Formula 1 ventures into the unknown at this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix with a first-ever visit to Portimao, while the future for a number of drivers is far from clear. 

Here are the ongoing talking points that are likely to make the headlines in the F1 paddock at an all-new venue…

Driver market rumours ramp up 

With Red Bull hoping to make a final call over its driver line-up by mid-November at the latest, Alex Albon has precious little time to nail down F1’s most lucrative seat available on the F1 grid for next year, with Lewis Hamilton signing a new Mercedes contract expected to be a formality. 

Red Bull ideally wants to have firmed up its plans for next season by the Turkish Grand Prix, meaning Albon potentially has just two races in Portugal and Imola to secure his position.  

While Albon remains Red Bull’s top candidate, the team has admitted it would consider the likes of Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez if the Thai racer’s inconsistent results do not improve. The upcoming fortnight will be a crucial period for Albon. 

Pierre Gasly is understood to be out of the running for a return to Red Bull, as is AlphaTauri teammate Daniil Kvyat, who could be replaced at the sister squad by Formula 2 race-winner and Honda protege Yuki Tsunoda. 

Things have ramped up at Haas with Romian Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both confirming their respective exits at the end of the year, paving the way for an all-new line-up at the American squad for 2021. 

Haas is evaluating an extensive list of at least 10 drivers to fill its seats, though speculation in recent days suggests that Ferrari junior Mick Schumacher - who has also been linked with a seat at Alfa Romeo - and fellow F2 frontrunner Nikita Mazepin have moved to the front of Gene Haas’ driver wish-list to replace Grosjean and Magnussen.

Elsewhere, things are getting very interesting at Williams, where new owners Dorilton Capital are reportedly considering a move for Perez, which could leave George Russell without a drive. 

We could get some updates when the drivers face the media on Thursday. 

Can Mercedes take the title match point?

Mercedes has its first opportunity to secure the constructors’ championship with five races to spare. 

Currently 180 points clear of nearest rivals Red Bull, Mercedes would clinch a record seventh consecutive teams’ title if it ends the weekend 220 points clear.

The magic number can be achieved should Mercedes score a 1-2 finish and Red Bull fails to score more than three points, or if Mercedes gets a perfect score of 44 points with the fastest lap bonus point and Red Bull scores less than five points.

Alternately, a 1-3 finish would be enough for the reigning world champions to successfully retain its crown in Portugal providing Red Bull fails to score altogether. 

A more likely prospect is that Mercedes seals the championship at the following race at Imola. 

Lewis Hamilton also has the chance to set a new benchmark for most grand prix victories, after he equalled Michael Schumacher’s previous record haul of 91 wins last time out in Germany. 

Close battles to watch out for 

With both title races effectively over, there are still some thrilling fights to be decided in the final six rounds of the season. 

The closest and most intense battle on the grid this year has been the one over third place in the constructors’ championship, with just six points separating Racing Point, McLaren and Renault. 

The pendulum has swung back and forth between Racing Point and McLaren, with each team taking turns at holding P3, while Renault’s recent resurgence - including a first podium in nine years at the Nurburgring - has moved the French manufacturer right into contention in the fierce contest to land a hugely important position in the standings. 

For all three teams, third place would mark a remarkable achievement. It would be Racing Point’s best-ever finish, McLaren’s best since 2012 and Renault’s highest since 2007. 

There is an equally fascinating fight brewing over fourth place in the drivers’ championship, currently headed by Daniel Ricciardo

The race to claim P4 is wide open with just 27 points splitting Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz in 11th, and 14 separating positions 4-7 made up of Ricciardo, Perez, Lando Norris and Albon. 

When is the Portuguese GP on TV? 

Friday October 23

Free Practice 1: 11:00am-12:30pm BST and local
Free Practice 2: 3:00pm-4:30pm BST and local 

Saturday October 24 

Free Practice 3: 11:00am-12:00pm BST and local
Qualifying: 2:00pm-3:00pm BST and local

Sunday October 25 

Race: 1:10pm BST and local

Portuguese GP tyre allocation

For the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao, Pirelli is bringing the C1 (Hard), C2 (Medium) and C3 (Soft) compounds. 

For all of the races in the revised 2020 season, each driver will have an allocation of eight sets of the red-walled Softs, three sets of the yellow-walled Mediums, and two sets of the white-walled Hards.

Pirelli will also bring their prototype 2021 compounds to the Algarve circuit for teams to conduct testing during the first 30 minutes of FP2 on Friday afternoon. All teams and drivers are obliged to take part in the blind test. 

 

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