F1 Driver Ratings: Portuguese GP

Assessing and rating the stars of the show on F1’s entertaining return to Portugal and the drivers who endured more downs than ups on the fast Portimao rollercoaster

Last Updated: 27/10/20 6:45pm

92 Formula 1 victories and counting. When looking back on Lewis Hamilton’s career, it’ll be performances like this that should be remembered as vintage Lewis. No, his weekend didn’t include raw speed from the outset – Valtteri Bottas was faster in all three practice sessions and for much of qualifying – nor the swashbuckling race overtakes that earned many of his wins during his younger years, but bar a chaotic opening lap, Hamilton was error-free, calm and composed despite an early deficit, and absolutely unrelenting, machine-like, in both the pursuit of his team-mate and the subsequent demolishing of the field.

Hamilton claimed his most dominant victory of a dominant season as he eventually won by a whopping 25 seconds – meaning he was on average over 0.5s-per lap faster than Bottas in the same car after his lap-19 overtake – and credited a clever setup change to manage tyre temperatures through the sporadic light rain. Another string to the bow of a driver who, while almost 36, continues to improve rather than show signs of weakness.

Lewis Hamilton: My Race

Watch a special in-depth interview with F1’s six-time champion on Sky Sports News on Friday from 9.30am.

His contract might be up soon, but Hamilton will surely be here to stay to continue what has been an utterly remarkable Mercedes journey, with a century of wins and a seemingly inevitable seventh world championship (77 points clear with five races to go) his next big targets. Not as if he needs the extra motivation in this form.
Rating out of 10: 9.5

Groundhog Day on Groundhog Weekend for Valtteri Bottas. He had looked the faster Mercedes through practice yet again suffered that familiar sting in the tail in the final stage of qualifying. The wrong side of a tenth of a second against Hamilton for the umpteenth time this year.

For the second race in a row Valtteri also led his team-mate through the race’s early stages, the first of the Mercedes driver’s to end Carlos Sainz’s brief run at the head of the field.

But unlike the fortnight before at the Nurburgring, there was no obvious mistakes nor any mechanical misfortune to point to this time, Bottas was just plain outpaced and outdrove by Hamilton. The stopwatch doesn’t lie in this instance and, in the context of how the weekend had started, this was a big Sunday defeat for Valtteri.
Rating out of 10: 7.5

“Everybody loves winning, that’s why we are here, but if it’s not possible, it’s not possible. I just want to look back when I’m 40 or 50, look at myself in the mirror and say did you get the most out of yourself? If you can say yes, then I’m happy about that.”

Max Verstappen both summed up being a high-level sportsperson and his 2020 season rather perfectly here – and he is certainly getting the most out of his 2020.

While Verstappen wasn’t a threat in the race as he would have hoped, he was just 0.2s off pole in a car which is quite clearly not a match to the Mercedes and still took up his usual position of the Silver Arrows’ only threat from third on Sunday. That not good enough for you? Well, he lapped team-mate Alex Albon, too.

On the podium this season in every race he has finished, there really is not much more you could ask of Verstappen.
Rating out of 10: 9

Amid Ferrari’s worst year for almost four decades, Charles Leclerc has been phenomenal at times this season. Portugal was perhaps the best example so far. A brilliant lap took him to fourth in qualifying, just three tenths away from the second Mercedes on the front row. He followed up on it in the race too as one of only three cars not to be lapped by the dominant Hamilton.

Like the Mercs, Leclerc lost ground at the start on his slow-to-warm-up medium tyres, but kept his head and plotted his way back from eighth at the end of the second lap once the grip kicked in.

Leclerc has scored 80 per cent of Ferrari’s points in 2020. Incredible as it is to say given there’s a four-time world champion in the other car, just how bad would it have been for the Prancing Horse if it wasn’t for their 23-year-old rising superstar this year?
Rating out of 10: 9.5

Pierre Gasly has been one of the top performers of 2020 and he secured his second best result of the season – behind that incredible Monza win – at Portimao with a display which, even though Red Bull are reticent to re-promote him, has surely strengthened his case for a seat.

