David Coulthard, centre, winner of the Portuguese F1 Grand Prix in 1995, celebrates his victory with second-placed Michael Schumacher of Germany, left, and third-placed teammate Damon Hill in Estoril

Ben's Portuguese GP preview

By Ben Edwards
C4F1 commentator

Winning a first Grand Prix is a truly special moment. Pierre Gasly’s whooping reaction to his success at Monza in September has been one of the highlights of the season so far and as F1 heads to Portugal this weekend it brings back memories of two key debut wins.

Estoril, just north of Lisbon, was the host of the Portuguese Grand Prix in the 1980s and 90s where Channel 4’s F1 maestro David Coulthard took his first win in 1995. 

He was driving for Williams, the outfit that has had more success in Portugal than any other.

David had come close to victory on several occasions before, but a faultless performance saw him take pole position by nearly four tenths of a second over teammate Damon Hill. 

At the start, he soared into the lead only for a red flag incident further back forcing him to do it all over again.

Unfazed, he delivered another good start and in some ways it worked even better as Hill dropped behind Michael Schumacher and that meant any danger of team orders to let his teammate through were wiped out.

Coulthard led all but five laps as they rotated during the pitstops, and went on to beat Schumacher by seven seconds as well as earning fastest lap. 

"It was a warm feeling inside, a fantastic feeling” he admitted straight after the race, and he was congratulated throughout the F1 paddock.

A Star is Born

A decade earlier there had been another significant first win in weather conditions that were barely drivable. 
Ayrton Senna was in his second season of F1, his first year with Lotus and he took complete control of the race that saw stars such as Alain Prost caught out by flooding.

It was a truly remarkable drive, and one which set the tone for his astonishing career. 

Racing in Portugal for a Brazilian driver was always special with language and so much culture being shared between the two countries. Senna became a hero in Portugal that day, and around the world soon afterwards.

A first-time winner this weekend would also be conquering a brand new venue on the calendar. 

Portimão, used for testing before the 2009 season, sits just above the coast of the Algarve, a popular tourist region in the south of Portugal where average temperatures in October are around 23C. 

The layout is spread over a hilly section of land and creates plenty of elevation change and some blind corners to add to the fun.

In some ways it is comparable to Mugello but with more slow corners in the mix and the drivers should get a real buzz from delivering lap times.

But is there really a driver out there who is likely to win a first Grand Prix?

Wacky Races

Alex Albon is one of the potentials. Having earned his first podium in Mugello, there is a chance that the Red Bull car may come into its own on a track where previous data barely exists. 

Yes, Max Verstappen is more likely to deliver for Red Bull but who knows what may happen? 

Verstappen has been out of luck on a few occasions this year, including that Mugello race when he was taken out on the first lap.

Lance Stroll was also unfortunate in the Tuscan Grand Prix, when a rear tyre let go on his Racing Point. Neither he nor Sergio Perez have ever won at this level, but they are regularly in the top four and just a little bit of luck might open the door.

Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris are two more drivers with podiums to their credit but no victories as yet. McLaren won three times at Estoril, so perhaps history work in their favour?

Sadly the chances of either Williams driver continuing the run of three wins in a row in Portugal achieved by the team at the most recent visits seem just a little too far-fetched.

The Numbers Game

So, a first win is a possibility, but in reality the chances are far higher for a new record number of wins to be achieved by Lewis Hamilton this weekend. 

Having matched Schumacher’s tally in Germany, he can now achieve the greatest number in history.

And Portugal is not only known for first time winners. In 1987, Alain Prost took over the record number of victories at that time from Sir Jackie Stewart by claiming win number 28 at Estoril. 

With two first-time winners on the books, perhaps it’s time for Portugal to host a second all-time record-breaker.

Join the C4F1 team for highlights of qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix at 5:30pm on Saturday 24th October with race highlights and analysis from 6:30pm on Sunday.