(Motorsport-Total.com) – Lewis Hamilton made history at the Grand Prix of the Eifel at the Nürburgring. With his 91st victory in a Formula 1 race, the Mercedes driver set Michael Schumacher’s all-time record in Germany of all places – and at the same time made a giant step towards winning the title in the 2020 World Championship (69 points ahead of Valtteri Bottas).
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Until the last lap it even looked like he was going to the next race in Portimao (Portugal) with a 70 point lead. But in the very last attempt, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) pulverized Hamilton’s best time by 0.006 seconds and thus secured the bonus point for the fastest lap.
From a German point of view, the race was mixed: Nico Hülkenberg (Racing Point) crowned his lightning comeback after a concentrated performance with four championship points for eighth place, just 1.8 seconds behind Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari scraped past a point on P11 by 0.8 seconds.
Where did Hamilton win the race?
At the start he seemed to have passed pole setter Bottas. In the first corner he pushed the Finn out pretty hard. But this time Bottas didn’t let himself get down and countered before the second corner. “Valtteri let go of the gas and held it like a rally driver. I liked that,” says team principal Toto Wolff.
Then in lap 13 the change in leadership. Bottas braked himself in the first corner, was carried to the outside – and Hamilton pulled past inside. Bottas also got a brake plate and pitted at the end of the lap.
Why did Bottas leave?
“It looks like it was the MGU-H,” says Wolff. So part of the hybrid system. Spicy: Mercedes installed new power units in both cars for the Nürburgring. It is the third drive from the contingent. Three are allowed per season. The on-site engineers have not yet been able to investigate whether the MGU-H can be used again.
After his pit stop, Bottas quickly passed Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault and was back in third place. But in lap 17 he reported: “No Power!” When he came back to the pits, all he could do was park. Because the car was live, the mechanics had to wear insulated gloves.
Was Hamilton’s victory ever in danger after that?
“Only once,” says the Mercedes star, “namely at the restart.” While the broken McLaren was being rescued by Lando Norris, the safety car came onto the track. Hamilton’s luck: Verstappen slept through the situation, was a few lengths behind and never came within striking distance again.
“I tried to follow Lewis,” he explains. “The pace was quite good, but in the end I drove my own race. In the end, I managed to set the fastest lap and get the point. That makes me happy.”
Why did Hamilton and Verstappen complain about the safety car?
With nine degrees air and 16 degrees asphalt temperature it was difficult to keep the tires at the right temperature at the Nürburgring. Hamilton and Verstappen were the first to be caught by Bernd Mayländer and had to reduce their pace, while the others caught up from behind, making it easier for their tires to keep their temperature longer.
“The tires are already cold here when you leave the pits,” says Verstappen. “I didn’t understand why the safety car had to stay outside for so long. The track was cleaned up. I understand that they intend to let the lapped catch up too. But if the tires are so cold, that’s my opinion dangerous.”
By the way: FIA race director Michael Masi gave the command “Safety Car in this Lap” at a time when only the top 5 were together and everyone else had not yet caught up. But Hamilton only picked up the pace so late that the field was completely back together when it really started.
Why was the lead between Hamilton and Verstappen so great?
First, because the performance of Mercedes and Red Bull was superior. At times, all but the top 5 were lapped. Second, because they were lucky at the pit stop. After Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo) and George Russell (Williams) collided in Turn 1, the virtual safety car was activated to enable the Williams to be recovered safely.
At that moment, Hamilton and Verstappen were driving in the last sector and took the opportunity to make a pit stop. When third-placed Ricciardo came to change tires, the VSC phase was already over. Perfect timing for the two front runners, whose lead became even greater.
How did Vettel’s race go?
Not as requested. He lost a position on the first lap and dropped back to P12. Because he tried a one-stop strategy, he fell further and further behind after the middle of the race – among others he was overtaken by Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Hülkenberg, all of whom had fresher tires.
When it became clear that there was nothing to be done with his hard tires, Vettel came back to the pits and switched to a fresh set of soft. Tool life: a modest 4.4 seconds. The Ferrari crew has already worked faster than at the Eifel Grand Prix (also applies to Leclerc’s mechanics). Vettel came back on track in 15th and ultimately came in eleventh.
Low point: the spin in Turn 1 when he unsuccessfully tried to overtake Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) and turned the steering wheel too aggressively. “A clear driving mistake,” says ‘ORF’ expert Alexander Wurz. Shortly before the end, he made up for the faux pas when he executed a successful overtaking maneuver against Kevin Magnussen (Haas) at the same point – despite two touches.
