Lewis Hamilton Wins 92nd Grand Prix In Portugal

Lewis Hamilton took the record for most Grand Prix wins as he took his 92nd win at the Portuguese Grand Prix. F1’s first race in the country since 1996 set the scene as Hamilton dominated most of the race after starting from pole position to take the chequered flag and set a new record for Grand Prix victories.

Teammate Valtteri Bottas finished 25 seconds behind in second place, with Verstappen taking the final step on the podium once again.

Hamilton got a good start from Pole position, but Bottas soon made his way through as drivers up and down the grid struggled for grip on the slippery surface. Max Verstappen found himself fighting with Sergio Perez in the Racing Point, with the two drivers making contact and sending Perez off the track, where he rejoined at the back of the field. It was deemed a racing incident, but it was lucky not to have been a penalty for Verstappen. Bottas was soon passed by Carlos Sainz for the lead of the race, and Hamilton was down into third as both Mercedes cars struggled for tyre temperature. Once the cars got up to temperature and grip levels increased however, both Mercedes’ passed the McLaren of Sainz and cruised away into what would be an easy and familiar 1-2.

Following a good start after a decent qualifying performance, Charles LeClerc was up into third ahead of Verstappen, where he remained for a good number of laps before dropping down the order as tyre lives faded and grip levels increased and decreased. The sheer lack of power from the Ferrari engine was evident, as he was passed by numerous cars, but did fight back for fourth place at the end of the race. LeClerc finished ahead of the impressive Pierre Gasly in fifth and Carlos Sainz in sixth. Sergio Perez eventually finished in seventh after battling his way back through the pack after the first lap altercation with the Red Bull of Verstappen. The top 10 was rounded out by the two Renaults of Esteban Ocon, Daniel Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.

There was only one retirement in the race, with Lance Stroll in the Racing Point pulling into the garage and out of the race due to car damage. The Canadian driver also received two 5 second penalties; one for ignoring track limits too many times and the second for causing a collision with McLaren’s Lando Norris, which ultimately led to his retirement. Another weekend to forget for Stroll, who was soundly beaten by his teammate yet again.

Another Record Broken

The race was ultimately a quiet one. Once the drama of the first few laps had settled down, and drivers were jostling for position every now and then, there wasn’t a lot really going on. The race will be remembered for being the race where Lewis Hamilton set the new record for race wins. He equalled the great Michael Schumacher last time out on 91 wins and went one further today by raising the bar higher and taking his 92nd win. 92 Grand Prix wins is an incredible achievement, and I certainly didn’t think I’d see Schumacher’s record broken any time soon. As Michael himself once said: “Records are there to be broken”.

Those of you who have read my previous pieces, or watch the F1 Fans Show, will know I’m not exactly a Hamilton fan. But fair play to the man, he has had an incredible career. Yes, he has been in the best car since 2014 which has helped his success and career immensely but look at how he has done it. Apart from 2016 when he was beaten by Nico Rosberg, he has swept his teammates aside in most seasons. 2014 was close, but 2015 was no challenge for him. The titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019 have also been largely unchallenged. He has been helped by his rivals making costly errors (namely Vettel in 2018), but Bottas cannot get close to him. His consistency has massively helped him, as when others were losing their cool and making errors, he has kept his head down, and apart from the odd complaint on the radio (ok, there are a fair few of them), he keeps out of trouble and gets the job done.

He just seems to find time where others cannot. His placing of the car through corners is impeccable, and even if he is slower in the first sector, he will usually pull that time back to be on a par with or ahead of his rivals.

So, well done Lewis. I have no doubt that he will easily surpass 100 Grand Prix victories, and I highly doubt that his record will ever be broken. But, then again, we thought that with Schumacher!

Bemoaning Bottas

This is becoming quite a popular segment on the F1 Fans Show. It started as a joke, but it seems that most weeks there is something to moan about with Bottas. It started so well this weekend; fastest in FP1, FP2 and FP3 and then quickest in Q1 and Q2! But then, when it really mattered in Q3, he was once again beaten to pole by Hamilton.

