BWT Racing Point drivers ready for new Portimão test

The BWT Racing Point F1 team, partnered by Acronis, takes a step into the unknown this weekend when Formula One makes its debut at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.

It will not only be a new challenge for Racing Point and drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, but for every team on the F1 grid, although both drivers do have past experience of driving the circuit albeit not at the pinnacle of motorsport.

“I raced there in European Formula 3 and I remember there being lots of elevation changes,” said Stroll in his team’s race preview. “It was also quite bumpy, but it’s now been repaved ahead of the Grand Prix. Regardless, the quick parts and elevation will really test drivers and I think it will be exciting to watch on TV.

“We’re all professionals and, like all the teams, we’ll go in having done as much homework as we possibly could. On Friday, it’s going to be about how quickly we get up to speed and learn. I suspect by qualifying, everyone will be raring to go and maximising everything.”

For Perez, who also took time out to chat about his career at the 2020 Acronis Cyber Summit on Monday, there is also the advantage of having driven the circuit before although he is quick to play down the importance of that GP2 experience.

“I drove there in GP2 back in 2009, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember too much of the circuit! So it almost feels like going back to a totally new track,” added Perez. “It’s going to be an exciting challenge for us all to try and get up to speed with it as quickly as we can.

“We’re in the middle of a run of unfamiliar races now. We hadn’t raced at the Nürburgring for a long time until the last race, Portimão is totally new to F1, and we have Imola coming up. It’s unusual to have a run of races on tracks we don’t know well. As a driver, I enjoy that feeling. It’s always more of a challenge to race on a new circuit for the first time. I hope it can help mix things up and make for an exciting race for the fans.”

As always, data analysis will play an important part over the coming days, teams having undertaken extensive pre-event simulation of the circuit, as well as undertaking the study of car dynamics, tyre behaviour and strategy over the course of the weekend.

Tyre strategy, as always, will play a crucial role in success or failure come Sunday, the Pirelli tyre range for Portimão being a return to the hardest C1, C2 and C3 compounds for the first time since Mugello.

And because Portimão is located on the south coast of Portugal, wind speed and direction will also play a key factor, any sudden change having an adverse effect on car balance that could make or break a lap.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.