Thursday, October 15, 2020

Lewis Hamilton Ties Michael Schumacher's Win Record With Eifel Grand Prix Victory

 Photo Credit: Zak Mauger / LAT Images/ Pirelli

The 11th event in Formula 1's modified 17-round schedule for 2020, the Nurburgring once again hosts the top open wheel competitors after a seven-year absence. One of the world’s most famous motorsport venues in the world, the German race complex predates the Formula 1 World Championship holding its first grand prix in 1927. Operating as the Eifel Grand Prix in reference to the vast European mountain region surrounding the Nurburgring, the 2020 race is the first time the 5.148-kilometer GP-Strecke track welcomes the vehicles of Formula 1's current turbo/hybrid race car era.  

Set for 60 laps, Sunday’s 2020 Eifel Grand Prix assembled with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team providing a patriotic presence with both cars on the front row. In a tight Saturday qualifying, Valtteri Bottas found enough speed to place him ahead of Lewis Hamilton for pole position on the race grid. In addition to Sebastian Vettel starting in 11th place for Ferrari, the German crowd was granted a second home country driver to cheer on as Nico Hulkenberg was selected to sit-in for Lance Stroll who reported being unwell on Saturday. 

Compared to the calamity that took place at the start previous grand prix events, the opening laps of the Eifel Grand Prix were a very tame affair. The Mercedes-AMG team cars battled into first corner with Valtteri Bottas fending off Lewis Hamilton. Drivers able to gain ground on the opening lap of the race was Antonio Giovinazzi and Nico Hulkenberg who both moved up by three positions.  

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Williams driver George Russell was the first retirement of the Eifel Grand Prix. On lap 13, Russell entered into the Nurburgring’s first corner battling the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen who were both following the recently pitted Ferrari driven by Sebastian Vettel. Exiting the turn, the left front wheel of Raikkonen’s car made contact with Russell’s right rear tire sending the right side of #63 Williams FW43 race car into the air for a brief second. The Williams Racing vehicle landed back on four wheels but suspension damage caused the impact led George Russel to stop on track later in the lap requiring a virtual safety car period for track workers to recover the machine. Kimi Raikkonen was assessed as a 10-second time penalty for the collision and continued to finish 12th in the grand prix where he set a series record for total starts.

In addition to the accident towards the back of the running order on lap 13, a major incident occurred at the front. Braking hard into the first corner, leader Valtteri Bottas locked-up the front tires of his #77 Mercedes race car. Taking advantage of Bottas’ misstep, teammate Lewis Hamilton surged by on the exit of the turn and took the lead. Pitting for a new set of medium compound tires at the end of the lap, Valtteri Bottas suffered a race-ending issue almost immediately after the pit stop. The power unit installed on the #77 car began to fail dropping well off the pace and forcing Bottas to retire after 18 laps at the Nurburgring. Valtteri Bottas’ early exit from the Eifel Grand Prix was the first retirement of the season for the Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 team as a whole. The Renault of Esteban Ocon as well as the Red Bull Racing car of Alexander Albon were also parked into their paddock garages a handful of laps after Bottas. 

As one of the Mercedes-AMG racers dropped out of the race, a podium position was up for grabs amongst drivers not usually given a chance to seize such a valuable finishing spot. In prime position heading into the middle portion of the Eifel Grand Prix, the McLaren of Lando Norris held third place behind Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen competing for his second podium of the 2020 season. Sadly for the young British driver, issues with his vehicle’s Renault power unit began to slow his progress before his lap 29 pit stop. Though Norris was able to persevere in the race just gradually sliding down the running order, the #4 McLaren was retired on lap 44 stopping beyond the runoff area of turn six. The placement of McLaren required a physical safety car period to recover Norris’ vehicle. With the Mercedes-AMG GT-R safety car briefly leading the field from lap 45 until the end of lap 49, the Eifel Grand Prix became the fifth consecutive Formula 1 race to feature a safety car period. 

In a final 10-lap run, Lewis Hamilton flew to the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix for what was a major record-tying victory. The British driver achieved his 91st career win placing him alongside the all-time Formula 1 grand prix victor Michael Schumacher. Capturing his momentous victory in the seven-time world champion’s home country of Germany, Hamilton’s accomplishment was farther honoured by Michael Schumacher’s son Mick presenting him with one of his father’s helmets. “It was beyond my wildest dreams to be equaling his number of race wins and it just shows that dreams can come true. It’s an incredible honour and something that will take some time to sink in.”, said Hamilton in a post-race release on the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s website.

