Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen received praise for his heroic first lap in the F1 Portuguese GP along with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Long considered the best performance across any one lap in the history of F1, Ayrton Senna’s Donnington 1993 effort was challenged for its title by the Finn’s lap one display at Algarve on Sunday, Raikkonen having prevailed in adverse conditions to make up 10 positions.
It all began a few seconds after the lights flicked off, as he used his soft compound tyres to make his way past those around him upon braking. Raikkonen’s ascent of the running order continued through turns one, two and three, as navigated the outside line to pass more competitors, placing himself on the inside for turn four, where he would gain yet more positions.
Choosing a late braking point into turn four promoted him further up the timing sheets, and as he picked off adversaries through the remainder of the lap, he continued to climb. Raikkonen himself, in fact, could hardly believe the sort of progress he was making, as he described a sense of utter bewilderment as he questioned how his performance deficit to other runners could be so large.
“I don’t think the start itself was very good – I lost a place – but then after that honestly I thought at one point ‘what are the others doing?” Raikkonen said to TV media, disappointed to have not converted his early-race pace into a points-paying result.
“I had a good first and then second lap, the speed was decent in the car most of the race, then we had a little bit of difficulties in the pit stop and in the end I lost 10th place to Vettel with old tyres. We got nothing out of it, so that’s a shame. We need more speed then everything will become a little bit easier.
“The car felt good, but we still miss a little bit to finish in the points at this moment. Hopefully we can keep moving forward for next week,” summed up Raikkonen. His pace was such that it even baffled other drivers, among them Max Verstappen, who found the Finn in his rear view mirrors at the start of the second lap, even challenging into turn down the pit straight and into turn one.
The moment was not unlike one in Senna’s Donnington ’93 lap, which saw him close up to Williams’ Alain Prost with remarkable speed. “I tried to stay out of trouble a bit, tried to settle down,” said Verstappen. “Then I had Kimi behind me. I was shocked about that because I thought: ‘Am I really going to… like, what’s going on?” Kimi was flying, probably his rally driving helped him a bit in the first lap or something because that was pretty impressive. He must have been P6?”
Lewis Hamilton remarked in response, “Shows you can still do it at 40!”, while Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon joked that Raikkonen looked as though he could have been driving on an entirely different track to the rest of the field.
“There were some tyres that really switched on for some teams, [like] McLaren, and Kimi was flying. It looked like he was on a different track relative to all of us,” summed up Albon. Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, thought he had a decent start but seeing Raikkonen and Sainz, he was taken aback.
“I made up couple of spots and then I think Charles got me, I was in seventh and I thought, not a bad start but then I saw Kimi just drive around outside of me and I was like ‘he didn’t start 11th or 12th, so where did it come from?’,” said Ricciardo.
“I think he got his tyres warmed up and also Carlos was the another one with a mega first few laps, so we were in the middle of all, certainly not the best, I nearly had a spin at Turn 3, so a bit to learn, yeah.” As Ricciardo mentioned, McLaren’s Sainz was another to have a superb start to even lead the F1 Portuguese GP at one point.
Teammate Lando Norris was up their too as both got their tyres warmed up well but eventually both dropped off, where Sainz finished a solid sixth while the Brit’s collision with Lance Stroll left him frustrated and out of the points scoring position.
“It was enjoyable,” said Sainz to TV media. It was all about getting tyres up to temperature in the formation lap. I always try to enjoy these conditions. I embrace them and try to hustle the car around a bit, and get the tyres to work.
“I really enjoyed those first few laps, getting to lead the race. Unfortunately we started [to have] graining, but until then I had a lot of fun. The track temperature came down because of the cloud coverage. The lower the track temperature, the easier it is to open up the graining. It’s been like that for the last few races for us, we’ve struggled a lot with graining.
“In the end we salvaged P6, which doesn’t feel that good when you were leading the race, but I don’t think we could have done much more than that,” Sainz summed up, adding that his dad would have been proud to see some of the rallying skills at the start.
Here is video start from Kimi Raikkonen: https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2020/10/2020_Portuguese_Grand_Prix__Raikkonen_makes_up_10_places_with_incredible_start.html
Here’s video of Carlos Sainz passing Lewis Hamilton: https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2020/10/2020_Portuguese_Grand_Prix__Sainz_overtakes_Hamilton_in_stunning_race_start.html
Here’s video of Carlos Sainz passing Valtteri Bottas: https://www.formula1.com/en/video/2020/10/2020_Portuguese_Grand_Prix__Sainz_passes_Bottas_to_take_race_lead_at_Portim_o.html
Here’s what happened with Lando Norris and Lance Stroll