To flesh out the 2020 Formula One season, The Powers That Be fleshed out empty weekends with tracks that have either never appeared in F1 before or haven’t been part of the calendar for years. Some have been fun, some have been boring—but whatever else happens, we need to keep Portimao on the calendar. And, to cap things off, Lewis Hamilton rewrote the history books by scoring his 92nd win, breaking the previous record set by Michael Schumacher.
The Portuguese Grand Prix was an exciting one. The first two laps were packed with the kind of chaos that you’d have to see to believe. With rain looming on the horizon and a few sprinkles beginning to fall, the drivers that started on soft tires had an advantage over their harder-compound competition, since the heat came into them far earlier.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen attempted to push past both Mercedes driver in front of him only for Valtteri Bottas to push him wide. Verstappen then came across the track and nicked Sergio Perez as he rejoined the racing line. Perez shot off into the gravel, and Bottas moved into the lead.
To prove that soft tires gave an advantage on the start, Kimi Raikkonen moved up 10 grid places in the first two laps, going so far as to pass Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Meanwhile, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. took the lead and had a chance to set a few fast laps.
Once the harder compounds began to warm up, though, the front of the grid began to look more familiar. Bottas and Hamilton both passed Sainz on lap six, and Verstappen quickly moved in behind him—and then in front of him.
The early drama began to fizzle out as the race progressed, with Mercedes in front tailed by Red Bull. On lap 18, Lance Stroll made a risky move on McLaren driver Lando Norris that resulted in the former driver making contact, spinning into the gravel, and losing positions. Stroll was also awarded a five-second time penalty for the maneuver. He later picked up another five-second penalty for repeatedly exceeding track limits.
On lap 20, Hamilton made an easy pass on his teammate, taking the lead. He proved that was where he was meant to be by almost immediately setting a fast lap.
As the race neared the two-thirds mark, Hamilton pitted, and Bottas discussed strategy with the team, asking to go onto soft tires when he pitted a few laps later. The team gave him hards instead. It was difficult for him to warm up the tires and get grip.
Despite the threat of rain, nothing transpired. Stroll became the first retirement, and nearly half the grid had been lapped. But a strong battle took place in the middle of the grid, with drivers duking it out for points-scoring positions and best finishes. Even though the rain never came, it was still one hell of a fun race to watch—and that’s not always something you can say about F1 races.
Lewis Hamilton took his 92nd win. Teammate Bottas and Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen wrapped up the podium. Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly wrapped up the top five.
Hamilton took the win with a gap of 25 seconds over his competition, which makes it the biggest margin of the season. He has eclipsed Michael Schumacher’s record. From here on out, Lewis Hamilton will be the driver that young talent aspires to beat.
“I owe it to these guys here and back in the factory for their tremendous work,” Hamilton said after the race. “They’re constantly innovating and pushing the target even higher every year. The reliability has been absolutely incredible thanks to Mercedes. No one’s sitting back on the success. Everyone is pushing. That’s the most incredible thing to be surrounded by because it inspires you. That collaboration—there’s nothing quite like it.
“Today was tough, but it was all about temperatures. and that’s something I was able to do with the setup today. We got some spitting on the start, but on turn 7, I had a huge oversteer moment. I backed off massively. I probably should have defended against Valtteri, but that’s what I had to do.”
Regarding his win, he had the following to say:
“I could only have every dreamed of being where I am today. I didn’t have a magic ball when I chose to come to this team, but here I am. what I can tell you is that I’m trying to make the most of it every single day. We’re all doing it together. We’re all growing in the same direction.
“It’s going to take some time for it to fully sink in. I was still pushing flat out when I crossed the line. I’m still in race mode, mentally. I can’t find the words at the moment.”
At the moment, Hamilton has not signed a contract for the 2021 season. But it is likely that this is only the beginning for the British driver.