Given his penchant for dominance and sheer consistency, most headlines upon the completion of a FORMULA 1 race read something like the following:
“Lewis Hamilton wins from pole to register yet another victory.”
Not that what transpired at the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix was a walk in the park for the six-time world champion, now gunning and most certain to bag a seventh title crown. But then, great drivers don’t need pole positions always to seal a race-win, right? At times, the front row starts, and making most of an opponent’s quandary does the trick, provided one reacts at lightning speed.
So when pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas locked up on lap 13 in the approach to a right-hander and went slightly wide, it was his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who clinched the lead, a position he’d never throw away. But not before having been denied a near-certain pass right at the start where he was all but out in the lead with the Finn making up for a sluggish getaway putting all great reflexes into defending from the Briton.
From a statistical perspective, the Nurburgring had plenty of headlining material, the venue returning to the grid after a gap of 7 years to produce a cracker of a contest with amazing battles all around the grid. But from a sentimental perspective too, the Nurburgring ensured that FORMULA 1 and its doting fans got plenty to cheer about.
What were the five big talking points from the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix?
The Champion Draws Level With The Master
It can only take the master to challenge the champion of the sport and what was fitting, to say the least, was that Lewis Hamilton, who was targeting Michael Schumacher’s race win tally, was able to do so at the great champion’s homeland.
With 91 race wins, Hamilton just needs another to clinch an incredible first; in becoming the only driver in the sport’s seven decade history to record 92 race wins.
A feat that given his unbelievable consistency shouldn’t take that long.
But apart from Lewis’ record-smashing feat, credit must be given to the way he retook the lead on Lap 13 with his teammate locking up the front tires as the duo battled in the run to a right-hander.
In a perfect demonstration of “you miss, I hit”- Hamilton, who had all but passed Valtteri seconds from the start itself, launched into the lead after Bottas quite simply failed to control the proceedings at the front. From there on in, it was down to Hamilton’s excellent race-management that led to another incredible race win for the Mercedes, and the Briton’s seventh this season.
Daniel smiles, and so does the world
Few drivers are as regarded for their race-craft as they are for their smile other than the Australian Honeybadger. For someone who prior to arriving at the Nurburging, where he last raced in 2013, had managed four P4 positions, Daniel Ricciardo realized what he had been targeting a while: the most achievable result in the form of a P3 finish.
Showing once again a demonstration of fine driving, the dauntless driver collected 15 valuable points as a result of some excellent overtaking, including the pass on Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and his excellent defending from Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, easily the faster of the two battling cars.
As a result of Daniel’s determined effort, Renault also achieved their first podium since 2011 Malaysia (where Quick Nick Nick Heidfeld excelled for the French team), perhaps the more memorable result than the tattoo Cyril shall now get!
Several retirements minus serious accidents: Nurburgring smiles
At a track where starting 1928 onwards, there have been no fewer than 78 fatalities, including deaths of 4 Formula 1 drivers, the challenges of driving at the desperately dangerous Nurburgring can be a bit too overwhelming.
Although, the track has undergone a few redesigns in a bid to make the race track more adaptable and modern F1-car friendly, one just never knows what might the circuit throw up on the race day.
Though thankfully there weren’t any accidents as such on Sunday, October 11, there were, no fewer than 5 retirements, including those of Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, and George Russell.
And while there was a collision between the Red Bull driver and Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat, which led to the Russian’s race being compromised, it was the Thai-British driver who race-retired eventually, never really recovering from the damage he self-inflicted courtesy a move you’d reckon he never should have made.
It didn’t help that the Russian Torpedo finished P15 having already had an underwhelming qualifying performance and not in the least, Alex Albon, who would have wanted to do much better, having begun from fifth on the grid.
Spare a thought for Antonio Giovinazzi
For a driver who until arriving at the Nurburgring hadn’t managed to reach Q2 even once on the much-important Saturdays, Antonio Giovinazzi was a reformed driver at the 2020 Eifel GP.
One who was determined to stabilize a career that given recent rumors- that he might be losing a drive for 2021- began strongly by first putting his Alfa Romeo into Q2 (for the first time this season) and next by finishing ahead of his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen.
His P10 was a fine performance not only given the lackluster form the Italian had endured of late, having last scored a point 10 races ago. Moreover, his was the only Alfa that scored any points at the dangerous Nurburgring, ending with 2 vital collections, as a result of which the Martina Franca-born overtook Raikkonen on the standings, landing on sixteenth.
Max Verstappen does all he could have done
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished his first-ever drive at the Nurburgring in a Formula 1 race in second, next-best only to Lewis Hamilton. Not just a fine performance by Red Bull’s go-to driver but also an indomitable one in that it was Verstappen who set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:128:139 on the final lap. A great result given the fastest car of the race as seen throughout the 60-lap run was the Mercedes, not the Honda-powered machine.
Having driven a controlled race where at one point in time, he was firmly in business to even strike record-breaking Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen didn’t put a foot wrong at the 2020 Eifel GP, succeeding in collecting 19 points at the end (18 for P2+1 for fastest lap). A performance that allowed him to cut his gap to Valtteri Bottas on the Driver Standings, the Dutchman now on 147 points to the Finn’s 161.
Nurburgring’s special effort also meant that this was Max’s second P2 finish starting the Russian GP, this being his fifth P2 result of the year.