After a week off Formula 1 returns to action for the latest stage of its shaken-up 2020 season with the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao.
Following Lewis Hamilton’s historic victory to equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time F1 grand prix wins record with his 91st triumph at the Eifel GP, the six-time world champion duly has a first opportunity to surpass the outright record this weekend in Portugal.
Coupled with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas’ retirement in the Nurburgring race, Hamilton holds a 69-point advantage at the top of the standings with six races of the reshaped 2020 campaign to go.
After a pair of DNFs at Monza and Mugello, Max Verstappen has returned to form for Red Bull with consecutive second places at Sochi and the Nurburgring to see the Dutch driver close up to 14 points behind Bottas in the drivers’ world championship – despite the shock news of Honda’s F1 exit as power unit supplier at the end of 2021 still dominating the headlines.
But all eyes will be on Racing Point heading into the Portuguese GP weekend, with Lance Stroll set to return to action after missing the Eifel GP with illness, with the Canadian driver subsequently testing positive for COVID-19.
While Stroll is expected to be fully fit this weekend, Nico Hulkenberg is set to be on standby again following his 11th-hour dash to the Nurburgring for his third race as a late replacement having stood in for Sergio Perez when he tested positive for coronavirus during the two Silverstone races.
Why is F1 racing in Portugal?
Due to the redrafted 2020 F1 calendar following the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent cancellation of 13 races, series bosses have scrambled to produce a campaign of a minimum of eight races to meet FIA world championship criteria along with reaching a minimum of 15 races to fulfil the TV broadcasting deal.
As well as hosting double-headers at the Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and Bahrain, F1 will also head to venues not on the original 2020 calendar, with the Algarve International Circuit located close to Portimao is the third of the new destinations, following on from Mugello and the Nurburgring. Later this year the paddock completes its one-off stint of unexpected races at Imola and Istanbul Park.
When was the last time F1 raced at the Portimao?
F1 has never raced at Portimao but has previously tested at the Portuguese circuit, most recently in January 2009 as part of the pre-season testing programme.
Portimao has remained a popular venue for other series and as a testing venue, most notably for the World Superbike Championship at numerous GT series, while MotoGP is also making its first race visit to the Algarve circuit next month.
While Portimao has never hosted a F1 grand prix before this weekend, the Portuguese GP has previously been a familiar presence on the F1 calendar when Estoril held a slot between 1984-96. Before that era, three F1 world championship grands prix were also run between 1958-60, split between Boavista and Monsanto.
Will fans be allowed at the Portuguese GP?
Race organisers have been granted permission to open the circuit to spectators with numbers capped at 27,500 per day as approved by the local government.
Initially officials had targeted crowds of close to 50,000 on each day of the race weekend before a fresh move of COVID-19 restrictions were announced last week.
2020 Formula 1 Portuguese GP session timings
F1 is sticking to its traditional format of two free practice sessions lasting 90 minutes each on Friday, followed by an additional practice session running for one hour on Saturday morning.
The Q1, Q2 and Q3 knockout-style qualifying format is also being retained on Saturday afternoon to decide the grid for the 66-lap Portuguese GP on Sunday.
Friday 23rd October 2020
Free Practice 1: 11:00am-12:30pm BST (11:00am-12:30pm local)
Free Practice 2: 3:00pm-3:30pm BST (3:00pm-4:30pm local)
Saturday 24th October 2020
Free Practice 3: 11:00am-12:00pm BST (12:00pm-1:00pm local)
Qualifying: 2:00pm-3:00pm BST (3:00pm-4:00pm local)
Sunday 25th October 2020
Race: 1:10pm GMT (1:10pm local)
How can I watch the Portuguese GP?
Channel: Sky Sports F1 HD
Channel numbers – Sky: 406
Channel numbers – Virgin Media: 506 (Sky Sports F1 HD)
Sky Sports has live and exclusive broadcasting rights in the United Kingdom with the build-up to the F1 race starting from 11:30am ahead of lights out at 1:10pm.
When can I watch the highlights?
· Channel: Channel 4
· Start time: Saturday qualifying 5:30pm, Sunday race 6:30pm
Channel 4 has the rights to show Portuguese GP highlights of qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
Weather forecast for the Portuguese GP
Portimao is set to enjoy warm and sunny conditions for the majority of the race weekend, but rain is forecast as a high possibility on Sunday. Across the three days of planned track action highs of 21 degrees Celsius are forecast – 13 degrees Celsius warmer than the very cold Eifel GP.
Pirelli tyre allocation for the Portuguese GP
Pirelli has opted for its hardest range of compounds for the Portuguese GP, with the hard tyre C1, medium tyre C2 and soft tyre C3.
For all of the races in the reshuffled 2020 F1 season each driver will be given the same allocation of tyres per race – while the Portimao race has a slight tweak of one extra set of hard tyres and one fewer set of soft tyres – meaning each driver will have seven sets of soft tyres, three sets of medium tyres and three sets of hard tyres. Pirelli will also supply a range of wet and intermediate tyres for each driver.
Portimao has recently been resurfaced in preparation for its first F1 race.
Most F1 Portuguese GP wins
Alain Prost: 3 wins (1984, 1987, 1988)
Nigel Mansell: 3 wins (1986, 1990, 1992)
Stirling Moss: 2 wins (1958, 1959)