Another Portuguese GP: A brief look at the historical F1 moments in Portugal

The Portuguese Grand Prix looks set to return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2021. According to rumours, F1 will select the circuit in Portimao to replace the gap on the schedule left by the Vietnamese Grand Prix on May 2nd. Here at GPblog, we have searched through the history books to find the key F1 events which occurred in Portugal. 

In 2020, Portugal made a surprise appearance on the F1 schedule. This was because of the enforced COVID-19 changes. This year, the same perhaps could be mentioned, but it fills the gap left void by the cancelled race in Vietnam. For once, it wasn't coronavirus ruining sports plans. It was cancelled following the arrest of the Hanoi People's Committee chairman, Nguyen Duc Chung, a key figure in promoting the race.

But F1 didn't make its Portuguese debut in 2020. A lot of history in Portugal came before. 

The early days

A World Championship race was first held in Portugal during the 1958 season at Porto, a temporary street circuit. Sir Stirling Moss qualified on pole position and won the race. His only challenge was from John Hawthorn who led for just six laps. Formula 1 returned to the venue in 1960, a race which didn't see Moss gain the same success. Jack Brabham won the race and secured his second World Championship title. 

In between those two years, another temporary street circuit held the Portuguese Grand Prix. In 1959, it was the turn of Monsanto circuit where Moss completed his pole and race win feat again.

A long wait 

Formula 1 had to wait 24 years before it could return to Portugal in 1984. The purpose-built Circuito do Estoril, was the venue to many historical Formula 1 moments over the following 13 years. 

During many of those 13 years, it was the final race in the European season and therefore played a significant role in deciding who was World Champion. The first of which came in the 1984 race when a last-minute Nigel Mansell spin moved Niki Lauda into second place. Despite Championship rival and teammate Alain Prost winning the race, Lauda had scored enough points to secure his third World title. 

In 1985, Ayrton Senna recorded his first career F1 victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix. 

The Senna/Prost rivalry reached a climax in the 1988 version of the Portuguese Grand Prix. The two McLaren drivers accused each other of dangerous driving in the first part of the race. Prost started on pole but lost the lead to Senna on the second lap. He reclaimed the place on lap two and won the race. However, Prost narrowly lost the championship to Senna two rounds later in Japan.

In 1996, the final Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril was held. Damon Hill secured his 20th and final pole position, but it was Jacques Villeneuve who took the win. 

Modern History 

As mentioned, the F1 circus didn't touch down in Portgual until making a surprise appearance in 2020. Living up to its past, the Portuguese Grand Prix produced some more historical moments. 

In tricky conditions, Carlos Sainz took the lead because his tyres had adapted to the cold track quicker. But the front-runners came back into the race. Lewis Hamilton eventually took the lead and went on to win his 92nd Grand Prix, beating Michael Schumacher's previous career win tally of 91. 

Portuguese Grand Prix stats 

Driver Wins Pole positions Podiums
Alain Prost 3 1 7
Nigel Mansell 3 2 3
Stirling Moss 2 2 2
Jack Brabham 1 0 1
Ayrton Senna 1 3 5
Gerhard Berger 1 2 3
Michael Schumacher 1 0 3
Damon Hill 1 2 4
Lewis Hamilton 1 1 1

There were also wins for, Riccardo Patrese, David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve. 

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