This was a complete weekend from Gasly, dominating his team-mate in qualifying to secure ninth on the grid and he was then absolutely flying in his opening soft-tyre stint in the race while midfield rivals around him struggled. As well as overtaking Daniel Ricciardo and both McLarens, Gasly also ran longer than most and that set it him up very nicely for a late charge. He skilfully bided his time – avoiding a crash after Sergio Perez’s questionable defending – before launching around the outside of Turn One with just two laps remaining. Magnifique.

“I think at the moment I’m working well, and I’ve scored more points in this team than any driver in the past,” Gasly told Sky F1. “Hopefully I will get a reward at some point.”

Rating out of 10: 9.5

Carlos Sainz certainly stayed true to his words in his incredible lead-wrestling start to the Portuguese GP. “I was trying to enjoy those conditions, embrace them and try to hassle the car around a bit to get the tyres to work,” explained the McLaren driver, who ran at the head of an F1 race for just the second time.

The lead McLaren on the grid again, seventh at the lights became fifth coming out of the first corner, which became fourth by turn four, which became third by turn nine and then, almost immediately, second ahead of Hamilton by turn 10. Another five corners into lap two and he was leading the whole field.

If Sainz’s stay at the front was ultimately brief – four laps, before the superior pace of the Mercedes’ and soft-tyre graining on his McLaren told – it represented a unforgettable start and meant he certainly deserved the late push that got him ahead of Perez for sixth on the final lap.
Rating out of 10: 8

Only two drivers have finished in the points in every race they have started this season: Lewis Hamilton, and Sergio Perez. And while the Mexican’s run of fourth-placed finishes is over, this was another drive that showed his F1 career certainly shouldn’t be.

Who knows where Perez would have finished if he hadn’t had that collision with Verstappen on Lap One – you’d suspect a lot higher than seventh as he showed storming pace after the early pit-stop. He would still have fancied his chances at fifth after stopping for the soft tyre late on, although, like many others before him, struggled on that compound and even with some aggressive defending couldn’t stop Gasly and Sainz getting past.

But that shouldn’t take away from a brilliant recovery from the very back of the pack, and Perez will surely fancy his chances of snagging a 2021 seat. Maybe even at Red Bull.
Rating out of 10: 9

Portugal was just the second time when both Renaults had finished the race this season that Esteban Ocon had beaten Daniel Ricciardo. In other weekends recently such a feat would have resulted in more than an eighth place, but the RS20 found the going tougher around slippery and undulating Portimao.

So Ocon could be happy to at least come up on top, particularly having started one place behind Ricciardo on the grid after another qualifying defeat (even if this one was narrow). An opening stint of 53 laps – just 13 fewer than the race distance – brought the Frenchman into points play after a decent start.
Rating out of 10: 7.5

After capping a wonderful run of form with a podium at the Nurburgring, Daniel Ricciardo and Renault came back down to earth somewhat in Portugal – with this his worst result since August. Ricciardo scraped into Q3 but then missed the final shootout after an end-of-Q2 spin, and while he would have had his hopes up after a good start to Sunday’s race, he soon lost ground with the Ferrari and AlphaTauri both passing him.

It was a rather quiet day for him after that, unable to catch those ahead but never really under pressure from 10th and below. He finished behind Ocon for the first time since Silverstone, although is 11-1 up for the season in terms of qualifying results.
Rating out of 10: 7

Back in the points but only just for Sebastian Vettel here, who took his tally for the last six events to a meagre two with his fourth 10th-place finish of a forgettable season. Practice had looked more promising here, but it still gave way to a disappointing 15th on grid – an eye-watering 11 places behind team-mate Leclerc – and a race in which he was once more regularly battling Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo, who he overtook with a dozen laps to go.
Rating out of 10: 6

Out of the points

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular opening lap in Formula 1 than Kimi Raikkonen’s at Portimao, with the 41-year-old weaving his way through the field – passing a car at almost every corner – as if he was playing a computer game with the difficulty on easy.