“At the moment there is a bit of a worm in there,” admits Vettel. “I found it difficult to overtake cars even though I was faster. I took a lot of risk. The first time it went bad. After that we tried to save what could be saved. With the safety car phase we would have maybe a few more points. But in the end I ran out of tires. “
Very good, albeit with teething problems. At the start he went straight to the steering wheel, even though he had hardly slept during the night due to various meetings and had prepared as best he could. As a result, he was in the wrong power mode for the first few meters. Nevertheless, he had overtaken three opponents after the first lap and was 17.
From then on he drove a clean, largely flawless race with a few overtaking maneuvers and a clever strategy. In the final phase he overtook Romain Grosjean (Haas) and chased Leclerc, whose tires were more used. However, it was not enough to just overtake the Ferrari.
“Charles had an older medium than me. In the first two or three laps after the restart he had problems getting up to temperature,” analyzes Hulkenberg. Nevertheless, there was no longer any real chance of riding an attack. “It would have been nice to have been there from the start,” he says afterwards of his unexpected home race.
How tough was the battle for the podium?
Harder than meets the eye. Ricciardo had a comfortable lead over Perez before the safety car phase – but the Racing Point driver sensed his chance: “Before the safety car I had a chance. The car ran really well and the medium tires were in a big advantage of the phase. “
But then his tire advantage was gone, because everyone pitted during the safety car phase. Incidentally, Perez was one lap later than Carlos Sainz (McLaren), which almost cost him fourth place. Against Ricciardo he couldn’t make a serious attack in the finish with a balanced tire situation.
“I took care of my tires so that I wouldn’t end up losing out. But at times he was one second per lap faster than me,” admitted Ricciardo. “I think we would not have pitted without the safety car, we would have taken a risk. That would certainly have been hairy against him!”
Perez was one of the most combative pilots in the field. His duel with Leclerc against the middle of the race was worth seeing. On lap 34 he passed the Ferrari in front of the NGK chicane and fought his way to P4 – but before turn 1 he let himself be countered. One lap later, Perez settled the matter with another attack in the NGK chicane. Successful this time.
How did Romain Grosjean get injured?
Right at the beginning he reported to the pit radio, distorted with pain: “I hope my finger is not broken!” After the race he explains: “I can move my finger, but it is definitely broken. Kimi drove into the gravel trap. He threw up stones.” One of them met Grosjean. “Must have been in a curve,” suspects Wurz expert. “Because only when steering does he have his hand over the cockpit wall.”
Five drivers were eliminated. Why?
Norris (McLaren) was on course for a possible podium when his engine performance gave out. The Brit looked quite desperate on the radio, but was told by the race engineer not to give up and just keep driving. That didn’t go well for long. In retrospect, it turned out that it was a problem with the ignition, very similar to Sainz in Spa.
Alexander Albon (Red Bull) had a problem with the Honda engine. Esteban Ocon (Renault) was right behind Ricciardo when his hydraulics cut in. Bottas, we know, dropped out because of the MGU-H. And Russell because of the collision with Raikkonen (for which the “Iceman” incidentally received a ten-second penalty).
How was Albon’s performance?
When he came to the pits and got out with no apparent problem, malicious commentators uttered: “That must be the first time that Helmut Marko fired a driver during the race!” Because by then Albon had delivered one of the worst performances of his career.
The drama started with a losing position at the start. On lap 7 he had to change tires because he got a brake flat. On lap 16 he crashed, of all people, with Daniil Kwjat in the AlphaTauri, whose race was over with it – front wing off. Albon had simply cut off his way at the NGK chicane.
The race management punished this action with a five second penalty. Before he could dismount it, he almost knocked Pierre Gasly’s second AlphaTauri out of the race with another brake in Turn 1. After the race, Albon looked visibly bent. “It doesn’t look to me as if he could keep his cockpit in 2021,” criticized ‘Sky’ expert Nico Rosberg.
How are you going now?
The 2020 Formula 1 season continues on October 25th with the first Grand Prix in Portimao (Portugal). While a preliminary decision has already been made in the drivers’ championship, the battle for P2 is becoming more and more exciting. There are only 14 points between Bottas (161) and Verstappen (147).
After eleven of 17 races, the designers already knew that only Mercedes (391) and Red Bull (211) could become world champions. The battle for P3 between Racing Point (120), McLaren (116) and Renault (114) remains exciting.
(F1-Paddock live: Race Sunday at the Nürburgring)