POWER RANKINGS: Hamilton? Leclerc? Who performed best at Portimao’s first ever Grand Prix?
Formula 1’s first Grand Prix weekend at the Algarve International Circuit gave us a race chock full of drama, crowned by a race start that simply had to be seen to be believed. But which drivers scored the highest across the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix weekend? Our judges' scores are in.
HOW IT WORKS
Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation
Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)
Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking 92nd Formula 1 victory was, fittingly, very Hamiltonian. With the six-time champion looking on the ropes as team mate Valtteri Bottas took a clean sweep of fastest times in practice, some Twitter wags were already predicting a Hamilton pole and victory, so stealthy has he been in 2020. In the end, that’s just what Hamilton delivered, his race display a masterclass of patience and gamesmanship that justifiably saw him move to the very top of the F1 win tree.
If Hamilton’s performance at Portimao was that of an established champion, Charles Leclerc’s was one of a driver who’s got all the right ingredients to be a champion in the very near future. On a weekend when his four-time champion team mate Sebastian Vettel could only take 15th in qualifying, Leclerc not only made it through Q2 on the medium tyres, but then claimed P4 on the grid and crucially – unlike at the Eifel Grand Prix – held onto it until the chequered flag.
Yes, the Ferrari SF1000 appears to be improving – but as a bewildered Vettel said in Portimao, Leclerc’s performances against the German currently are “not just beating – it's like another league”.
Pierre Gasly truly appears to be a driver rehabilitated in 2020. More than rehabilitated, actually, because he’s added a roundedness and maturity that means he’s currently ranked as the third-best performing driver across the whole season on the Power Rankings Leaderboard, behind only Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Gasly’s fifth position in Portugal was brilliantly won, the Frenchman running a beautiful opening stint to climb as high as fourth, while an incisive overtake of Sergio Perez in the race’s closing stages earned him his second-best finish of the year with P5. And he's been rewarded with a contract extension at AlphaTauri...
Carlos Sainz said after the race that his father, two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sainz Sr, would have been delighted with his son’s opening few laps of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Sainz finding grip in the tricky conditions like his old man on the Col de Turini to take a shock early lead.
Early race heroics accomplished, though, Sainz then had the look of a sitting duck – but he only fell as far as sixth by the flag, to record his second top-six finish in succession, and his first consecutive points finish since the Hungarian Grand Prix.
If the race start of Sainz was good, the one of Kimi Raikkonen – another driver with a rallying connection – was unbelievable, the Finn starting 16th on the grid, yet in a position to pass Leclerc for P6 at the end of the first lap. “I don’t think the start itself was very good,” said Raikkonen afterwards. “But then after that, honestly I thought at one point, ‘What are the others doing?’”
A great opening then – but Raikkonen’s fall was even harder than Sainz’s, as he ended up 11th at the chequered. Still, it was a great reminder of why Raikkonen still has plenty to offer Formula 1, as he duly earned an 8.8 from our judges.
Sergio Perez did a bang up job to go from being “lost” in practice (his words) to fifth on the grid, to spun around by Max Verstappen and falling to the very back of the pack in the race to climbing back up to fifth with just a handful of laps remaining.
Ultimately, he’d end up succumbing to late passes by Sainz and Gasly – Perez’s super-aggressive move on Gasly doubtless causing a squeaky bum moment in the cockpit of the AlphaTauri – and ending up seventh. But at least Perez had managed to salvage some pride for Racing Point, after a difficult weekend for team mate Lance Stroll.
With rumours swirling that George Russell could find himself out of a job next year if he’s replaced at Williams by the driver above him in this week’s rankings, Russell reminded the F1 paddock in Portugal why that would be a particularly cruel fate to befall him, making it into Q2 and outgunning Vettel’s Ferrari on Saturday, while Williams’ race pace struggles ultimately kept Russell pegged to the 14th place he’d started in.
Esteban Ocon would be the first to admit that his F1 return hasn’t sailed quite as smoothly as he would have liked in 2020, but Portugal marked one of the rare occasions this season where he’s had the better of Daniel Ricciardo.
Key to that was Ocon making a 53-lap stint (53!) on medium tyres work beautifully for him, as he eventually pitted from fifth place before slotting into eighth and staying there until the chequered flag, one place ahead of Ricciardo – who in turn had started the race one place ahead of him in P10.
Was it slightly disappointing that Max Verstappen couldn’t unlock enough pace from his upgraded Red Bull RB16 to challenge for pole and the win in Portugal? Perhaps. That being the case though, as usual Verstappen did everything else that could have been reasonably expected of him to both qualify and finish the race in the third position that he’s made his own this year – even lapping team mate Alex Albon for good symbolic measure…
Starting just behind McLaren team mate Sainz in P8, Lando Norris’ getaway was damn-near as good as the Spaniard’s, as he climbed to fourth by the end of Lap 1.
But Norris then lacked the pace to be able to hold off the attacks of the drivers he’d passed on Lap 1, eventually falling into the clutches of Lance Stroll, who passed Norris before over-optimistically going for the racing line into Turn 1, making contact with the McLaren and forcing a front wing change that dropped Norris to 19th – while a second stop would ultimately leave him 13th at the flag.
Is it harsh not to have a podium finisher at least in the top 10? That all depends on your point of view. Valtteri Bottas monstered free practice but admitted he was perplexed by his lack of pace in the race, which saw him go from being early race leader to finishing over 25 seconds behind Hamilton at the flag.
Bottas was at least comfortably ‘best of the rest’ in P11 in this week’s rankings, as he finished with a 7.4, compared to the next best score of Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian coming back down to Earth after his Nurburgring podium as the judges scored him a 6.8.
The overall standings
Another impressive performance from Pierre Gasly sees him jump Ricciardo to P3 in the standings, while Esteban Ocon’s solid run of Grands Prix recently have helped him push Daniil Kvyat out of the top 10, as the Renault driver takes up the final spot on the leaderboard.