7 POINTS WE CAN TAKE AWAY FROM THE EIFEL Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton takes his ninety-first Grand Prix win, with Max Verstappen in second and Daniel Ricciardo in third
On the ninety-seventh birthday weekend of Murray Walker, Lewis Hamilton matches the great Michael Schumacher to take his ninety-first grand prix win in Formula One at Nürburgring, with Max Verstappen taking second and Daniel Ricciardo taking the last podium spot and his first podium since Monaco in 2018.
Situated in the western state of Germany in Rhineland-Palatine, the Nürburgring was built in 1984, just next to Nordschleife, in order to comply with safety standards that its older sibling did not. On Friday, the entire day was a complete wash out and not a single car came out onto the track due to the fact that, if there were to be an accident, the medical helicopter would not have been able to take flight due to the poor visibility. This unfortunately meant that we were unable to see Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott take to the track during FP1. However, over Saturday and Sunday, the weather played nicely, and whilst it was cold, the rain stayed at bay and although we may have missed one German taking their debut in Formula One, we got to see the familiar German face of Nico Hülkenberg who filled in for an ill Lance Stroll. Here is what we learnt…
1. Nico Hülkenberg is a super sub
At 11:00 CEST on Saturday, Hülkenberg received a call from Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point Team Principle, to ask him to drive for them once again, but this time on the other side of the garage and for an ill Lance Stroll. Fortunately, Hülkenberg was only an hour away in Cologne, and so he hopped into his Porsche that he had bought off of Keke Rosberg and drove to Nürburgring. The Hulk managed to get Covid-19 tested and all the formalities done in time to for qualifying. As Hülkenberg had missed FP3, he only had four laps in Q1 to get up to speed with the car and the track, and whilst it was too much to ask of the German to get into Q2, he quite respectfully, was only 0.4 seconds off of Kevin Magnussen who just got in to Q2. During the first lap on race day, Hülkenberg managed to gain three positions and by Lap 20 he was up into tenth. Hülkenberg once again proved why he should be in Formula One next year and put in a stellar performance to finish eighth, just 1.8 seconds off of Charles Leclerc. With only three race weekends this season under his belt, and let’s not forget he did not start one of them, Hülkenberg is currently fifteenth in the drivers’ standings with ten points and has finished in the top eight the same amount of times Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Kvyat has this year.
2. Bottas brought his fighting spirit to Nürburgring, but with an engine issue causing him to retire, Hamilton came out on top
Over the weekend Valtteri Bottas brought the fighting spirit he had in Russia to Germany to go fastest in FP3 and in qualifying. During both Q1 and Q2, Max Verstappen was fastest, whilst Bottas and Hamilton fought for second and third positions. Whilst it became apparent to viewers that it seemed like Hamilton would be having to fight with Verstappen for pole, Verstappen struggled to find grip in Q3 meaning he could only go third fastest and it was Bottas who put in an incredibly impressive lap to take pole.
At the start of the race, Hamilton was quicker off the line than Bottas, however Bottas wasn’t giving up that easy and whilst they both went wide around Turn 1, Bottas kept his foot firmly on the accelerator and to take the lead around Turn 2. However, Hamilton always stayed with the Finn, and as Bottas went wide on Lap 13 around Turn 1, it gave Hamilton the perfect opportunity to take the lead around Turn 2. The race then got worse for Bottas who had a power issue on Lap 18 causing him to retire on the next lap. With Bottas retiring and Verstappen not quite being able to keep up with six-time World Champion, Hamilton took his ninety-first Grand Prix win, matching the great Michael Schumacher. After the race, Mick Schumacher, son of Michael Schumacher, gifted Hamilton one of Michael Schumacher’s racing helmet to congratulate Hamilton on matching the record.