“Honestly I thought at one point ‘what are the others doing?’,” admitted Kimi, who found himself up in sixth from 16th on the grid.

It was an uphill battle from there, passed by faster midfield cars, but he was still in contention for points until the closing laps, losing 10th to Vettel eventually. But still, a decent display for F1’s other big 2020 record-breaker, who looks likely to remain at Alfa Romeo for 2021.
Rating out of 10: 8

On the weekend that Red Bull publicly said that Alex Albon effectively had two races to secure his seat for 2021, this was clearly not the result he needed to begin a crucial fortnight. Qualifying behind both Leclerc and Perez for sixth wasn’t a great way to build confidence and then, once more, the race start itself on Sunday put dropped Albon into a whole world of trouble. Switched to a two-stop strategy in the hope of turning the afternoon around but it just never recovered.
Rating out of 10: 5

Lando Norris, up in fourth early on after McLaren’s remarkable start, was running nicely in seventh before his race was – in Lando’s words – “ruined” by Lance Stroll. Norris sustained damage to his McLaren after Stroll’s clumsy-looking attempt around the outside of Turn One, and a slow-puncture on his next stint all-but-ended his hopes of a top-10 finish. Norris – who on Tuesday apologised for comments about Stroll and Lewis Hamilton – has never gone four races without a point in F1, so he’ll hope to bounce back at Imola.
Rating out of 10: 6.5

“Our best race so far!” said George Russell who was delighted to find himself ahead of five other finishers at the end of a very strong Portimao weekend. An appearance in Q2 is almost taken for granted now for the Williams man, but Sunday was a race that also delivered for him with the Englishman able to race and finished in the area of the midfield he started. He’s still going to be on the grid in 2021, surely?
Rating out of 10: 9

A distant 15th and never in points contention, Antonio Giovinazzi also had the added woe of a broken Alfa Romeo radio from Lap One onwards. Talk about a lonely race.
Rating out of 10: 6

With both drivers leaving the team at the end of the season, and both insisting Haas now have the slowest car on the grid, the American team have little to lose in terms of race strategies at the moment and Kevin Magnussen was the only driver to start Sunday on the hard tyre. “We were going for luck, hoping for rain, a safety car, red flag or virtual safety car – something like that,” he admitted. It didn’t pay off, but still a solid race from K-Mag, who should have a decent racing career after 2020 even if that isn’t in F1.
Rating out of 10: 6

Beating his team-mate is about all Romain Grosjean can aim for at the moment and he did so in qualifying, tying the head-to-head at 6-6. The race wasn’t quite as good.
Rating out of 10: 6

Almost a second off his team-mate over one lap in qualifying and half a minute off his team-mate in the race, this wasn’t Nicholas Latifi’s finest weekend at Williams.
Rating out of 10: 5

“Sometimes you have good races and sometimes you have bad ones, and today was a bad one for me.”

You can say that again, Daniil Kvyat. The Russian dropped to 19th on the opening lap and simply never recovered, finishing as one of two drivers to be lapped twice by the race winner. Considering Gasly’s result, this was a pretty wretched day for Kvyat, who looks likely to lose his seat.
Rating out of 10: 4.5

Did Not Finish

Now that’s what you call a tough weekend back at the office. Besieged by questions on Thursday about the timelines and diagnosis around his contracting of coronavirus, involved in a crash with Max Verstappen in practice on Friday, knocked out in Q2 on Saturday, and then penalised by stewards in the race on Sunday for both a crash with Lando Norris and track limits. It all added up to a third consecutive DNF for Lance Stroll, who needs to rediscover the early momentum of his season.
Rating out of 10: 4.5

Source : Sky Sports