German F1 Recap - Hamilton Wins Eifel Grand Prix
Hamilton equals Schumacher’s all-time win record with victory in Germany
Lewis Hamilton secured his 91st win at the Eifel Grand Prix in Germany to equal the all time record set by Michael Schumacher, with Max Verstappen second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who secured his first podium at Renault.
After Bottas secured pole on Saturday, it looked like Hamilton would have a fight on his hands if he were to finally equal the record, and that was certainly the case at the start of the race, with Hamilton getting a great start and forcing his teammate wide, before the Finn came back at Hamilton to maintain the lead, in what was a rare demonstration of Valtteri Bottas taking the fight to the Englishman.
The podium looked set to be business as usual with the 2 Mercedes and Max Verstappens Red Bull opening up a 16 second gap after just 9 laps, with Charles Leclerc acting as a cork in the bottle with his Ferrari in 4th. A decisive move from Ricciardo to get past the young Ferrari driver looked to be a key moment in his race, as he was able to begin building a gap to his rivals before Leclerc pitted 2 laps later to release the pack behind him. Bottas soon relinquished the lead to Hamilton, locking up in to turn 1, the Finn ran wide and allowed Hamilton the opportunity to pass in what was an unforced error that Bottas must eradicate from his driving if he is to ever truly challenge Hamilton in equal machinery. The lockup forced Bottas in to the pits for a fresh set of tyres earlier than he would have hoped, bringing him out behind Ricciardo into fourth to further hamper his chances to taking the victory.
The more experienced Finnish driver, Kimi Raikkonen, was also setting records today as he started his 323rd race to overtake Rubens Barrichello as the driver with the most race starts, however a failed overtake attempt on George Russell earned him a 10 second penalty and a virtual safety car to recover the stricken Williams. The cheap pit stop afforded by the VSC enabled the front 2 cars to change their tyres and rejoin the racing whilst maintaining their positions ahead of Bottas, who had managed to move himself up to 3rd before a problem with his ERS unit forced him to retire on lap 19 and all but hand the championship to his teammate.
The Mercedes was not the only car to fall foul of reliability issues, with Renault’s Esteban Ocon retiring with a brake problem on lap 23, Alex Albon retiring a lap later with a power unit problem and McLaren’s Lando Norris also picking up a sensor issue which ultimately forced a retirement later in the race, resulting in 4 of the 5 non-finishers out due to reliability problems rarely seen in the modern era of F1 racing.
In truth, it was yet another race to forget for Alex Albon in the Red Bull. After one of his best qualifying performances saw him start in 5th, he lost places on the opening lap before running in to the Alpha Tauri of Kvyat, taking the front wing off of the sister car and picking up a 5 second penalty for the trouble, retiring on the same lap to cap off another race to forget for the London born Thai driver. Albon’s persistent problems this season will surely leave his seat at Red Bull under threat for next year, as he has struggled to perform at the levels expected, ultimately damaging Red Bull’s ability to challenge Mercedes at the front of the grid. Albon’s saving grace may be that the 2 seats at Alpha Tauri who are most likely to threaten his position are occupied by 2 drivers who have both previously been dumped mid season from the main Red Bull team, with rumours swirling that neither will be reconsidered for the top job next year. Still, Albon must up his game if he does not want to force the team to look outside of their junior programme to fill their race seats for next year, with a plethora of top drivers available for 2021.
One such driver is Nico Hulkenburg. Called up last minute by Racing Point to replace Lance Stroll who was unable to compete through illness, the German was unable to practice at all, expecting to be working as part of the German media team this weekend, Hulkenburg received the call late Saturday morning, driving from Cologne to arrive only in time for qualifying. After qualifying with no practice, it was unsurprising to see him start last, however Hulkenburg put in another faultless drive, moving himself up to 8th place by the time the race finished, further adding to his stock as he looks to secure a full time drive for next year. Amazingly, the German finds himself in 15th in the championship despite having no full time race seat this year!
Hulkenburg’s points, coupled with a strong 4th placed finish from Sergio Perez saw Racing Point move up to 3rd in the constructors championship, ahead of McLaren 4 points behind with Renault now just a further 2 points back in 5th. Perez was unfortunate not to take the podium today, the Mexican looking in the stronger position before a safety car was deployed following Lando Norris’ retirement on lap 44. With both he and Ricciardo pitting for new tyres, the advantage was handed back to the Australian as he was still ahead on track, and there was nothing Perez could do to stop the Renault driver from securing his first podium since Monaco 2018, and Renaults first since Malaysia 2011! The result also means team boss Cyril Abiteboul will be looking for a tattoo parlour – a wager between the driver and principle saw that if Ricciardo secured a podium before he departs the team at the end of the year, his boss would have to get a tattoo that Ricciardo would design! With Norris’ retirement, Ricciardo moves up to 4th in the championship, ahead of Perez who also leapfrogged the young McLaren driver who falls to 6th in the table. The midfield battle continues to be both intriguing and exciting, and certainly looks set to rage on till the very end of the season.
A 9th place for Haas Romain Grosjean saw the Frenchman pick up his first points of the season, finishing ahead of 2 veterans of the sport in Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. 41 next week, and now as the most experienced driver of all time, this may well be Raikkonen’s last year in F1, however Vettel’s future in the sport is assured with a drive next year at Aston Martin (currently Racing Point). The 4x World Champion will be grateful of the shortened season, his 11th placed finish the latest poor result in the underwhelming Ferrari, in what is proving to be a long and protracted divorce after being told his contract with the Scuderia would not be renewed before the season had even began. Vettel described his time at Ferrari as ‘a failure’ due to not winning a world championship, however claims he has no regrets about his move to the Italian giant, but the German must surely be looking forward to a fresh start next year in new surroundings, which will hopefully produce a return to his best form.
Hamilton’s victory today equalled Michael Schumacher’s all time win record, and moved him one step closer to equalling the Germans 7 World Championships – a record that many once viewed as being uncatchable. The achievement was recognised with Mick, son of Michael, awarding Hamilton one of his father’s crash helmets from his final season at Mercedes in a tribute of mixed emotions. The legendary driver is unable to attend the ceremony himself, as he continues his recovery from a serious head injury from a tragic skiing accident 7 years ago – Keep Fighting Michael.
The next race in 2 weeks time represents an unknown for all the teams, as we travel to the Algarve in Portugal for the first ever time – join us to see if Hamilton and Mercedes can wrap up their 7th double world title, or if Bottas or Verstappen will ignite their title charge as we move into the final phase of this unprecedented Formula 1 season!
Winner: Lewis Hamilton
Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen – 1.28.139
Driver of the Day: Nico Hulkenburg
Position Driver Car
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull
3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault
4 Sergio Perez Racing Point
5 Carlos Sainz Jnr McLaren
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari
8 Nico Hulkenberg Racing Point
9 Romain Grosjean Haas
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams
15 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri
DNF Lando Norris McLaren
DNF Alexander Albon Red Bull
DNF Esteban Ocon Renault
DNF Valtteri Bottas Mercedes
DNF George Russell Williams