Portimao: The Ultimate Track Guide

In 2020, the Portuguese Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar for the first time since 1996. Here’s everything you need to know about the Algarve International Circuit!


FIRST F1 RACE 2020
TRACK LENGTH 2.891 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 66
NUMBER OF TURNS 15
MOST POLES Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas (1)
MOST WINS Lewis Hamilton (2)

A HISTORY OF THE PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX

When Formula 1 last raced in Portugal, it did so at the Estoril circuit, located near Lisbon. Estoril was the third circuit to have hosted the Portuguese Grand Prix. The race was first held in 1951, though not as a round of the Drivers’ Championship. From 1951 to 1957, the sportscar race was run at Circuito da Boavista and Circuito de Monsanto. Both tracks would go on to host F1 races, though neither stayed on the calendar for long. Both circuits were undulating and hazardous, with sections running through towns and making use of public roads. Boavista had its pit straight located on a harbour front, before running up a dual carriageway and onto cobbled streets, while Monsanto was much the same and even had the additional challenge of passing over tramlines. Boavista would host two races, in 1958 and 1960, while Monsanto appeared only once, in 1959.

The Portuguese Grand Prix subsequently disappeared from the calendar before returning at Estoril 24 years later. In the interim years, the event had been run three times at the Cascais street circuit. It was run as a sportscar event in 1964, before being opened to Formula 3 cars in 1965 and 1966. The Portuguese Grand Prix made its comeback to the F1 calendar in 1984, twelve years after the Estoril circuit had been opened. The track would remain on the calendar until 1996, by which time it was in need of renovation. Without work undertaken to make the track into a more modern facility, Estoril was removed from the calendar for 1997. The Portuguese Grand Prix was listed on the provisional 1998 calendar, but with building work not completed in time, the event was again removed from the schedule.

PORTIMAO

As a result of calendar changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the sport returns to Portugal for the first time since 1996 in 2020. The relatively new Algarve International Circuit, commonly referred to as Portimao, will be the host for the event’s return. Constructed in 2008, the circuit is located in the south of the country. The complex cost close to $250 million to build, with the financial strain delaying the project by some six years from the project being revealed back in 2002. When building work eventually began, construction took only seven months.

The track’s undulating nature makes it a real challenge for drivers, with corners reminiscent of sections of legendary circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Imola. Max Mosley first gave hope of a revival of the Portuguese Grand Prix in 2009, stating that the Algarve circuit could host a race if a commercial agreement could be reached. By this point, the series had already used the venue for winter testing ahead of the 2009 season. At the end of 2009, F1’s feeder series GP2 visited the track for the final round of the season. The circuit faced financial hardships in the following years, and talk of F1’s return to Portugal amounted to little. The venue recovered from its financial situation with new ownership, and bounced back to host a multitude of racing series.

Formula 1’s eventual return to Portugal was confirmed on 24th July 2020, alongside the addition of races at the Nurburgring and Imola. Algarve International Circuit played host to the twelfth round of the 2020 season. On 11th February 2021, F1 announced its intention to return to the track in 2021 for the third round of the season. The race is subject to contract with the promoter and needs to be approved by the World Motor Sport Council.


FAST FACTS:

  • When F1 returned to Portugal in 2020, it was 8,799 days since the last race in the country – but that’s not the longest gap between Portuguese Grands Prix. The longest gap was between the 1960 and 1984 events, which lasted 8,834 days – 35 days longer than the gap between the 1996 and 2020 races!
  • The 1958 Portuguese Grand Prix marked only the second time that the top three finished in the order in which they started in Formula 1’s history. The 1952 French Grand Prix is the only previous race where this had occurred.
  • Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell share the record for most Portuguese Grand Prix victories, having each won the event three times. Read more: F1 Track Stats, Portuguese Grand Prix.
  • Tiago Monteiro is the only Portuguese driver to have finished on the podium in Formula 1. He did so at the 2005 United States Grand Prix.
  • Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost have all been crowned World Champion at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Brabham took his second title here in 1960, while Lauda and Prost each took their final crowns in 1984 and 1993 respectively.
  • Brabham was lucky to escape serious injury in the 1959 Portuguese Grand Prix. In the race, the Australian was flung from his car after hitting a telegraph pole. He landed on the track and was narrowly avoided by the oncoming car of Masten Gregory.
  • Early races in Portugal were held later in the day to avoid the intense heat of the summer sun. The 1958 race was run at 4pm, while practice for the 1959 race was held in the evening, with the race at 5pm.
  • Alain Prost recorded his 28th career win at the 1987 Portuguese Grand Prix, breaking Jackie Stewart’s fourteen-year old record for most wins in Formula 1. At the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix,  Lewis Hamilton recorded his 92nd win breaking Michael Schumacher’s nineteen-year old record.  Read more: A History of F1’s All-Time Win Record.
  • MotoGP also made its first visit to the Algarve International Circuit in 2020, hosting its season-closing race at the venue on November 22nd. The series had last raced in Portugal in 2012, at the Estoril circuit.
  • Heineken was the title sponsor of the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix. It was only the second time that the Portuguese Grand Prix has had a title sponsor. In 1992, the event was sponsored by SG Gigante, a Portuguese cigarette brand.

2020 PORTUGUESE GP RECAP

Formula 1 made its first visit to the Algarve International Circuit for the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton took a record-breaking 92nd Grand Prix win.

At the first Portuguese Grand Prix since 1996, Lewis Hamilton started from the front of the grid having beaten team-mate Valtteri Bottas to pole position by a tenth of a second. Max Verstappen immediately passed Bottas at the start, as the grid struggled to find grip. As Bottas re-passed Verstappen, the Red Bull driver made contact with Sergio Perez, spinning the Mexican to the back of the pack. Bottas took the lead as Carlos Sainz moved his McLaren into third place, and promptly passed Hamilton for second. While Kimi Raikkonen made up ten positions in the slippery conditions on Lap 1, Sainz was on the move again, this time taking the lead from Bottas. The Spaniard led until Lap 6, when the Mercedes found their way back to the front. Lap 20 saw the two Mercedes switch positions as Hamilton re-took the lead. Lance Stroll collided with Lando Norris as he attempted to move into seventh place. Former team-mates Perez and Esteban Ocon went wheel to wheel, with Perez taking fifth place. By the end of the race, Gasly was hunting down Perez for fifth. The AlphaTauri driver eventually won that battle. Hamilton took the win, setting a new all-time record for most Grand Prix victories. Bottas finished second, with Verstappen in third place.


PORTIMAO WINNERS AND POLESITTERS

YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
2020Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2021Valtteri BottasMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes