[Sport] Five talking points ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix

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The Formula One circus heads to Portimao this week for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton holds a slender one-point advantage over Max Verstappen following the Dutchman’s win at Imola earlier this month.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race.

Verstappen and Red Bull looking to build on Imola triumph

Verstappen held his nerve in tricky Imola conditions to join Hamilton on one victory apiece in a season which is shaping up to be a classic.

Hamilton leads Verstappen in the championship by virtue of scoring a bonus point with the fastest lap at Imola, while he heads to Portugal having won there last year โ€“ a victory which saw him surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of 92 victories.

But it is Verstappen’s Red Bull team who have the quickest car on the grid โ€“ particularly over one lap โ€“ and the seven-time world champion knows he will have his work cut out to stop the flying Dutchman from taking an early advantage in the title race.

Hamilton eyes another milestone

Hamilton is this year bidding to become the first driver in history to win a remarkable eight world championships, and, on Saturday, the Mercedes man can chalk off another impressive feat as he looks to claim his 100th pole position.

Hamilton moved to within one of the landmark with a lap he said bordered on perfection at Imola, and the record-breaking Brit will have to rely on another of those qualifying masterclasses to reach his century this weekend.

Hamilton claimed his first pole at just his sixth attempt at the 2007 Canadian GP. Remarkably, he now has 31 more poles than Schumacher and a greater number than Jim Clark (33), Alain Prost (33) and Nigel Mansell (32) combined.

Green light for sprint races

F1 bosses announced this week that sprint races would be trialled in a bid to spice up the sport’s grand prix format.

At three rounds โ€“ two of which will take place at Silverstone and Monza โ€“ a shorter race (roughly a third-distance of a normal grand prix) will replace qualifying.

The top three will be awarded points and the finishing result will determine the grid for Sunday’s main event. Qualifying will move to Friday afternoon.

If the format is successful it will be rolled out on a more regular basis from next season onwards.

F1 not following football on social media boycott

A coalition of English football’s largest governing bodies and organisations, including the Football Association, Premier League and EFL, will boycott social media this weekend in a show of solidarity against online abuse.

The Lawn Tennis Association has also confirmed its involvement as has the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers’ Association, but it is understood F1 will not follow suit in Portugal.

British driver Ilott handed GP debut

The future of British motor racing appears in good hands with Callum Ilott set for his grand prix debut.

The 22-year-old from Cambridge, a Ferrari academy driver, will take part in opening practice for Alfa Romeo.

Ilott finished runner-up to Mick Schumacher in last season’s Formula Two championship, but the news that he will compete in Friday’s first running tied in with an announcement of a reserve driver role with Alfa Romeo this season.

He will join Hamilton, 36, George Russell, 23, and Lando Norris, 21, as the fourth British driver in action.

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