3. Daniel Ricciardo finally took the podium we have all been waiting for
With three fourth positions under his belt this season, it was finally time for Daniel Ricciardo to take a podium position. Ricciardo started on the grid in sixth but he soon took fifth once the lights went out before closing down on Charles Leclerc in fourth. By Lap 5 Ricciardo was within DRS range of the Ferrari and was gaining. On Lap 6 Ricciardo was putting pressure on the Monegasque and Leclerc went wide around Turn 1, but Leclerc placed his car around the track in all the right places to maintain fourth position. It was not until Lap 9 that Ricciardo got past the Ferrari but Leclerc made him really fight to get past him and the fight went around Turns 1, 2 and 3. After Bottas pitted Ricciardo was bumped up to third and after Bottas retired on Lap 19, third position was now anyone’s game. Ricciardo’s tyres were a lot older than those of Norris, Perez and Sainz and so it was almost certain he would have to pit again. Fortunately for Ricciardo, the deployment of the safety car in order to recover Norris’ car, gave Ricciardo an opportunity to pit. Ricciardo pitted which then put him into fourth place, however, Perez also decided to pit the lap after as Racing Point were anxious that the old medium tyres Perez was on would not start up again, gifting Ricciardo third position again. During the restart it was tight between Ricciardo and Perez, with Perez staying in DRS range on the Honey Badger, however, once the tyres were properly warmed up, Ricciardo managed to maintain a one second gap between him and Perez to comfortably take third. The podium position now means Renault Team Principle, Cyril Abiteboul will now have to get a tattoo of Ricciardo choice…
4. Charles Leclerc put in a superb performance
Over the race weekend in Germany, Charles Leclerc has been beyond impressive in terms of what he can do in the Ferrari. The young Monegasque took us all by surprise, including himself, with what he can do in that Ferrari and was third fastest in FP3. Leclerc managed to maintain a great pace in qualifying also and broke up the two Red Bulls to take fourth position on the grid, whilst his teammate was down in eleventh. On Sunday, Leclerc maintained his fourth position at the start, until Ricciardo overtook him on Lap 9, however, he did not let the position go easily and really made Ricciardo work for it. On Lap 11, Leclerc came into the pits to put the medium tyre on, a lot earlier than the rest, but this did not deter him, and he fought his way back up the pecking order through overtaking Hülkenberg on Lap 21 for tenth and Pierre Gasly on Lap 29 for seventh. Leclerc then had Sergio Perez keeping him company who impatiently overtook Leclerc just before the DRS detection zone down to Turn 1, meaning Leclerc repassed Perez on Lap 35, but Perez managed to overtake Leclerc during the next DRS zone. Leclerc finished a respectful seventh place.
5. Kimi Räikkönen became the most experienced driver in Formula One history
At around 14:45 CEST, Kimi Räikkönen became the most experienced driver in Formula One history, completing 323 races and passing Rubens Barrichello’s record. Räikkönen started nineteenth on the grid and did not have the best race of his career. On Lap 1, around Turn 2, Kimi went wide after Kvyat locked up in front of him which gave Kimi limited visibility and thus causing him to go wide. On Lap 13, Räikkönen locked up going into Turn 1 and collided with George Russell who was on the outside of the Ice Man, giving Russell a puncture and damaging the suspension on his car. Russell tried to limp back to the pits however he could not make it and parked his car on the side of the track causing a virtual safety car in order to recover the damaged Williams. Räikkönen received a ten second penalty and finished the race in twelfth position.
6. Giovinazzi and Grosjean finish in the points
In a time where it matters most, Antonio Giovanazzi and Romain Grosjean tried to demonstrate why they deserve a seat in a Formula One car and not the new and upcoming talent. Giovanazzi put in a lap time of 1.27.532 to get him into Q2 and was 0.596 seconds quicker than his Q1 lap to put him fourteenth on the starting grid. As the lights went out, Giovanazzi gained three positions to take eleventh and is still yet to lose a position at the start. The Italian kept himself out of trouble to finish tenth, meaning that this was the second time he had finished within the points this season. Meanwhile, in the Haas, Romain Grosjean thought he had broken index finger due to Räikkönen going wide in front and touching the gravel causing it to fly up and hit his finger. Nonetheless, Grosjean managed to finish ninth to no longer be last in the Championship.
7. McLaren dedicate their weekend to the charity Mind
To commemorate World Mental Health Day, and their partnership with the charity Mind, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris sported helmets they had designed with paint. The weekend was a frustrating one for the pair with Lando Norris retiring and Carlos Sainz coming fifth.
Lando Norris had a fighting chance of being on the podium, however, with a power unit issue on Lap 27, his hopes of a second podium were quickly dashed, despite his engineers trying to give the Brit some positivity over the team radio that he was doing a good job. With the battle for third in the Constructors’ Championship being so tight McLaren kept Norris out to gain some important points, however, Norris was forced to park the McLaren on the side of the track on Lap 45.
On the other side of the garage, despite finishing fifth, Carlos Sainz was somewhat disappointed. Sainz had been trying out some new upgrades this weekend, but because FP1 and FP2 was cancelled, Sainz only had FP3 to understand how the new upgrades affected the car and he could not quite manage to find the cars potential.