The race start was typical Bottas too. More sluggish off the line than the drivers around him and he found himself dropping back. He did manage to repass people around him and actually take the lead though! At one stage, he was pulling out sometime over Hamilton and I thought we would get a good race… but then I remembered: It’s Bottas.

Hamilton clawed back the time to his teammate and passed him easily on the straight. Was it team orders? Or was it Bottas just rolling over too easily? We’ll never know. But Bottas made that far too easy for Lewis. He should know that Lewis will just jump at any chance to get by, and he needs to fight harder. It was just typical Bottas in my eyes, and another reason to believe he will never be a world champion.

I’ve said it before, but I really miss Nico Rosberg. At least he fought Lewis and could get inside Lewis’ head, which was one of Hamilton’s biggest weaknesses in recent seasons.

Bottas has no fight, and just backs down. Fair play, he did well to fight back and take the lead of the race as he got his tyres up to temperature quicker than the cars around him, but from then on he just slowed and slowed until Lewis got past him. He ended up over 25 seconds behind Hamilton. Embarrassing from Bottas.

Albon Disappoints Again

This is becoming a regular thing from Albon, too. A fairly decent effort in qualifying, despite being a way behind his teammate Verstappen again, turns into a disappointing race with little to no fight. He crossed the line in 12th place, fighting with Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo.

Verstappen has 9 podium finishes this season. Albon has 1. It could have been more but for mistakes from himself or other drivers. Either way, it’s not an impressive record for the British born Thai driver. He was actually lapped by Verstappen too! The wound was already bad enough being so far down the order, but to be lapped by your teammate in the other car must really be the icing on the cake.

It’s such a shame. I like Albon, he’s a good driver and seems like a decent guy, but he’s just churning out one mediocre performance after another. How much longer can Red Bull give him? They’re putting their arm around him and protecting him, but if I was management at Red Bull, I’d also be keeping an eye out for other drivers out there. As we know, Sergio Perez is a free agent for 2021. Quick, experienced, consistent, and one of the drivers of the season in my eyes. Firm favourite Nico Hulkenberg is also on the market for 2021. Like Perez, he’s quick, consistent, knows how to set a car up and would jump at the chance to be in the second quickest car on the grid. He has also had three substitute appearances this year (although only managed to start two races), deputising for Perez on two occasions and Lance Stroll for the other. His cameos have been impressive, and will no doubt have caught the attention of Red Bull and other teams.

Of course, you can’t forget Red Bull’s junior programme, with Yuki Tsunoda currently doing well for himself in Formula 2. He has been tipped for a seat in F1 next year, but I can’t see him going straight to Red Bull. There is also the chance of Pierre Gasly returning to the big team. We’ll see.

So Close Again For Williams

Argh, I jinxed it. I tweeted before the race that I thought George Russell would get points, and for a while, it looked like it would happen. He was running as high as seventh, having not pitted, and was looking very competitive with the cars around him. But when he came in to pit, he dropped to 15th and eventually fought to 14th. A close weekend for Williams, but they leave with no points still.

The progress the team are making is admirable, with Russell again through to Q2 and starting 14th, once place ahead of Vettel in the Ferrari. They’re doing well, and I’m confident points will soon come.

How Does The Championship Look Now?

Hamilton still leads, of course, with the championship pretty much wrapped up already on 256 points. Bottas is a way back in second on 179. Verstappen third on 162 with Ricciardo behind him on 80. Charles LeClerc is fifth for Ferrari on 75 points, with his teammate Vettel way back in 13th on only 18 points. Ouch. Only the two Williams drivers, Russell and Latifi, are yet to score.

Mercedes lead the way in the constructors championship, miles ahead of Red Bull in second. Racing Point are third, but only two points clear of McLaren, who in turn are only four ahead of Renault! Ferrari are still 6th, during the worst season in a long, long time for the fallen Italian giants.

Where Are We Heading Next?

Imola! One of my all-time favourite circuits. We head there on the 31st October for the first race there since the mid-2000s. A race that will hopefully provide plenty of drama, overtaking and action. But, it’ll probably just be another Mercedes 1-2 with Verstappen in 3rd and no points for Williams.

Thank you very much for reading and make sure to tune in to our F1 Fans Show - every Monday at 8pm! As always, take care and stay safe.

Steve Thomson