Portugal GP 2020 - GP preview - Ferrari

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By Olivier Ferret

21 October 2020 - 18:22
Portugal GP 2020 - GP preview - (...)

This weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix is the twelfth round of this unusual Formula 1 season and it is also the second venue this year to make its debut hosting a round of motor racing’s blue riband category. The first was Mugello and this time it’s the turn of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, commonly known as Portimão. A couple of Formula 1 teams tested there several years ago, but otherwise this weekend marks Portugal’s return to the calendar after an absence of 24 years. The last race was held at Estoril in 1996, when Michael Schumacher finished third for the Scuderia. The race on Sunday 25 October will be run over 66 laps.

The circuit. The track is in the south of Portugal and opened in November 2008. It sits in over 300 hectares in the hills around the town of Portimão. 4.692 kilometres in length, it features several climbs and drops that make it very technical and demanding. The main straight comes close to a kilometre in length and flows into two fast right handers. Then comes the first heavy braking point into turn 3, a very slow right hand hairpin, where understeer can be a factor. The track then climbs through a fast, blind left hand turn, leading on to a short back straight. Another left hand hairpin is followed by the fastest section. The cars accelerate through turns 6 and 7, gaining a lot of speed before braking for the right hand turn 8. After this comes another climb to 9, a fast left hander followed by a downhill run to 10, the hardest braking point on the track. The final part consists of two long right hand turns, the first features negative camber, while the second is rather bumpy and leads onto the start-finish straight.

Seventeenth edition. Sunday’s race is the 26th to go by the name of Portuguese Grand Prix, but only the 17th to count towards the Formula 1 World Championship. Scuderia Ferrari has won twice in a row in Portugal, in 1989 with Gerhard Berger and the following year courtesy of Nigel Mansell, taking the last of his three wins for the Maranello marque.

Sebastian Vettel

“I’ve never raced at Portimão, so I have no first hand experience on which to assess it, but I always find it very stimulating to race at a new track.

From studying the layout, I can see there are a lot of gradient changes and several blind corners which will be difficult to judge. It will be important to make the most of free practice to get the hang of the circuit as quickly as possible.”

Charles Leclerc

“I’ve raced just the once at Portimão, in 2015 in Formula 3. From what I remember, it’s great fun to drive with a lot of climbs and drops. It’s a modern and interesting circuit and the weather should be a lot warmer than at the last race in Germany.

It will be interesting to check the handling of our car on all the different types of corners with higher temperatures.”

Q&A with Enrico Cardile Head of Performance Development

The twelfth round of the 2020 season is a further opportunity for the Scuderia to continue developing the SF1000. We discussed the topic with Enrico Cardile, Head of Performance Development.

“We already introduced a few small modifications to the car’s aero package in Sochi and added others at the Nürburgring,” explains the engineer who hails from Arezzo. “In Portimao we will have a further update, mainly to the diffuser, completing the programme set out over the past few months.”

What are you expecting from the complete package?

“The most important thing is to get confirmation that our development is on the right track. Indications from the past few Grands Prix are positive and we hope the same will apply this weekend. We have to consider that, more than ever this year, development is aimed at the following season. All the same, we still expect to see a performance improvement with the SF1000: it would be very useful to at least find ourselves heading the group of cars and drivers currently fighting within just a few tenths for places four and lower. Only a couple of times this year have we been able to fight for a place in the sun on the second or third row and our aim between now and December is to be consistently fighting for those places. But then, precisely because this part of the grid is so close, it takes hardly anything to find yourself fourth or twelfth, but that’s all part of the game.”

If we look ahead to next year and the changes to the regulations announced in recent months, what areas do you think offer the greatest chance of improving performance?

“With the proviso that each team has its own design philosophy, our belief is that the rear end offers the biggest margin for improvement. I say that not just because it’s the area of the car where pretty significant changes have been introduced in the technical regulations, but also we believe that because of the way our car is laid out, we could really make significant progress. That’s why we’ve decided to spend our two tokens allowed in the rules, in this very area. Because next year, it will not be permitted to modify all the basic components of the car, but only some and the FIA sets a token allocation for each of them, with all teams having two tokens available.”

And there will also be further limitations on the number of hours that can be spent testing in the wind tunnel.

“Yes, that’s correct, which meant the work we are doing now is even more important. It is essential that we know the concepts we are working on now are the right one, so as not to lose time in 2021. From next year on, the number of hours available will be in inverse proportion to a team’s position in the previous year’s Constructors’ classification: the higher placed you are, the less time you are given. The difference won’t be huge, but in Formula 1, each minute of testing, be it on track, on the test bed or in the wind tunnel, is precious. However, I’m not joking when I say our aim is to make up ground this year. When we look at the standings, seeing ourselves down in sixth place hurts and we are well aware that it is not a position worthy of Ferrari. We absolutely want to improve, for us and for our fans who still support us with passion, even at difficult times like the ones we are going through now.”

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