Formula 1 2020 Eifel Grand Prix was held at the iconic Nurburgring track in the City of Nurburg, Germany, home of the Great Schumacher, on the 11th of October. The 11th round of the 2020 Formula 1 Season is the first running of the Eifel Grand Prix in the history of F1. For the first time since 2013, F1 returns to the Nurburgring track, where the last race winner was Sebastian Vettel.
After failing to equal the record of most wins at Russian GP due to pre-race penalties, Hamilton made sure that he made no mistakes on this weekend. Bottas managed to get the upper hand on his teammate at the end of the qualifying round on Saturday, but Sunday is the day when the points are handed out.
Hamilton kept his cool and grabbed the opportunity when it came during the race and crossed the start-finish line in P1 position for the 91st time in his career. The record that once seemed unbeatable has finally been matched, and a new benchmark will be set in the coming years.
Pre-Race Preparations Thursday – Wet & Chilly Weekend
It is very cold in this part of Germany during the last quarter of the year. The weather forecast was not great for the spectators. The outlook was for heavy rains and extremely chilly conditions throughout the race weekend.
Departing Sergio Perez finally got the upgrade package the team introduced during the Tuscan GP at Mugello in Italy. The package is a step forward for the car compared to the launch car specs.
Lando Norris will get a new power unit for his car and will not receive a penalty as he still is within the engines allowed to each driver per season.
Friday Practice – Cancelled FP1 and FP2
Heavy rains and fog in FP1 and the medical helicopter could not take off, so running was cancelled.
FP2 heavy rains continue, and again the medical helicopter could not take off.
There was no rain on Saturday, and the sky was clear, but the temperatures stayed below 10 degrees. The teams tried to get as much running as possible within the 1-hour window. Most of the teams went for medium stints at the beginning to get a better understanding of how the car would behave during the race conditions.
At the end of FP3, Valterri Bottas proved to be the quickest driver ahead of his teammate. Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari in the P3 position ahead of Max Verstappen and Vettel. Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly completed the top 10.
Racing Point's Lance Stroll didn’t feel well and did not run in the FP3 session, so the team decided that he should not take part in the remainder of the race weekend.
So Racing Point team principal called Nico Hulkenberg, who was having coffee with a friend. He was at the track within an hour, got negative COVID-19 test within 2 hours, and was allowed to enter the paddock just under an hour from Qualifying.
Super-sub Hulkenberg was the first man out of the pits and tried to get the hang of the car and the icy track conditions. He did get the car out of Q1 session but failed by 0.4 sec in the end; heroic effort nonetheless to qualify 20th. On the other side of the grid, Verstappen was the fastest driver ahead of Mercedes. George Russell, Nicholas Latifi, Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean failed to reach Q2.
The second session started with Mercedes going out on medium tyres but had to go again on the red-walled soft tyres to make sure they progress to the last session. Hamilton was the faster driver of the Silver Arrows ahead of Max Verstappen. Kevin Magnussen, Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi, and the Alpha Tauri duo failed to qualify for Q3.
The final session on Saturday was a bit different from previous Q3 sessions. Verstappen sped past the Merc duo and topped the timing sheets at the end of the first runs. Hamilton was first to cross the line on his last attempt and took the P1 position, but that lasted only a few seconds. Bottas was lighting the timing screen with purple sectors and took his second pole position in a row with a new track record of 1m 25.269s. The Dutchman improved on his time but stayed third. Leclerc a fine 4th for Ferrari, Albon 5th, as Ricciardo, Ocon, Norris, Perez and Sainz completed the top 10.
Sunday Race – Sweltering 2020 Eifel Grand Prix Race on Icy Tracks
The weather was extremely cold, and so was the track, but the action down into the first corner was exciting. Hamilton made a better start from the grid and was alongside his teammate going into the first corner. Bottas held his line outside and powered himself back into the lead. Behind, everybody was running cleanly apart from Albon who locked up heavily and flat-spotted his tyres resulting in an early pit stop on lap 7.
Leclerc did a mega job on Saturday but in the race trim soon started to lose ground and was overtaken by Ricciardo on lap 9 for 4th. At the front on lap 13, Bottas made a slight mistake by locking up into turn 1 and ran wide allowing Hamilton to nip past him.
Räikkönen, who was racing in his 323rd Grand Prix (a new record: most races started by an F1 driver), drove into the side of Russell ending his race and received a 10s time penalty. A virtual safety car was deployed for the incident between the two.
Lap 16, Bottas reported loss of power from his Mercedes engine, retired from the race a lap later, and made the life very easy for his teammate for the rest of the race. Albon of Red Bull also dropped from the race on lap 26 with a power unit problem.
Lando Norris, who was running 3rd after retirements and pit stop, also developed an issue with his engine, running without any deployment from energy recovery system. The team tried to solve the sensor issue many times, but he eventually retired from the race and missed a chance to grab his 2nd and McLaren’s 3rd podium of the season.
After Norris parked his car due to this engine issue on the track, a full safety car was deployed to recover the vehicle. The field got bunched up, and lapped runners were allowed to 'unlap' themselves. The race restarted with ten laps to go, and it was an exciting finish to the line.
Hamilton crossed the line in P1 to equal the record of most wins by an F1 driver in his career. The British champ is now equal with Schumacher on 91 race wins. Verstappen finished the race in 2nd place and an extra point for fastest lap. Ricciardo took P3 for his first podium since Monaco 2018 and Renault's first podium since 2016.
Perez finished 4th, Sainz 5th, Gasly 6th, Leclerc 7th, Hulkenberg a great 8th place after starting 20th, Grosjean 9th and Giovinazzi 10th.
Next Up Is the Portuguese Grand Prix!
F1 heads to Portimao race track for the first time in its history, bringing the action to a high-speed circuit with fast twists and turns. Let us see which teams and drivers get to grips with the limits of the track better than the others. Join us next week!