Hamilton wary of Verstappen’s soft tyre advantage at start

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Mercedes have locked out the front row of the grid as usual, and while they’re going to be hard to beat, there are a lot of unknowns about F1’s first race at Autodromo do Algarve which could produce a lively grand prix.

How well will the tyres perform over a race distance? It’s hard to say, as the recently-resurfaced track is gripping up quickly and Friday’s practice session was disrupted, yielding little data on long runs.

What will be the best tyre for the race? Unexpectedly the hard tyre performed well on Friday, but the track surface has cleaned up a lot since then. Nonetheless, whether the drivers start on softs or mediums, the option of taking the hard tyre when they pit and running to the end looks realistic.

Moreoever, the normal mechanics of F1 race strategy may not entirely apply due to the very low-grip nature of the track. Fresh tyres may not offer an immediate advantage, making the ‘undercut’ effect less powerful.

The drivers’ choice of tyres could also have an important bearing on the start. Among the top four drivers on the grid, only third-placed Max Verstappen will start on the soft tyres. He will also enjoy the benefit of a starting position on the racing line which, given how new and green this track surface is, may convey a considerable advantage over second-placed Bottas.

Hamilton is concerned Verstappen’s advantage might last beyond just the run to the first corner. “I think it’s going to be a very tricky race, particularly when you’ve got the harder tyre,” he said. “It doesn’t really work for several laps.

“It’s going to be interesting at the beginning. Obviously we lose a little bit of performance to Max and the guys behind on the softs. I really don’t know what to expect.”

If there’s even half a chance to get in among the Mercedes drivers at the start, Verstappen will go for it – after all, he doesn’t have a championship to worry about.

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The lack of past F1 races at this track makes it hard to judge the likelihood of Safety Car disruptions. But given the challenging surface and the number of spins we’ve seen so far, there’s a more than reasonable chance the race won’t run green from start to finish.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Autodromo do Algarve, 2020
An off-line start on mediums could be tricky for Leclerc
An early Safety Car will surely prompt the field to switch to hard tyres and try to eke them out to the finish. But exactly how a Safety Car restart plays out at this track will be interesting to observe. As at Mugello, where carnage broke out, it’s a long, fast run to the start/finish line.

“Restarts will be really difficult with the tyres, with the speed that the Safety Car goes, which I won’t comment too much on,” added Hamilton. “It’s going to be a tough race, that’s for sure.”

Like Verstappen, Hamilton will at least have the benefit of starting on the racing line. Starting off-line on medium tyres will be a challenge for Bottas and Leclerc. Sergio Perez, the second-highest soft tyre starter in fifth place, will be eyeing a chance to make gains at the start.

Alexander Albon, sixth on the grid, simply must have a better race than he did two weeks ago in Germany. With his chances of remaining at Red Bull, and possibly his entire F1 future on the line, his team will be expecting him to pull clear of the midfield and join his team mate and the Mercedes pair at the front.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full

DriverCarQ1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’16.8281’16.824 (-0.004)1’16.652 (-0.172)
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’16.9451’16.466 (-0.479)1’16.754 (+0.288)
3Max VerstappenRed Bull1’16.8791’17.038 (+0.159)1’16.904 (-0.134)
4Charles LeclercFerrari1’17.4211’17.367 (-0.054)1’17.090 (-0.277)
5Sergio PerezRacing Point1’17.3701’17.129 (-0.241)1’17.223 (+0.094)
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’17.4351’17.411 (-0.024)1’17.437 (+0.026)
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’17.6271’17.183 (-0.444)1’17.520 (+0.337)
8Lando NorrisMcLaren1’17.5471’17.321 (-0.226)1’17.525 (+0.204)
9Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’17.2091’17.367 (+0.158)1’17.803 (+0.436)
10Daniel RicciardoRenault1’17.6211’17.481 (-0.140)
11Esteban OconRenault1’17.7751’17.614 (-0.161)
12Lance StrollRacing Point1’17.6671’17.626 (-0.041)
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’17.8411’17.728 (-0.113)
14George RussellWilliams1’17.9311’17.788 (-0.143)
15Sebastian VettelFerrari1’17.4461’17.919 (+0.473)
16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’18.201
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’18.323
18Romain GrosjeanHaas1’18.364
19Kevin MagnussenHaas1’18.508
20Nicholas LatifiWilliams1’18.777

