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

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