This weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix is the twelfth round of this unusual Formula 1 season and it is also the second venue this year to make its debut hosting a round of motor racing’s blue riband category. The first was Mugello and this time it’s the turn of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, commonly known as Portimão. A couple of Formula 1 teams tested there several years ago, but otherwise this weekend marks Portugal’s return to the calendar after an absence of 24 years. The last race was held at Estoril in 1996, when Michael Schumacher finished third for the Scuderia. The race on Sunday 25 October will be run over 66 laps.
The circuit. The track is in the south of Portugal and opened in November 2008. It sits in over 300 hectares in the hills around the town of Portimão. 4.692 kilometres in length, it features several climbs and drops that make it very technical and demanding. The main straight comes close to a kilometre in length and flows into two fast right handers. Then comes the first heavy braking point into turn 3, a very slow right hand hairpin, where understeer can be a factor. The track then climbs through a fast, blind left hand turn, leading on to a short back straight. Another left hand hairpin is followed by the fastest section. The cars accelerate through turns 6 and 7, gaining a lot of speed before braking for the right hand turn 8. After this comes another climb to 9, a fast left hander followed by a downhill run to 10, the hardest braking point on the track. The final part consists of two long right hand turns, the first features negative camber, while the second is rather bumpy and leads onto the start-finish straight.
Seventeenth edition. Sunday’s race is the 26th to go by the name of Portuguese Grand Prix, but only the 17th to count towards the Formula 1 World Championship. Scuderia Ferrari has won twice in a row in Portugal, in 1989 with Gerhard Berger and the following year courtesy of Nigel Mansell, taking the last of his three wins for the Maranello marque.
Sebastian Vettel #5
“I’ve never raced at Portimão, so I have no first hand experience on which to assess it, but I always find it very stimulating to race at a new track.
From studying the layout, I can see there are a lot of gradient changes and several blind corners which will be difficult to judge. It will be important to make the most of free practice to get the hang of the circuit as quickly as possible.”
Charles Leclerc #16
"I’ve raced just the once at Portimão, in 2015 in Formula 3. From what I remember, it’s great fun to drive with a lot of climbs and drops. It’s a modern and interesting circuit and the weather should be a lot warmer than at the last race in Germany.
It will be interesting to check the handling of our car on all the different types of corners with higher temperatures."
Q&A with Enrico Cardile Head of Performance Development
The twelfth round of the 2020 season is a further opportunity for the Scuderia to continue developing the SF1000. We discussed the topic with Enrico Cardile, Head of Performance Development.
“We already introduced a few small modifications to the car’s aero package in Sochi and added others at the Nürburgring,” explains the engineer who hails from Arezzo. “In Portimao we will have a further update, mainly to the diffuser, completing the programme set out over the past few months.”
What are you expecting from the complete package?
“The most important thing is to get confirmation that our development is on the right track. Indications from the past few Grands Prix are positive and we hope the same will apply this weekend. We have to consider that, more than ever this year, development is aimed at the following season. All the same, we still expect to see a performance improvement with the SF1000: it would be very useful to at least find ourselves heading the group of cars and drivers currently fighting within just a few tenths for places four and lower. Only a couple of times this year have we been able to fight for a place in the sun on the second or third row and our aim between now and December is to be consistently fighting for those places. But then, precisely because this part of the grid is so close, it takes hardly anything to find yourself fourth or twelfth, but that’s all part of the game.”
If we look ahead to next year and the changes to the regulations announced in recent months, what areas do you think offer the greatest chance of improving performance?
“With the proviso that each team has its own design philosophy, our belief is that the rear end offers the biggest margin for improvement. I say that not just because it’s the area of the car where pretty significant changes have been introduced in the technical regulations, but also we believe that because of the way our car is laid out, we could really make significant progress. That’s why we’ve decided to spend our two tokens allowed in the rules, in this very area. Because next year, it will not be permitted to modify all the basic components of the car, but only some and the FIA sets a token allocation for each of them, with all teams having two tokens available.”
And there will also be further limitations on the number of hours that can be spent testing in the wind tunnel.
“Yes, that’s correct, which meant the work we are doing now is even more important. It is essential that we know the concepts we are working on now are the right one, so as not to lose time in 2021. From next year on, the number of hours available will be in inverse proportion to a team’s position in the previous year’s Constructors’ classification: the higher placed you are, the less time you are given. The difference won’t be huge, but in Formula 1, each minute of testing, be it on track, on the test bed or in the wind tunnel, is precious. However, I’m not joking when I say our aim is to make up ground this year. When we look at the standings, seeing ourselves down in sixth place hurts and we are well aware that it is not a position worthy of Ferrari. We absolutely want to improve, for us and for our fans who still support us with passion, even at difficult times like the ones we are going through now.”
GP contested 1002
Seasons in F1 71
Debut Monaco 1950 (Alberto Ascari 2nd; Raymond Sommer 4th; Luigi Villoresi DNF)
Wins 238 (23.75%)
Pole positions 228 (22.75%)
Fastest laps 254 (25.34%)
Podiums 772 (77.04%)
FERRARI STATS PORTUGUESE GP
GP entered 16
Debut 1958 (Mike Hawthorn 2nd; Wolfgang von Trips 5th)
Wins 2 (12,50%)
Pole positions 3 (18.75%)
Fastest laps 4 (25%)
Podiums 9 (56.25%)
Portuguese GP Facts & Figures
1. The number of test sessions Scuderia Ferrari completed at the Portimao circuit. The Maranello squad spent three days there along with McLaren, from 15 to 17 December 2008. Driving for the Scuderia were Luca Badoer, Felipe Massa and Marc Gene. They covered a total of 233 laps in an F2008, the quickest being a 1’30”163 set by Badoer.
