The Nurburgring: A weekend of record breaking, indecisive weather and DNF's
The Eifel Grand Prix: Rundown
After strong signs of rain throughout the week - and Practice 1 and 2 cancelled as a result of the weather conditions - the clouds did not deliver the downpour promised during Sunday's race. However, this did not put a halt to the action-packed Eifel Grand Prix which delivered Hamilton's record-equaling 91 wins, five DNF's and Daniel Ricciardo's first podium since Monaco 2018.
As the lights went out and the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix commenced, pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas seemed eager to put on a show for the fans after his win in Russia a fortnight ago. Adamant to keep the lead, he fought off championship leader and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton through the first few corners of the first lap - and was successful against the six-time world champion who was forced back into second after a few seconds of viscous fighting which caused both Mercedes to go wide in the first corner.
Behind the front two, Daniel Ricciardo was anxious to catch up with Charles Leclerc's Ferrari for the fourth place. Keeping just out of DRS range for the first eight laps until he pulled the move off on lap 9 as a light shower was predicted over Sainz's radio which was followed by dark clouds and rain drops a few laps later as the driver's struggled for control, Vettel spinning consequently on lap 11.
Lap 13 saw the Mercedes teammates battle for the lead again: after a lock-up from the Finnish driver, Hamilton was able to snatch the lead away with ease but he had not solidified his win yet. As his teammate pit for fresh tyres, Max Verstappen's speed becomes noticed as he enters the DRS range of Lewis Hamilton...and Ricciardo takes third place. George Russell takes flight as Kimi Raikkonen - now holding the record of most race starts at 323 - also locks up and makes contact with the Williams' driver, causing him a puncture and the first DNF, receiving himself a ten second penalty.
Virtual Safety car on lap 16 while the marshalls cleared up the stray Williams prevented Ricciardo from taking back third once Bottas passed him before the yellow flags. The importance of pit stop speed was proved vital as first and second pitted, Verstappen's gap from Hamilton decreasing as a result of his 2.0s pit stop (Hamilton's pit stop 4.2s).
The second DNF occurred on lap 18 as the Russian Grand Prix winner retired from engine issues, closely followed by Esteban Ocon as he complained about his "gears not working" on lap 20. Three laps later Red Bull's No.2 followed suit after a rocky race from the beginning after pitting lap 7 and lap 22 because of vibrations as well as knocking the front wing off Daniil Kyvat's Alpha Tauri during an overtake on lap 17 which resulted in a five second penalty. Confusion seemed to be the reaction from the Thai driver as he received the message from the team that they were retiring him and had to "slow down", when he asked why, he was told that it would be "explained when you get back" and that it was a "car problem", there was silence on the radio on Albon's side. Christian Horner has stated that the problem was a "punctured radiator".
Mclaren fans' hopes were set on edge as Norris, sitting in third having overtaken Ricciardo, reported a loss in power, ten laps later it was described as a "significant power unit problem". Despite the panic on the young Brits radio, he was able to last 18 laps before retiring on lap 44, his car smoking at the back.
Safety car on lap 45 caused a chain of pitting including race leader Hamilton, Verstappen in second and Ricciardo in fourth, Perez in between, splitting the old teammates up. The top two followed the safety car closely for four laps as the FIA waited for the cars behind to unlap themselves despite the complaints about tyre temperature from Hamilton and Verstappen.
As the Green flag was waved on lap 50, the pack was tight, Hamilton's eight second gap reduced to one and while Verstappen was trying to close the gap even more, Ricciardo was close on his tail, attempting - although unsuccessfully - an overtake on his former teammate.
Although Verstappen fans were kept on the edge of their seat during the last ten laps, the Dutchman was unsuccessful in closing down on Hamilton to take the win at the Nurburgring, although, no one could argue with a second place, crossing the line three seconds behind race winner Lewis Hamilton who took his ninety-first win of his career and his seventh of the 2020 season. Ricciardo snatched the last podium position with a well deserved third place having been on top form in the last few races.
Also happy with their race should be Nico Hulkenburg having qualified twentieth on the Saturday only a few hours after getting the message from Racing Point that he'd be driving in the place of Lance Stroll, he was able to bring the Racing Point home in eighth, making up twelve positions and taking the team to third in the constructors championship. Grosjean was able to steal two points in ninth despite a throbbing finger the entirety of the race caused by stray gravel and Giovannazzi fought well for his top ten finish equaling one point.
In a fortnight we'll see the teams race again at the Portuguese Grand Prix on the 23rd-25th October where we'll hope to see a comeback from Bottas and a continued streak of good results from Ricciardo to throw Renault into the battle with Racing Point and Mclaren for third place in the constructors championship as well as maybe a point for Sebastian Vettel.