Grand Prix of Portugal – Qualifying


Two weeks after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola, F1 moves to Portimao in Portugal. The Imola race was another exciting one, and it didn’t end with the chequered flag! The provisional result was: VER, HAM, NOR, LEC, SAI, RIC, STR, GAS, RAI, OCO … but then came the post-race penalties:

  • STR was given a five-second penalty for passing GAS illegally (STR “was not able to complete his pass at Turn 2/3 without leaving the track”, so STR drops from P7 to P8 [formula1.com]
  • RAI received a 30-second penalty; he spun behind the safety car at the red flag restart, rejoined behind HAM (P8) but then reclaimed his position – even the stewards said what he should have done was confusing, but they penalised him none the less, dropping him from P9 to P13 and promoting ALO into the points [formula1.com]
    • So the final result was: VER, HAM*, NOR, LEC, SAI, RIC, GAS, STR, OCO, ALO; PER, TSU, RAI, GIO, VET, SCH, MAZ (*HAM recorded the fastest lap).
      I’ve posted the points standings after Bahrain and Imola; HAM is 1 point ahead of VER, with NOR in third.

      In other news, the Montreal GP has been dropped (due to Canada’s 14-day quarantine rules) and replaced by Turkey; however, Montreal’s contract has been extended by 2 years. [formula1] This is the first calendar change since the pre-season shuffles.

      It was also announced that the controversial (but not with me) Sprint Qualifying format will be run at the British GP and Italian (Monza) GP, with a third event to be announced.

      This weekend is the 27th anniversary of the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. I remember watching Rubens Barrichello’s horrible crash in Friday practice [video] where his Jordan launches off the kerb and hits the top of the tyre wall. Barrichello was apparently dead for six minutes having swallowed his tongue – he was lucky that Professor Sid Watkins was on the scene so quickly. To then see Ratzenberger’s fatal accident in qualifying was terrible – the first driver death in an F1 weekend since Riccardo Paletti at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix. (Elio de Angelis was killed during testing three days after the 1986 Monaco Grand Prix.) There were discussions in the pit lane about safety, led by Senna – he was clearly rattled by such a tragic event. The investigations never did get to the bottom of what caused Senna’s accident; I still remember watching that race, the shock when he went off, the ominous extraction of him from the cockpit and transfer to the helicopter; it was a terrible weekend.

      Williams will honour Captain Sir Tom Moore by aiming to complete 100 pitstops during the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend with help from staff at their factory – as part of the Captain Tom Moore 100 Challenge. The war veteran raised an astonishing amount of money last year for the NHS, and today would have been his 101st birthday.

      Free Practice:

      1. FP1: BOT (1:19.648), VER, PER, LEC, HAM, GAS, RUS, NOR, SAI, OCO
        Callum Ilott has replaced GIO in the Alfa Romeo for FP1
        Green light to mark the start of the session… and almost immediately there’s debris in the pit exit – looks like it’s part of a mirror
        After just a couple of flying laps, 5 drivers have already had their times deleted for exceeding track limits
        Radio from HAM describing his Mercedes as “pretty undrivable right now”
        VET pits but pulls into the McLaren box by mistake; radio from VET, “I’m sorry about that … it had to happen at some point! Ha! I was wondering why there was nobody there!” [video]
        VER complains about vibrations; “What a joke, mate. I can’t even see where I am going”; “Understood, Max. If it’s a safety concern, then we will have to box.”; “I’ll just visit the dentist after the weekend!”
        Looks like MAZ made it through FP1 without spinning!

      2. FP2: HAM (1:19.837), VER, BOT, SAI, ALO, OCO, LEC, RIC, STR, PER
        Start of session delayed by 10mins because a drain cover has come loose in Turn 11
        MAZ locks up, runs wide, nearly collects a Williams
        SCH runs wide at the same spot
        Radio from VER, “BBW [brake-by-wire] failed, what the hell?”; returns to pits
        Looks like the wind is catching a few people out
        SCH sounds flustered on the radio, “Something weird just happened”; “OK, with what?”
        HAM complaining that his “tyres aren’t good”; “OK, copy Lewis. Won’t be long.”

      3. FP3: VER (1:18.489), HAM, BOT, PER, OCO, LEC, SAI, NOR, GAS, RAI
        The Aston Martin pair (VET and STR) are first on track… but return to the pits without setting a time
        MAZ leaves the pits and almost immediately runs wide
        The spinning Haas is SCH for a change
        The timing chart is topped by world champions RAI and ALO
        Virtual Safety Car deployed because the wind has blown some advertising boards over
        HAM runs wide and his lap time is deleted; he then puts in the fastest lap… and then another to improve on that time
        RAI spins his Alfa Romeo
        VER slides off but recovers
        VER goes almost 0.2sec faster than HAM
        Yellow flags as NOR slides off and spins at Turn 14
        MAZ spins at T11, into the gravel, but he digs himself out
        Just as FP3 is coming to an end, Mercedes report there are spots of rain

      The big Quali Question: can HAM take his 100th pole?

