After a commanding victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has now broken F1’s all-time win record, surpassing Michael Schumacher. The first race at Portimao was a generally enjoyable one and some early rain injected a bit of excitement, but it will ultimately be remembered for as the track where the British driver claimed this most prestigious of records outright.
It wasn’t a good start for the six-time world champion. After a drizzle-hit opening lap, Hamilton dropped down to third, ceding the advantage to his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz. The Mercedes both struggled on medium tyres against Sainz’s softs, but once they were up to temperature, they soon dispatched him and it became a race between the two of them. Hamilton kept setting new records for the fastest lap as he closed in on the Finn, eventually taking the lead on the first turn of lap 20.
From then, it was fairly academic, with pit stops failing to shake up the front. Hamilton’s lead grew and grew, and a spot of cramp over the closing seven laps was the only issue he faced. He crossed the finish line 25.5 seconds ahead of the second-placed Bottas, a dominant showing on a historic day. He climbed from his car after the race and enjoyed a long embrace with his father Anthony, who was vital in supporting the champion’s career in its early days. The tears in his dad’s eyes said it all.
Max Verstappen was impressive, and he put in an impressive third-place finish, recovering well after a first-lap collision with Sergio Perez that dropped him down to fifth. Charles Leclerc also struggled with medium tyres on the opening laps, but eventually came in fourth, and the top five was rounded out by Pierre Gasly. Kudos must go to Perez, who came from the back after his collision and a subsequent spin to achieve an impressive seventh place.
It was a very unhappy weekend for Alex Albon, whose 12th-place finish will do little to convince team boss Christian Horner to keep his seat for 2021. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll had picked up a number of penalties for exceeding track limits and a collision with Lando Norris, and he eventually became the race’s only DNF on lap 54, his fourth successive failure to start or finish since Monza.
Despite a strong appearance in qualifying, George Russell failed to get into the points, coming 14th, and his future is similarly in doubt at Williams.
I really owe it all to these guys for their teamwork, continually innovating and pushing the barrier even higher each year
– Lewis Hamilton
After the win, Hamilton said: “It was all about tyre temperatures today. We chose the medium and I felt the set-up was good, but going into turn seven we had a huge oversteer. I didn’t know what would happen next, so I backed off, let Max go through and hoped to come back later on.”
He praised Mercedes as he broke Schumacher’s record: “I really owe it all to these guys for their teamwork, continually innovating and pushing the barrier even higher each year.”
Bottas said: “The opening lap was pretty good, some cars behind with the soft tyre had the upper hand but I was really pleased I could get the lead but after that, I just had no pace today. I don’t understand why. I tried to defend but Lewis was close but there was nothing really to do. Like I said, I don’t know why I was off the pace today. I was pushing hard. I should’ve gone faster.”
Verstappen said: “It was very low grip at the start. I tried to stay out of trouble but had a touch with Sergio Perez. He didn’t give me enough space so he took himself out. I did my own race after that. Once on the medium tyre I had good pace but the gap was already so big, we couldn’t do anything. On a hard tyre it was not amazing, the medium definitely was the best, but if we had started on the medium we would have lost time on the hards, so overall the finish was where we deserved.”
Next weekend, F1 will return to Imola in Italy for the first time since 2006. The drivers are excited for the track, and it normally delivers a good race, so this will be one to watch. If Lewis Hamilton wins here, it will put him one race away from clenching the 2020 world champion title – it feels like a foregone conclusion but, if it’s not going to be the case, the fightback will have to begin at Imola.