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What can Formula 1 expect at Portimão?

What can Formula 1 expect at Portimão?

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What can Formula 1 expect at Portimão?

What can Formula 1 expect at Portimão?

Formula 1 arrives at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve for the first time this weekend for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Round 12 of the Covid-19-hit calendar brings us to the second new circuit on the roster, following the successful maiden outing at Mugello in Italy.

It marks Portugal's return to F1 since Estoril last staged a race in 1996, with the newer facilities in Portimão preferred for the sport's comeback.

George Russell recently described the circuit as spectacular, so what is in store for the drivers?

The circuit

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Wow, are the drivers in for a test. Undulations, undulations and more undulations characterise this 4.684km circuit, which has not been dubbed 'the rollercoaster' for nothing. It certainly looks a real challenge, with very little flat surface throughout the lap.

The start-finish straight is nearly a kilometre long before the track plunges down into the braking zone for turn one, a medium-to-high speed right-hand flick, followed by another right-handed kink which leads into the first bonafide braking zone, turn three.

The hairpin tightens through to the exit of the corner before the cars blast uphill and over a crest at turn four, which leads onto a straight. Turn five is a hairpin which should see some action in the race, before a left-handed kink at six which is unlikely to pose any issues.

Turns seven and eight are downhill through braking and represent an elongated version of Bahrain's turn nine-10 complex, with a double apex to be negotiated. Traction will be key on exit as the cars rise over yet another crest, before swooping downhill through the fast turn nine.

Another tricky double-apex braking zone follows on the crown of the rise, with turn 11 tightening before the cars head down a significant drop, again sweeping left before hitting the brakes for a slow, tight left-hander.

The final two corners will highlight which teams' cars possess most grip, with the first right-hander slower than initially looks possible, while the final corner is a long sweeper - very Barcelonaesque - which leads onto the home straight and affords drivers a chance to draw breath.

What lap times can we expect?

Obviously, as a new circuit, there is a distinct lack of data to draw on. However, we have compared the times of four 2019 European Le Mans Series poles against laps set in Q3 at the corresponding tracks on the F1 calendar this season to get an average deficit.

For example, the pole position time in ELMS at Silverstone last season was one minute 41.798secs, compared to the pole at this year's British Grand Prix of 1:24.303.

Across the four races the average lap difference between the two series is 17.588s. Felipe Albuquerque's Portimao pole time was 1:31.244 so we can expect a time in the 1:13s. Realistically, we are looking anywhere within two seconds either side of that mark.

Who will be fast?

Do we have to mention Mercedes? Of course, the championship leaders will be expected to prosper again and ultimately, there is nothing within the track layout to suggest the team should struggle.

Theoretically, the circuit should suit teams who ran well at Mugello, with a similarly quick and undulating feel to the two venues.

Therefore, we can suggest a good weekend for Racing Point and Renault, with McLaren possibly set to suffer a little more than its midfield rivals.

It will be interesting to see whether the newer generation of drivers has an advantage over the F1 veterans as previous running on the circuit in junior formulas could offer a helping hand during the opening stages of the weekend.

Where can we see overtaking?

There really could be a host of overtaking opportunities. The long front straight will lend itself to some action, with the tight turn three providing a chance on the brakes.

Turn five presents a similar possibility, whilst the double apexes later in the lap may tempt the more daring drivers in the midfield to have a lunge. It should be relatively easy for cars to follow closely due to the camber of the higher-speed corners.

We were pessimistic ahead of Mugello and just look how that turned out!

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