      There’s some significant activity in the pits with Quali just 15mins away: Mercedes had to remove the gearbox to fix a sensor issue on BOT’s car; McLaren have been busy fixing an ECU issue on NOR’s car

      Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
      Air temperature 18°C; track 37°C; 42% humidity; the wind has picked up since FP3 (15.5km/h)
      A gaggle of cars leave the pits
      MAZ 1:27.493
      NOR 1:27.433
      STR 1:27.753
      RUS 1:20.712
      VET 1:20.186
      GIO 1.19.963
      NOR 1:19.918
      SAI 1:19.480
      LEC’s time deleted for exceeding track limits
      (VER P2)
      (BOT P2)
      HAM 1:18.726 … but his time is deleted
      SAI 1:19.309
      BOT 1:19.205
      Yellow flags – ALO has spun in Turn 14
      (HAM P5)
      Yellow flags – PER in the gravel at T4
      VER has a moment as he loses power on the straight
      2mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are LAT, TSU, SCH, RUS, MAZ
      NOR 1:18.794
      (HAM P2)
      RUS P12, STR P16
      Chequered flag
      BOT 1:18.722
      TSU P11, OCO P16
      OCO P4, RIC P16
      Back of the grid: RIC, STR, LAT, SCH, MAZ

      NOR P2 but teammate RIC P16 – that’s curious
      Replays show mistakes at Turns 13 and 14 for RIC, and he’s not happy

      Qualifying session 2
      Radio from HAM pointing out there’s lots of traffic
      Most runners appear to be on medium tyres except NOR, GAS and TSU
      SAI 1:19.560
      (BOT P3)
      (NOR P4)
      LEC 1:19.434
      (HAM P5)
      VER 1:19.099
      BOT 1:18.458
      (NOR P2) but he’s on softs
      HAM 1:17.968
      (VER P5)
      Radio from GAS complaining about a lack of front grip
      5mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are RUS, TSU, SAI, GIO, RAI
      Radio from RAI complaining that he’s not being informed about cars closing on him
      SAI P9, ALO P11
      GIO P11
      Chequered flag; bottom 5 are GIO, ALO, RUS, TSU, RAI
      TSU P12 …but his time’s deleted
      RUS P11
      Middle of the grid: RUS, GIO, ALO, TSU, RAI

      Top 10 shootout will be between HAM, BOT, NOR, OCO, VER, LEC, SAI, PER, VET and GAS

      Qualifying session 3
      The garages start to empty as 7 cars head down the pit lane for the start of Q3
      GAS 1:27.535
      NOR P2
      LEC P2
      BOT P4 but that’s a prep lap
      OCO 1:19.482
      NOR 1:19.116
      LEC P2
      VER 1:18.209 but it’s deleted
      BOT 1:18.348
      HAM P2 by 0.007sec
      SAI P3
      PER P3
      VER returns to the pits so he hasn’t yet set a time
      5mins left of Q3; order is BOT, HAM, PER, SAI, NOR, LEC, GAS, OCO, VET, VER
      HAM’s time is 0.4sec slower on softs than his Q2 time on mediums – which compound to use for his final run?
      HAM leaves the pits on mediums, as does BOT
      Radio for BOT telling him the wind has picked up
      It’s only Mercedes who have gone with mediums – the other 8 are on soft
      Radio for NOR telling him VER hasn’t set a time “so don’t do him any favours”
      VER P3
      SAI P5
      Chequered flag
      OCO P6
      BOT doesn’t improve his time
      HAM P2
      VET P10
      Front of the grid: BOT, HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, GAS, RAI

      BOT was the only one to go quicker in Q3 than Q2!

      Interviews:
      BOT: “It’s a good feeling to be on pole. Feels like it’s been a while. It’s been a weak point for me in the first two races. The team have been working hard all weekend and we have a good position for tomorrow.” “Starting with the medium tyre tomorrow is good, and it opens up opportunities that we can go as long as we want in the first stint. We need to focus on the race start and then go from there.”
      HAM: “A great job by Valtteri and our teams for us both to be on the front row, it was not expected. We have to be happy for that, it was not the perfect lap but I gave it everything. You can never be satisfied, we exist to keep moving forward but I’m happy with what we’re doing and the steps we’re taking.”
      VER: “I thought qualifying was very difficult to drive. I was struggling a lot with the grip.” “Of course it’s not ideal but we will try and fight the Mercedes tomorrow in the race. Hopefully everything stabilisers a bit more, because up until now, it’s not been a lot of fun to drive here.”

      Provisional grid: BOT, HAM, VER, PER, SAI, NOR, GAS, RAI, RUS, GIO, ALO, TSU, RAI, RIC, STR, LAT, SCH, MAZ

      [2021 calendar] [2021 line-up]