Who will Haas replace their drivers with? Eight Portuguese GP talking points

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

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As Formula 1 arrives for its first race at Autodromo do Algarve the paddock chatter surrounds the 2021 driver market – and the recent revelation of more positive Covid-19 tests at Racing Point.

Although the track is holding its first grand prix many of the current F1 drivers have driven the circuit before. Will experience prove essential for the circuit known for having several blind corners? And will teams be able to get the most out of the upgrade packages they weren’t all able to run properly at the Nurburgring?

The silly season gets sillier

The 2021 F1 season is increasingly shaping up as one of the busiest on the driver market for a while. We could see as many moves as in the hectic 2018-19 reshuffle.

Today we learned Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are looking for new homes and Haas are looking for new drivers. Intriguingly, at least one of the seats looks likely to go to a rookie.

As covered here previously, Ferrari Driver Academy member Mick Schumacher looks likely to take one seat. There is an outside chance Ferrari may prefer to place him alongside the experienced Kimi Raikkonen to learn from at Alfa Romeo, and move the steadily improving Antonio Giovinazzi sideways to Haas.

Mazepin is in the frame for a promotion to F1
The latter would be a wise move if Haas indeed intends to give the other seat to Formula 2 racer Nikita Mazepin, whose father has been in discussions with the team. Nonetheless Haas team principal Guenther Steiner hasn’t discounted the possibility of running two rookies.

Mazepin secured the runner-up spot in F3 two years ago, and taken a pair of F2 wins this year (and lost one in a bad-tempered event at Spa). The financial backing which comes courtesy of his billionaire father will undoubtedly appeal to Haas.

The vastly more experienced Sergio Perez, who also brings a chunk of backing, could also fit here. But he may not fancy trading the best engine in F1 for the worst, and could spy an opportunity to keep Mercedes power beneath his right foot at Williams.

Youthful advantage

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Autodromo do Algarve, 2009
Hamilton drove hybrid 2008/09 McLaren at Algarve
Last time out at the Nurburgring, it was the older drivers who’d had a chance to experience the track in F1 before. At Portimao, though, with no prior F1 race having run there, it’s the younger drivers who have more experience between them.

Alexander Albon, George Russell, Lance Stroll, Antonio Giovinazzi and Charles Leclerc all raced in Algarve during their European F3 careers and although neither Max Verstappen nor Lando Norris has competed on the track, both have run test days here. Verstappen spent two days at the circuit with a GT3 car this January, to prepare for the 2020 season and Norris did an F1 test at Algarve in 2017, driving the 2011 MP4-26.

Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean also drove the circuit in GP2 and Daniel Ricciardo made his Formula Renault 3.5 debut at the track, in 2009.

Lewis Hamilton is the only driver on the grid to have run during an official F1 session there, at a test in 2009. However, if Nico Hulkenberg is called up to substitute again for any reason, he also drove that test for Williams and won a GP2 feature race at the circuit, sealing that year’s title.

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Covid-19 risks

Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Nurburgring, 2020
Stroll should be back in action this weekend
Following Lance Stroll’s disclosure that he tested positive for Covid-19 after the Eifel Grand Prix, fresh questions have been raised about how well F1’s COVID protocols are working.

The Portuguese circuit was originally set to welcome around 28,000 spectators and host the return of F1’s VIP Paddock Club. A small limitation has been placed on the event, restricting the circuit (which has an official capacity of 90,000) to 27,500 fans per day, all of whom will be seated at spaced intervals and directed to their grandstand without mingling.

Portugal has now passed 100,000 Covid-19 cases (106,271 as of today, with 2,229 deaths) and with cases rising steadily still, the Portuguese prime minister has warned there is a risk of a second lockdown if infection cannot be controlled.

Midfield updates

Racing Point and McLaren both brought substantial upgrade packages to the Eifel Grand Prix but without practice running, weren’t able to maximise their set-up. If this weekend goes ahead more smoothly then the advantage that Renault were able to take at the Nurburgring could be eaten into by their rivals.

All three teams are separated by just six points in the constructors’ standings so a good double-points finish will be their priorities.