3. The circuits that have previously hosted a Portuguese Grand Prix as a round of the Formula 1 World Championship, making Portimão the fourth. The race was held at Estoril 13 times, on two different layouts; the Oporto street circuit was used twice, including the first one in 1958, while in 1959, the race was run in Lisbon on a track in the Monsanto park.
5. The number of Portuguese drivers who have started at least one Formula 1 GP. The most successful was Tiago Vagaroso Monteiro who finished third in the 2005 United States Grand Prix, behind Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Only the Bridgestone runners took part, namely Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi. Tiago, who competed in 37 GPs, was at the wheel of a Jordan EJ15 to beat his team-mate, the Indian Narain Karthikeyan. The only other Portuguese to score points was Pedro Lamy, who finished sixth in Australia in 1995 for Minardi. Mario Araujo de Cabral took part in four races, without any memorable results, but he was the first Portuguese driver to race in his home Grand Prix in 1959. Pedro Matos Chaves failed to qualify 14 times in 1991 with Coloni and Casimiro de Oliveira, brother of film director Manoel, pulled out before taking to the track for the 1958 edition.
87”987. The seconds and thousandths of the Formula 1 lap record at Portimão, set on 21 January 2009 by Sebastien Buemi in a Ferrari-powered Scuderia Toro Rosso. The Swiss also holds the record for Portimão at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve: 352.9 km/h.
1951. The year of the first Portuguese Grand Prix, originally for closed-wheel cars. It was held at Oporto and the winner was Casimiro de Oliveira in a privately entered Ferrari 340 America. The number of Ferrari wins in the Portuguese Grand Prix, including non-championship events is seven. In 1952, Eugenio Castellotti won in a 225 S entered by Scuderia Guastalla (with Ferraris making a clean sweep of the top six,) while the following year the winner was José Nogueira Pinto in a 250 MM. In 1954 it was the turn of José Froilàn Gonzalez in a 750 Sport. In 1964, Englishman Chris Kerrison won at the wheel of a 250 GT, while in 1989 and 1990, Ferrari won with Gerhard Berger and Nigel Mansell respectively.
This week in our history
21/10. It was the final round of the 2007 season, the Brazilian Grand Prix. Kimi Räikkönen was crowned champion and Scuderia Ferrari retook the constructors’ title for the first time in three years. It had been a memorable season, in which Lewis Hamilton was in the ascendant, but above all, it is remembered for the Finn’s fightback in his debut year with Ferrari, while Felipe Massa did a perfect job to help clinch both championships. The Brazilian handed the lead in his home race to Kimi, which gave him enough points to turn things round and take the title. Going into the race, Hamilton was on 107, Fernando Alonso 103, Raikkonen 100. Come the end of the afternoon, Kimi was on top of the world, having clinched the title by a single point.
22/10. At the 2006 Brazilian GP, Michael Schumacher produced one of the most spectacular drives of his career in his last appearance at the wheel of a Ferrari. He started down in tenth place, after a mechanical problem in qualifying and got into a scrap with Giancarlo Fisichella. They collided and the Ferrari man had to complete almost an entire lap on three wheels. He rejoined last and produced a brilliant drive: he lapped at qualifying pace which no one could match, gaining seconds with each passing lap. He gradually overtook them all including Kimi Räikkönen, who would replace him the next year at Maranello, whom he passed with a surgically precise move with two laps remaining. Felipe Massa won in the other Ferrari, which clearly delighted the home crowd. But all eyes were on Michael who said his (temporary) farewells to Formula 1 in the best possible fashion.
23/10. In 2005, Rubens Barrichello enjoyed the cheers of the crowd at the Finali Mondiali at Mugello, as he wore Ferrari red for the final time. With Scuderia Ferrari, the Brazilian won nine times, took 11 poles and finished on the podium 55 times, playing a key role in securing five Constructors’ titles.
24/10. Mike Hawthorn dominated the 1954 Spanish Grand Prix in the 553, taking his second win for Ferrari after the one in France the previous year. He finished over a minute ahead of Luigi Musso in a Maserati and a lap in front of Juan Manuel Fangio in a Mercedes. The Englishman would go on to take a third win in the 1958 French GP in a Ferrari 246 F1, to clinch that year’s world title.
25/10. In 1970, Scuderia Ferrari secured a splendid one-two in the Mexican Grand Prix, courtesy of Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni. The race ended in frightening circumstances however, after the start had been delayed by over an hour, after many of the 200,000 fans had broken the flimsy catch fencing and were standing dangerously close to the side of the track. Repairs were carried out but, lap after lap, as the race drew to a close, the fans once again moved onto the grass next to the track. Ickx took the chequered flag clearly the winner and there followed a track invasion as fans celebrated the Belgian’s win. It meant that second and third placed Regazzoni and Denis Hulme and in fact the rest of the field had to face a scary slalom through the crazy fans.