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault330.0 (205.1)
2Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari329.6 (204.8)-0.4
3George RussellWilliamsMercedes327.2 (203.3)-2.8
4Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes327.0 (203.2)-3.0
5Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes327.0 (203.2)-3.0
6Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault327.0 (203.2)-3.0
7Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault326.4 (202.8)-3.6
8Esteban OconRenaultRenault326.3 (202.8)-3.7
9Lance StrollRacing PointMercedes326.0 (202.6)-4.0
10Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes325.5 (202.3)-4.5
11Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari325.0 (201.9)-5.0
12Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari324.6 (201.7)-5.4
13Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari324.5 (201.6)-5.5
14Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda323.9 (201.3)-6.1
15Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes323.2 (200.8)-6.8
16Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda323.0 (200.7)-7.0
17Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari322.6 (200.5)-7.4
18Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda319.1 (198.3)-10.9
19Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari317.5 (197.3)-12.5
20Max VerstappenRed BullHonda317.3 (197.2)-12.7

Over to you

Can any stop Lewis Hamilton for taking a record-breaking 92nd career win? Will the first race at Algarve produce some surprises?

Share your views on the Portuguese Grand Prix in the comments.

2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

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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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12 comments on “Hamilton wary of Verstappen’s soft tyre advantage at start”

  1. I hope Verstappen can get passed Bottas quickly and give Hamilton a bit of hurry up. I would think Hamilton is bored with cruising off into the distance unchallenged just as much as Verstappen is running around in 3rd pretty much by himself until he laps someone.

    1. Agreed. Considering that both Mugello and Nurburgring had at least one safety car, I would also expect this race to be at least a bit chaotic, so the apparent best tire strategies may not be as successful as one would think

      1. And do not forget.. There is a chance for rain.
        On this very virgin track a possible chaotic race ahead.
        Maybe with a podium for Stroll :)

  2. somehow i believe if MV challenges LH at the initial stages LH will not risk it. hey may even settle for 2nd in the race if the situation warrants.. he will (and should not) not risk points for a win with a guy like MV who has no issues screwing up others defending or attacking (he has nothing to lose, and with coved LH has everything to lose).

    1. screwing up

      that’s called racing. They are meant to do that.

    2. I would be disapointed if what you say happens. Lewis just sitting back and not challenging VER if he’s ahead? That would contradict his statements about being a bit bored and wanting to race/be challenged.

      But I predict at least one SC. Maybe at the first corner. Too many desperate (Perez, Albon) and frustrated (VER, LEC, SAI) drivers just behind the Mercs.

  3. Can any stop Lewis Hamilton for taking a record-breaking 92nd career win? His teammate or Max, but no one else on pace.
    Will the first race at Algarve produce some surprises? – Maybe, although I hope for a race that wouldn’t have any neutralization for once be it full SC or VSC. The most recent race like this was the Spanish GP, so about time.

  4. Max definitely seems to be in his red mist mode this weekend.
    Be careful LH & VB. Very careful.
    Plan A. Let Max scamper off a little bit then tail him until those softs go off.
    Plan B. Take no prisoners & hope Max overcooks the start.

  5. Go Lewis go!

  6. I’m predicting that Verstappen overtakes Bottas at the start, and then the top 3 run in the same order for the rest of the race. Hope I’m wrong.

  7. Let the games begin! Morituri te salutant.

  8. I just noticed Bottas did the fastest lap of qualy but did not get pole position. Can anyone share some stats about how often that has happened?

Comments are closed.