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Crossing the line in second place 4.470 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, Max Verstappen posted his eighth podium of the 2020 season. The Red Bull Racing driver also narrowly captured the single point for posting the fastest lap at the Nurburgring with a 1-minute, 28.139-second lap time. Set on the final lap, Max Verstappen’s best time was effort beat Lewis Hamilton’s top lap by 6/1000ths of a second.

Photo Credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images for Honda North America

Triumphant in the fight for the third and final podium spot was Daniel Ricciardo. The first podium for Ricciardo since his victory on the streets of Monaco in 2018, the Australian’s result was the Renault F1 Team’s first top-three finish since rejoining Formula 1 in 2016. “Oh wow, it feels like the first time I ever got a podium. These emotions and that feeling you get when you get out the car, hug the team, the mechanics slapping you on the helmet, it’s just amazing and I am so happy we did it! It’s obviously my first one with Renault and it’s something I wanted to achieve when I set out on this journey with the team.”, said Daniel Ricciardo on the Renault DP World F1 Team’s website. Ricciardo will be leaving the team after the 2020 season for McLaren while his vacant seat will be filled by Fernando Alonso.

For the second race in a row, Sergio Perez brought his Racing Point RP20 car to a fourth place finish. Carlos Sainz Jr. driving the remaining McLaren completed the Eifel Grand Prix in fifth place ending an undesirable two-race streak of early retirements. Pierre Gasly scored his second-best finish of the 2020 season collecting a sixth place result crossing the line ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton / LAT Images/ Pirelli

The final three points-paying positions in the Eifel Grand Prix were obtained by competitors not generally associated with the top-10 runners this season. From 20th place, Nico Hulkenberg’s relief driving performance for Racing Point netted an impressive 8th place after 60 laps in home of his home crowd. Hulkenberg was also the highest finishing German driver at the Nurburgring as fellow country-mate Sebastian Vettel crossed the line in 11th place. Enduring a dismal season with a consistently slow Haas F1 Team race car and bad luck, Frenchman Romain Grosjean finally collected his first championship points for 2020 finishing in ninth place through the employment of a single-stop pit strategy. Italian Antonio Giovinazzi grabbed the tenth position spot at the end of Eifel Grand Prix driving for Alfa Romeo Racing. 

The next round for the 2020 Formula 1 championship will be the Portuguese Grand Prix with the race scheduled for October 25th.

2020 Formula 1
Eifel Grand Prix
Race Results

Bottas Becomes King of the Hill After Qualifying for Eifel Grand Prix


Photo Credit: FIA Pool/LAT Images/Pirelli

Staging 40 grand prix events between 1951 and 2013, the Nurburgring exists as a popular German locale for automotive speed has assembled races under the banner of the German Grand Prix, European Grand Prix and Luxembourg Grand Prix. For 2020, Formula 1 cars return to the track to participate in the Eifel Grand Prix weekend.

Formula 1's return to the Nurburgring as literally dampened by weather on Friday. The 5.148-kilometer GP-Strecke within the historic German complex was soaked and covered in heavy fog. Though race cars are equipped to run in wet weather, the fog created a safety concern in relations to accessing hospital care in case of a worst case scenario. Fog prevented flight of a medical helicopter while the road travel to the nearest FIA-approved hospital was beyond a travel distance of 20 minutes. The sanctioning body elected to cancel the two practice sessions for Friday leaving team with only the Saturday morning practice to familiarize themselves with a track the series hasn’t raced on for seven years.

Prior to the start of Saturday’s action, Racing Point driver Lance Stroll withdrew from competition citing feeling unwell. In relief of the Canadian, Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg was called back for a third time in 2020 by the Racing Point organization teaming up with Sergio Perez (the driver he substituted for the two Silverstone races in July). 

Posting the fastest time in the one and only practice ahead of Eifel Grand Prix qualifying, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team pilot Valtteri Bottas scored pole at the Nurburgring in a captivating late minute battle with teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. Bottas knocked Hamilton off the top spot for Sunday’s main event with a 1-minute, 25.259-second lap time. The pole for the driver of the #77 Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance race car is his third of the season. Valtteri Bottas is riding high after his impressive win at the last Formula 1 stop in Russia.

Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Beaten by 0.256 seconds, Lewis Hamilton settled for the second place spot on the grid. Losing their full season consecutive run of front row occupation for 2020 after Russian Grand Prix qualifying, the Mercedes-AMG team celebrates the revival of their time trial domination. Racing on home soil, the Mercedes-Benz factory team once more faced a fierce challenge from the Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. The Honda-powered race car was only 0.037 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joined Verstappen on the second row of the Eifel Grand Prix’s starting grid.

