Lewis Hamilton has equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of the most number of Formula 1 race wins (91) at the Eifel GP at Nürburgring on Sunday.
The race weekend invited a lot of eyes initially because of the Ferrari junior program drivers Mick Schumacher and Callum Illot scheduled to run the Alfa Romeo and Haas F1 cars during free practice 1 on Friday. But all the build-up could not see the light as both free practices 1 & 2 were called off because of excessive fog which meant that the helicopter could not take off and that could have compromised safety. This posed a very unique challenge for the drivers and teams as well, as everyone had minimal running before qualifying on a track where none had driven the new F1 cars as Nürburgring wasn’t part of the F1 calendar for the past few years. Racing point found themselves under pressure as Lance Stroll was taken sick supposedly by food poisoning and had to miss out on racing. This paved way for the man dubbed as “SUPER-SUB” this season, NICO HULKENBERG. He was near the track because of his commitments with German TV broadcasting. Ultimately, Nico Hulkenberg would drive in place of Lance Stroll during the qualifying and race. The free practice 3 turned into a decent 90 mins running for every team and driver. Scuderia Ferrari found some pace during the practice session which was very different from the last few races.
Undoubtedly it was Nico Hulkenberg who was the first to go out to have some running across the track in a car he had already driven at Silverstone. The first part of qualifying saw the Haas of Romain Grosjean, both Williams of George Russell and Nicolas Latifi, Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen who made his 323rd Formula 1 race start thus becoming the most experienced Formula 1 driver in terms of the number of race starts and the Racing point of Nico Hulkenberg being eliminated. Antonio Giovinazzi scrapped through to the 2nd part of qualifying by posting a time just 0.020 seconds quicker than Romain Grosjean. Nico Hulkenberg, though qualified 20th but was lauded for the commendable effort as he was just 0.8 seconds of his team-mate Sergio Perez and just 0.4s away from going into the 2nd part of qualifying with such minimal running and joining the team just hours before the qualifying. Max Verstappen topped Q1 with the two Mercedes of Bottas and Hamilton completing the top 3.
The 2nd part of qualifying saw Sebastian Vettel who was out-qualified by his teammate for the 8th race in a row, both Alpha Tauri’s of Pierre Gasly and Danill Kvyat, Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi, and Haas of Kevin Magnussen getting eliminated.
The final part of qualifying saw Valterri Bottas put in a mega effort to claim pole position by 0.256 seconds, ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Max Verstappen qualified 3rd after being the closest to the Mercedes. Charles Leclerc too put in a mega lap to equal the best qualifying position for Ferrari in p4. The other Red Bull of Alex Albon, both Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon, McLarens of Norris and Sainz, and Racing point of Sergio Perez completed the top 10.
It was to be a dramatic start as the run towards Turn 1 was long enough and the slippery downward sloping nature of Turn 1 would invite a lot of lock-ups and sliding. Lewis Hamilton made a slightly better start and was momentarily ahead of the Bottas but was pipped by Bottas coming out of Turn 1. There were a lot of lockups from Albon, Gasly, and Magnussen throughout corners 3 to 7. Sergio Perez moved up ahead of Ocon and kept fighting with Norris over p8. At the back, Hulkenberg made a good start to gain 3 places to P17. Giovinazzi had a terrific start to go to P10. Charles Leclerc held off a challenge from the pacy Ricciardo for 9 laps before Ricciardo breezed past the Ferrari. Valterri Bottas held a good 2 seconds lead over Hamilton until lap 13 when he locked up heavily going into Turn 1 and allowed Hamilton to breeze past him through turns 2 and 3. Lap 14 saw the first major incident of the race with George Russell coming off worse in a 3 way battle between him, Vettel, and Raikkonen. Raikkonen locked up and understeered straight into Russell damaging his rear suspension and giving him a left rear puncture thus retiring him from the race. The virtual safety car to recover Russell’s Williams allowed few drivers to pit and all the top 4 runners pitted for new tires. On Lap 17, Kvyat missed his braking point at the penultimate corner and went onto the grass coming onto the track just ahead of Albon and they collided taking the front wing out of Kvyat’s car. Bottas’s race which had turned horrible due to the big lock-up turned even worse when Mercedes had to retire his car due to a problem with the power unit (supposedly the ERS – Energy Recovery System). Lando Norris had electric issues with his car as well and was passed by Sergio Perez but Norris continued with a not a 100% car. Perez made another move on Charles Leclerc on Lap 35 to move into 4th place. Lando Norris retired his car on Lap 44 and thus brought out the Safety Car. The biggest losers of the Safety car were both the Racing points as they were on road to a brilliant 1-stop race as compared to the 2-stop by everyone else. Both the racing points almost raced half race distance on the softs they had started on. Safety car allowed a free pitstop to everyone except Grosjean who made up places to P7 with other pitting.
On the Safety car restart, Perez pressurized Ricciardo for the final place on the podium but Ricciardo managed to stay ahead with some disciplined driving. Hamilton went on to win the race with Max Verstappen finishing second. Daniel Ricciardo finished third and thus making Renault the 7th team to finish on the podium in 2020 – the most since 2012 (7 teams on the podium). Sergio Perez finished a brilliant 4th and his teammate for the weekend, Nico Hulkenberg made up 12 places to finish a brilliant 8th – thus taking Racing Point to 3rd in the constructor’s championship – 4 ahead of McLaren & 6 ahead of Renault. Sainz, Gasly, Leclerc finished 5th, 6th, and 7th respectively and the final 2 points positions were taken by Romain Grosjean and Giovinazzi. Kimi Raikkonen starting his record 323rd race, ended up in the 13th position as he was given a 10 second time penalty for colliding with George Russell. Sebastian Vettel finished out of the points in 11th position at his home race. Albon, Bottas, Norris, and Ocon retired with engine-related issues.
Lewis Hamilton was presented a helmet of Michael Schumacher, as a noble gesture, for equaling the highest number of race wins in F1 history, by Mick Schumacher.
Nico Hulkenberg was voted Driver of the Weekend by F1 fans around the globe.