Five talking points from the Portuguese Grand Prix

A so-so race at a new track as a new record is created and one of the greatest laps you will ever see was ignored. Let’s get to it.

Congratulations Lewis
Despite my entry two weeks ago seemingly denouncing Lewis Hamilton and his record achievement of equalling Michael Schumacher’s 91 wins, I can’t deny the brevity of achievement that is reaching the new record tally of 92 wins.

It’s a number that none of us Formula One fans would ever have imagined possible when we saw Schumacher win that final race of his career at China in 2006, and one that even ten years ago seemed more likely to perhaps go to another German, rather than Hamilton.

But putting everything I have said about Hamilton’s achievement aside, the guy is a machine. A consistent machine who is able to get the most out of a very very good car week after week. And no Formula One fan I think can deny him his due.

If there was to be a Mount Rushmore of Formula One stars, he would easily be featured. And his record-breaking achievement at Algarve only solidifies that fact.

So congratulations Lewis. I take my hat off to you.

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(Photo by Dan Istitene/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Kimi’s epic opening lap
The driver of the day that is voted on each race weekend is a bit of a gimmick, I get it. And it’s something that I have never really taken seriously since Sergey Sirotkin took out a random driver of the day award back at Abu Dhabi in 2018.

But how on earth did Kimi Raikkonen not get driver of the day this weekend after THAT opening lap that will rank as one of the greatest of all time.

Starting 16th, Kimi made his way up all the way to sixth, after overtaking ten cars on the first lap. Ayrton Senna at Donnington in 1993 on the opening lap, regarded as the greatest lap ever in Formula One, only overtook five cars.

Sure, he started further up the grid and he overtook the only cars ahead of him, but wanted to place some context there to make his opening lap sound even more incredible, especially given it came in an Alfa Romeo, a team that has only managed five points all season.

Sure, the lap wasn’t really revealed to after the race, and Sergio Perez did drive a great race to go from last to the points after being spun on the opening lap.

But I think the fact that people saw a certain Kimi Raikkonen in sixth after lap one after starting 16th was proof in the pudding enough that clearly something epic happened with him.

Overall, the first lap of the race was arguably one of the most entertaining opening laps of recent times, with action aplenty happening everywhere. It’s just a shame the remainder of the race didn’t quite stay that way.

Portugal should return
80 per cent of the race aside where limited overtaking happened, Algarve served up a pretty decent show for both the fans and drivers. Low grip, exceeded track limits, rain, a country that hasn’t seen Formula One action in 24 years.

Everything was there and for the most part, Portugal delivered. Every driver spoke praises of the circuit, and clearly the fans who were allowed there lapped it up.

It’s more than likely a one off return for Portugal when the calendar eventually returns to normal, but if F1 is looking to continue to expand the calendar then let’s include Portugal back on the list of races we go to each year.

Silly season in overdrive
We’re only five months away from the start of the 2021 F1 season and there are still eight seats up for grabs on the grid next season.

Considering how deep we are into the season, that’s quite incredible to see as generally by now, most of the seats have been decided. And with the news that Haas will have a completely new line-up next year, it makes things even juicer.

A whole article can be done on how the grid will look next year, but in brief terms, there will be a lot of movement and intrigue into just how it will play out.

The grid is waiting on the big two teams and just what will happen next year, with a seat up for grabs at both Mercedes and Red Bull.

Now in saying that, nobody expects Lewis Hamilton to not be at Mercedes next year, but he doesn’t have a contract for 2021 so technically speaking there is a seat available. But unless he drops a retirement bombshell or switches teams to Red Bull, he will be at Mercedes in 2021, so the key discussion point here remains the Austrian team.

Alex Albon struggled again in Portugal and finished in 12th, and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted during the week that if they don’t keep Albon, they will look outside the Red Bull family for a driver.

With his form continuing to drop, Albon will have to pull a rabbit out of his hat in the final five races of the season to remain there, which places Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez in the box seat for next year.

Then after that there are double vacancies at Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri and of course Haas. If Hulkenberg or Perez get the Red Bull seat, the other who misses out may miss out on a seat in F1 altogether.

Albon would surely slip back to Alpha Tauri if he loses his seat with Pierre Gasly expected to remain, putting Kvyat out of the job. Alfa Romeo look likely to retain both their drivers based on whispers in the paddock over the weekend, although either Perez or Hulkenberg could replace Antonio Gioinazzi who remains an uncertainty.

After their bombshell of dumping both Magnussen and Grosjean, strong rumours around the paddock seem to suggest Haas will go with a completely rookie line-up, with F2 drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin being scouted.

So expect a lot of movement and news over seats to come in the final five races.

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(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Stroll Struggles, Latifi still there
It definitely wasn’t a good week to be a fan of Canadian F1 drivers this week. Fresh from missing the last race in Germany, Lance Stroll revealed he had contracted coronavirus between races.

He was still able to race in Portugal but didn’t look himself all weekend.

This culminated with a fairly clumsy incident with Lando Norris during the race which lead to two penalties and eventually Racing Point retiring him from the race.

That’s now four races in a row without a point to Lance, who before that streak was sitting in fourth place in the championship. Five races to go to get back into the swing of things.

For Latifi? Well, he wasn’t last again. 18th to be precise. So that’s as good as will get for him and what I can say about him this weekend.

We’re right back into it next weekend as we return to Imola for the first time since 2006. And I know that is right this time around!

As someone who has always enjoyed the Imola circuit, I look forward to seeing cars return to anger there next week. Bring it on!

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here

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