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Blind corners

Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota, Autodromo do Algarve, 2009
The Algarve track has some serious elevation changes
Algarve is a very undulating circuit, with plenty of elevation changes to keep drivers occupied with both the track’s challenging bumps and trying to stay aware of where other cars are on track around them.

Albon, who raced on the track in Formula 3, said some of the corners have absolutely no visibility. “At one section of track you go up a hill almost blind where you feel like the car is going to take off and then it suddenly drops down a hill before rising again into a completely blind corner.

“You brake, turn in, and you don’t know where you’re going and then the corner just appears on your right, before dropping down massively again.”

Grid drops

Several drivers have now used their maximum allocation of power unit elements; Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll and Pierre Gasly had used the maximum three internal combustion engines, turbochargers, MGU-K and MGU-H by the start of the Eifel Grand Prix and Lando Norris moved up to equal them after an overnight complete change to the power unit on his car between qualifying and the race.

Norris’ subsequent requirement with power unit issues might bode poorly for his chances of escaping a grid-place drop for additional replacement elements but with him and Ricciardo very close in the standings, any additional reliability issues for either could prove decisive in the fight for fourth place.

The Mercedes drivers will also move up to the maximum allocation on some parts this weekend. However Valtteri Bottas will avoid a grid penalty following his Nurburgring failure unless he encounters further problems.

Championship decider

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2020
It’s a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Mercedes win the teams’ title
It’s a long shot, but the constructors championship could be decided this weekend. Mercedes lead the points standings by 180 points over Red Bull, the only team which could still beat them. If they have a 220-point lead on Sunday evening, they will clinch their seventh constructors’ championship in a row.

To do that they would need to win the race with their second car no lower than third, while Red Bull score almost nothing. That’s not impossible, but it’s more likely they’ll put a lock on the silverware at Imola next weekend.

Hamilton breaking the record he equalled

Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix wins at the Nurburgring; if he wins in Algarve then he will surpass it for the outright most wins of any Formula 1 driver in the history of the sport. Schumacher has held the record since the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix, when he surpassed previous holder Alain Prost.

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Portuguese Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “Who will Haas replace their drivers with? Eight Portuguese GP talking points”

  1. I will be surprised if there are no positive tests from staff at Racing Point.
    Grid drops due to exceeding the PU components allocation might not happen here but I’m positive it will happen in subsequent races.
    Mercedes wont clinch the WCC just yet.
    And of course Mercedes IS the team to beat, although the race win can elude them in the end, but they are the strongest everywhere, there’s no doubt about that.

  2. Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Portuguese Grand Prix? – Mercedes, of course.

    1. that is a sucker bet!

    2. The rest of the big constructors are really rubbish, especially Redbull. All they do is build a chassis and still lose to a team that does double the work.

  3. Perez and Mick have to be the dream team for Haas. One brings bucks and points and the over coverage to die for. Lets hope Mick is more Ayrton than Bruno.

    1. Or in other ways, we sure hope that Mick is a bit like Bruno, meaning the opposite of his uncle ;-)

    2. There is also Illot in waiting so Mick and Illot will be placed in either Sauber or Haas seat.

      1. You think Illot is ahem a shoe in? I hope so. I quite like hotheads in sport, too many robots already

  4. My ideal line-up in terms of realistic options is Pérez and Illot. I really wish Callum gets the seat next year, but it will be thougher since the Russian billions found their way onto the grid again.

  5. It would make sense for everyone if:
    Kimi and Mick – Alfa
    Gio and Mazepin / Latifi * – Haas
    Perez and Russell – Williams

    * or whoever else they want to impose / brings cash

  6. I don’t see previous experience of the track making any difference, at this level. Half a dozen laps and they’ll all know which way it goes and roughly what lines and throttle work. I can’t wait to see some onboards, with all those elevation changes, crests and blind corners.

  7. Checo and Shwartzman at Haas is my prediction.

    1. Same. I read a rumour on a less reputable website that Mazepin snr. cares enough about getting a Russian driver into F1 that he might back Schwartzman if no one is willing to take his son on. Which still leaves an outside chance that all three promising Ferrari young drivers might find a seat next year (if Gio does the honourable thing and moves aside).

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