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton LAT Images Pirelli

The third row for the race at the Nurburgring is shared by the second Red Bull Racing race car piloted by Alexander Albon and the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. Registering a lap time just 0.019 seconds slower than his teammate Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon will start in seventh place in the Eifel Grand Prix beside Lando Norris driving for McLaren. Sergio Perez for Racing Point and the second McLaren wheeled by Carlos Sainz Jr. rounds out the top 10 starting position for Sunday’s 60-lap main event.

Called to the track on Saturday morning in reserve for Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg had no time to adjust to the Racing Point machine ahead of qualifying resulting in him posting the slowest track time. Hulkenberg will start in 20th place for the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

2020 Formula 1
Eifel Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Honda To Abandon Formula 1 After 2021 Season

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/Motorsport Images through American Honda Co., Inc.

Throughout the history of Formula 1, the sport has featured a revolving door of automobile manufacturers who have entered and exited for miscellaneous reasons. 

Lamborghini, Subaru and Spyker Cars are some prominent names in the automotive world that had an involvement in Formula 1 too brief for some to remember. Other companies such as BMW, Toyota and Porsche have previously operated as heavy hitters in the global open wheel series but are not actively part of the sport. Formula 1 also contained a number of names that have operated in several prominent stints. First involved in grand prix racing in 1964, Honda’s Formula 1 history is defined as both a constructor and engine supplier. Currently supplying power units to Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri, Honda has announced intentions to end their most recent participation in Formula 1 racing.

With the end of the 2021 Formula 1 season, the Japanese automaker will no longer contribute propulsion to entrants. In a speech made by President, Representative Director and CEO of Honda Motor Co., LTD Takahiro Hachigo, Honda’s cited reason to discontinue their present role in the sport is related to the company’s increasing focus on developing new technologies for production vehicles to comply with environmental targets. Planning to have 2/3rds of the automobiles sold across the world electrified, Honda is targeting carbon neutrality by 2050. After the completion of the 2021 obligations to Formula 1, Honda plans to divert staff and personnel working with their Formula 1 power unit program into their research and development department to create carbon-reducing powerplant technologies.

The decision by Honda leaves two teams in search of a new power unit supplier for the 2022 season. Both teams having won grand prix events in 2020 with Honda power, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri seemed pleased with their propulsion for the year. This year, Max Verstappen won the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix with Red Bull Racing while the AlphaTauri group celebrated victory at the Italian Grand Prix with winning driver Pierre Gasly. Reacting to the news, Red Bull Racing’s Team Principal Christian Horner commented in a team statement posted online, “As a Team we understand how difficult it has been for Honda Motor Company to reach the decision to step back from Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season.” Horner also expressed the team’s disappointment in the announcement but also conveyed gratitude to Honda for the five wins scored by the Red Bull-owned grand prix organizations. While announcing their departure, Honda is still devoted to creation of a competitive power unit for the 2021 season with both teams.

Honda’s recent stint in Formula 1 came following the announcement of the sport’s current turbocharged/hybrid power unit configuration introduced for 2014. Partnering with McLaren (a team which Honda had enjoyed some major success in the past), the Japanese auto brand elected to wait until 2015 to enter competition with their gasoline/electric powertrain. Performing poorly with McLaren from 2015 to 2017 with the power unit receiving much ridicule due to lack of competitiveness and reliability problems, Honda secured a new deal for the 2018 season with Scuderia Toro Rosso (transforming into AlphaTauri this year). Toro Rosso’s corporate relative Red Bull Racing adopted Honda performances in 2019 and secured a victory for the auto company at the year’s Austria Grand Prix before winning two more times.

Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri have a tricky job ahead finding a power unit supplier for the 2022 Formula 1 season and beyond. The use of all three remaining powerplant options will provide obstacles to the teams. The top contender would be Mercedes-Benz but they’re slated to supply four teams next year including their factory team that is a top adversary for Red Bull Racing. Renault had previously provided engines to both Red Bull Racing and AlphaTauri but the relationship ended on a sour note a few seasons ago. Finally, the option of Ferrari may be appealing by the performance of the 2020 competition package. Other rumoured alternatives could involve a new Formula 1 powerplant supplier or Red Bull Racing developing their own power units.

Though saying Say┼Źnara to Formula 1 on October 2nd, the Japanese automaker sent somewhat of a mixed message about competing with a gasoline/electric hybrid powerplant platform in open wheel racing one day later. Honda reaffirmed its commitment to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 by confirming their involvement of a power unit to conform with the racing tour’s upcoming introduction of hybrid technology in competition cars for 2023.