the C3 soft compound with a total of 28 laps. On the mediums that turned out to be the best race tyre both in durability and grip level, Kimi Räikkönen covered the longest distance. The Finn spent 54 laps on the same set of Yellow medium rubber that was equivalent 82 per cent of the race distance. Williams racer Nicholas Latifi completed the longest stint on the C1 rubber with a 40-lap stint.
Work under parc ferme – Renault conducted the most intense work under parc ferme conditions by changing multiple parts on Daniel Ricciardo’s R.S. 20. The Perth-born was given a new rear wing assembly and associated fasteners, RIS fairing, front wing assembly and LHS bargeboards following his self-inflicted incident in the middle part of the qualifying session that ruled him out of Q3 after his team was unable to repair his car in time.
Penalties – Despite recovering from his health issues for the Portuguese Grand Prix, Lance Stroll endured a dismal race at Portimao. The Canadian had to serve two five-second penalties – one for leaving the track on multiple occasions without justifiable reasons and one for causing a collision with Lando Norris at Turn 1. The Montreal-born 21-year-old driver was also given three penalty points for the two incidents. Daniil Kvyat was also handed a five-second time penalty for exceeding the track limits on multiple occasions and the same happened to Haas racer Romain Grosjean with both drivers having been given a penalty point on their licence for that. The Russian was also investigated for ignoring the blue flags, but he was ultimately cleared in that case.