Lewis Hamilton scored a record 92nd Formula 1 victory at a canter at the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Briton took the checkered flag a comfortable 25s ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.
Hamilton’s only trouble came in the opening laps of the race, when a sprinkling of rain created early chaos on the already slippery track.
His getaway was clean, but immediately behind him Max Verstappen — starting third on the soft tire — executed a perfect start to slice past Bottas, who was launching from the dirty side of the grid with the medium tire.
The Finn muscled his way back past through Turn 3, the move putting Verstappen off the road. As he rejoined at Turn 4 he came together with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, spinning the Mexican off the track.
Poleman Hamilton came under attack from Bottas, who was doing a better job of generating temperature in his medium tires. He jumped the Briton, who was losing momentum and falling into the clutches of the chasing pack.
Carlos Sainz had made great progress from seventh on the grid on his grippy soft tires and was bearing down on the top three. He cut past Verstappen and picked off the stumbling Hamilton by the end of the first lap before taking the lead off Bottas on Lap 2.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 25, 2020
The McLaren’s soft tires were well up to temperature, allowing the Spaniard to pull away from his Mercedes pursuers, but by Lap 5 the medium compound had warmed into its operating window and Bottas was filling Sainz’s mirrors.
On Lap 6 the Finn resumed the lead. Hamilton took second on the following tour before Verstappen returned to third on Lap 8.
The top three held station but by Lap 13 Verstappen was complaining his left-front tire was beginning to flag. Hamilton radioed similarly to his pit wall, although the Mercedes showed few signs of wear.
Verstappen dropped off the pace but Hamilton kept Bottas in his sights and by Lap 19 he was looking for a way past his teammate. His opportunity came on Lap 20 with an easy DRS-assisted pass into the first turn.
Bottas had no answer to Hamilton’s pace. Powerless to prevent the gap from widening, the Finn focused on keeping his tires alive and responding to overheating warnings on his dash.
Verstappen stopped on Lap 23 but was too far back to make an impression on the leaders. Mercedes opted not to respond, instead radioing its drivers to extend to safeguard against the risk of rain.
It wasn’t until Laps 40 and 41 respectively that Hamilton and Bottas made their stops. The gap grew to more than 10 seconds in the aftermath, which Hamilton comfortably stretched to 25.5s in the flag to record a record 92nd victory.
“I owe it all to these guys [Mercedes] here and back at the factory for their tremendous work,” he said. “It’s just been such a privilege working with them.
“It’s going to take some time for it to sink in.
Bottas was mystified by his defeat, the largest of the season so far.
“I just had no pace today,” he admitted. “I don’t understand why, but no pace. I was pushing hard but couldn’t go faster.”
The Finn is now 77 points adrift of the championship lead with five rounds remaining.
Verstappen drove another quiet race to secure third, taking the flag 8.9s behind Bottas but well ahead of the rest of the field.
“I just tried to keep the car on the track once everything stabilized,” he said. “Once I went onto the medium tires we had good pace, but by then the gap was already so big we couldn’t really do anything.”
Charles Leclerc finished a heartening fourth for Ferrari. The Monegasque was one of qualifying’s top performers to start fourth, and his midfield-topping fourth at the flag was validation for the upgrades brough to the SF1000 in recent races.
The battle for fifth came down to the final three laps, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly snatching the place from Perez at the end of a herculean recovery drive by the Mexican.
Perez had risen from last at the end of the first lap to hold fifth when he came under fire from Gasly on Lap 63. By then his soft tires were no match for the Frenchman’s mediums, and although they sparred at the end of the DRS zone on Lap 63 — the stewards put Perez under post-race investigation for dangerously moving in the braking zone in defense — the move was a formality on the following tour.
By now Perez’s tires were ailing badly, and on the final lap of the race he was demoted to seventh by Carlos Sainz, who relieved him of sixth place in another DRS-assisted pass.
Esteban Ocon ran a mammoth 53 of 66 laps on the medium tire to rise from 12th at the end of the first lap to fifth before making his stop. He fell to eighth ahead of Renault teammate Daniel Ricciardo upon rejoining but couldn’t use the soft tire to make any forward progress from there.
Ricciardo finished only 0.6s behind his teammate but came under fire from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel late in the race, though the German couldn’t close to within DRS range to give himself a chance of a pass, settling instead for the final point of the race in 10th.
Kimi Raikkonen finished 11th after a sizzling first two laps that had him rise from 16th to sixth. His Alfa Romeo wasn’t up to the task of holding position, however, and he slipped inexorably out of the points thereafter
Alex Albon ended a disappointing 12th after losing six places from sixth on the grid on the opening lap, from where a two-stop strategy couldn’t extricate him. The Thai driver, who is at risk of losing his 2021 Red Bull Racing seat, was also lapped by teammate Verstappen late in the race.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished 13th after being forced into an unscheduled second stop for a slow puncture.
Williams driver George Russell led Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi over the line ahead of Haas teammates Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Nicholas Latifi finished 18th ahead of Daniil Kvyat.
Lance Stroll was the race’s only retirement after a scrappy race that had him thrice penalized five seconds — once for a crash with Lando Norris and twice for exceeding track limits.