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Formula One Portugal: Hamilton scores his record 92nd win

Portimão, Portugal, Oct 25/20 (GRW): The big news here in Portugal was that Hamilton won his 92nd F1 race, more than any other Grand Prix driver in history, including Michael Schumacher who had the previous record with 91 wins in his career. It seems without question that Hamilton will go on to clinch the 2020 championship title, tying him with Schumacher for the record number of championships. The debates will continue about who was the greatest F1 driver of all time. In truth, this comparison is hard to make given the different conditions (number of races per year, different rules, different cars, different levels of competition, and so on) but there can be no question that Hamilton has already earned his place as one of the great F1 drivers of all time. And, given his status as an outsider, he has made his own place in the sport and as an example for how the sport must evolve as it goes forward.

Congratulations, Lewis and best wishes for your future success.

The race was held on the Algarve Autodrome located in the south coast tourist region for the first time ever. The number of fans in attendance dwarfed any of the limited-numbers events so far this year. By my rough eyeball count, this race had at least 80 percent attendance – close enough to count as a full house.

The circuit is a 4.7 km twisty road course with 17 turns. It had one long straight past the pits and this was designated as the DRS zone. Indeed, the DRS zone might have been a bit too long; it seemed like it was almost child’s play for anyone who could close to within the one-second rule could get past, making for a lot of passing down the field. In addition, the track owners had opted to repave the track in anticipation of the Grand Prix coming and the pavement was only one month old. New pavement like this can sometimes be problematic, but did not seem to be no such trouble here – at least once things settled in after the first few laps.

The field had lined up with the familiar pattern at the front of the grid – Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc. But when the lights turned, Bottas got ahead of Hamilton as many drivers were struggling for grip. Max Verstappen was one and he slid into Sergio Perez, pushing him off the track. On the second lap, it was Valtteri Bottas ahead of Carlos Sainz (who had started in seventh place on the grid; clearly he was not having the grip issues of some of the others), Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris (up from 8th on the grid), with Verstappen back in fifth place.

Sainz pushed past Bottas on the third lap to take the lead for the next four laps. But by then things were starting to settle out and Sainz soon fell back to fourth behind Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen – a more familiar front-of-field race order. Leclerc had fallen back to eighth at the start but, by lap 12 of the 66-lap race, he had recovered to fourth behind the ‘big three’.

On lap 17, Lance Stroll, who had started in 12th place, had caught up to Norris who was now in seventh place but they collided and Stroll spun off. Both stopped at the pits for attention and Stroll was rewarded with a five-second penalty for his mis-step.

By now, Hamilton had found his pace and he passed Bottas to take over the race lead. Of the front runners, Verstappen pitted early – on lap 23 – letting Leclerc move up to third – but he was far behind the Mercedes duo. By the time Leclerc pitted on lap 34, Verstappen was ready to take over third place again, nearly 50 seconds behind the two black cars at the front of the field. But, even Bottas was a full eight seconds off the pace of his teammate.

The Mercedes pair did not pit until lap 40 and 41 but they were in no risk of losing their places a ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton coming out over 20 seconds ahead of the Dutchman. All these three were able to make the full distance on just the one pit stop each.

Once this single round of tires changes had been completed, the race spooled out to the finish without incident.

Stroll had collected a second five-second penalty for exceeding the track limits too many times. Once he has pitted and served his ten-seconds of penalties, he came out dead last. After many laps trailing around at the back of the field, his team called him in and retired him – perhaps more of a surrender that for any objective problem.

Hamilton won by a huge 26-second margin over his teammate, the largest margin of victory all year. Verstappen and Leclerc trailed in many seconds behind the front two and they were only other two drivers to finish on the lead lap.

PHOTO HAMILTON CROWDThe race winner Hamilton waves to a big crowd after the race (Daimler AG)

Afterwards, Hamilton celebrated with his father and his team. “First, I owe these 92 wins to the team here and back and the factory for their tremendous work. They are continuously innovating and pushing the barrier, even higher every year. It’s been such a privilege working with them and I am so grateful for all the moments. The reliability has been incredible thanks to the Mercedes team, PETRONAS and all our partners who are continuously pushing. No one is sitting back on the success, everyone is pushing and pushing and pushing. That’s the most incredible thing to be surrounded by: it inspires you, that collaboration, and there’s nothing quite like it.

“Everything that we do together, we are all rowing in the same direction and that’s why you’re seeing the success that we’re having. My dad is here which is amazing, my step-mum Linda is here, Roscoe too. I feel very blessed. It’s going to take some time for it to sink in. I was still pushing flat out coming across the line and I am still in race mode mentally. I can’t find the words at the moment.”

• Click HERE for the race results + points standings for the Portugese GP.
• Click HERE for the race’s lap chart
• Click HERE for the tire usage history

• The next Grand Prix will be the Emilia Romagna GP at the Imola circuit in Italy. It will be held next Sunday, November 1st.

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