Hamilton wins Portuguese Grand Prix to break Schumacher’s race win record

Lewis Hamilton became the most successful Formula One driver of all time with 92 race victories after recovering from a tricky opening lap to win the Portuguese Grand Prix from teammate Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen.

With spots of rain falling at the start of the race and the medium compound Pirelli rubber taking time to get up to temperature, Hamilton dropped to third at the start, being passed by teammate Bottas and the flying Carlos Sainz.

But as the tyres quickly came back to optimum working temperature, Hamilton was able to quickly get past both drivers and into the lead and disappeared into the distance, making just one further stop late in the race to carry him home.

“Firstly, I owe it all to these guys here and back at the factory for their tremendous work,” said Hamilton after his record-breaking effort. “They’re continuously innovating and pushing the barriers even higher every year. It’s just been such a privilege working with them and I’m just so grateful for all the moments. The reliability has been absolutely incredible thanks to Mercedes and to Petronas and to all our partners who are continuously pushing again.

“No one is sitting back on the success and everyone is pushing and pushing and pushing and that’s the most incredible thing to be surrounded by because it inspires you and there’s nothing quite like it. Today was tough but it was all about temperatures today and that something with the set up I was able to pre-empt.”

It weas a frantic start, those starting on the grippier left side of the grid making tremendous gains. The biggest winner was the evergreen Kimi Raikkonen, the Alfa Romeo man making up an incredible ten places to sixth as Sergio Perez was the biggest loser, pitched into a spin by Verstappen and to the back of the field – adjudged a racing incident by the stewards.

At the front, Carlos Sainz made yet another inspirational start, passing both Mercedes and into the lead for the second time this season as Hamilton lost two places from his pole slot. With rain starting to fall at Turns 2 and 3 during the opening laps, the newly resurfaced Autódromo Internacional do Algarve became a great leveller, Lando Norris also making his way up to fourth.

As the sprinkling of rainfall abated and the softest compound red banded Pirelli tyre started to lose grip, so the race came back to the Mercedes duo and normal service was resumed, Bottas leading from Hamilton, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc as the order began to revert to the grid positions.

“They said it was going to rain after the race, but it was spitting at the start,” explained Hamilton. “I got a good start but then I got into Turn 7, had a huge oversteer moment and we didn’t know what was next, so I really backed off massively and arguably I should have tried to defend from Valtteri but I was like ‘I’ll come back later on’ and fortunately that’s what I was able to do.”

It wasn’t long before many of the soft runners bolted into the pits to switch to the medium compound, Raikkonen back peddling to the back of the field. With Hamilton reporting graining on his left front tyre only 16 laps in, it became a possibility that this could be a two-stop strategy, the championship leader sweeping past Bottas and into the lead under DRS on the straight on lap 20.

Verstappen was the first of the big hitters to swap his red boots for the longer lasting compound on lap 24. But with both Mercedes still on the medium tyre and Hamilton suddenly reporting his tyres coming back to him, the only threat to another dominant Mercedes 1-2 appeared to be the chance of another downpour.

With all drivers now either on the medium or hard compound Pirelli rubber, it became a simple fight to the chequered flag, Hamilton making his one and only stop on lap 41, bolting on a set of hards to take him to the finish.

Although there were several candidates for driver of the day, including the record-breaking Hamilton, Perez could have laid down a fair claim after recovering from his early collision to fight from last to sixth by the flag, despite being passed by Pierre Gasly and Sainz by the finish.

It could have been even better for the Racing Point team but for a seriously unlucky afternoon for Stroll, another collision with Norris pitching the second Racing Point pitched into a spin, a five second penalty the result. But it went from bad to worse as the Canadian was called into retirement 12 laps from the finish with damage to the floor.

But to the victor, the spoils. When the great Michael Schumacher was shattering all records before him, nobody, including Hamilton himself could possibly have predicted those records to fall. Perhaps even for several lifetimes.

“I could only have ever dreamed of being where I am today, and I didn’t have a magic ball when I chose to come to this team and partner with these great people but here I am and all I can tell you is that I’m trying to make the most of it every single day. Everything we do, we do it together. We’re all rowing in the same direction and that’s really why you’re seeing the success that we’re having.

“My dad’s here, which is amazing, my step mum Linda is here, Roscoe. So it’s a very blessed day. It’s going to take some time for it to fully sink in but I was still pushing flat out across the line so I’m still very much in race mode but I can’t find the words at the moment.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.