ANALYSIS: Assessing the Field – 2020 Eifel GP

The FIA Formula One World Championship returned to the Nürburgring for the first time since 2013 this weekend for the Eifel Grand Prix. Not only had it been seven years since the teams last touched down at the German circuit, Lewis Hamilton scored his 91st career win, matching the all time record previously set by Michael Schumacher in 2006, at the Chinese Grand Prix

The drama and excitement didn’t stop there: Renault DP World F1 Team celebrated their first podium since 2011, with Daniel Ricciardo taking to the third step of the podium and Nico Hulkenberg made yet another return to the BWT Racing Point Formula One Team, this time in place of Lance Stroll who was too unwell to compete. His call up to race was last minute on Saturday morning, with the German starting his stint in the RP20 during qualifying. 

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas claimed the pole position for the race during Saturday’s qualifying, which was only the second time over the weekend the drivers were able to get on track. Friday’s Free Practice sessions were cancelled due to poor weather. Unfortunately for Bottas, he retired from the race on lap 19 with a loss of power to his Mercedes W11. The Finn was one of five drivers who failed to finish the race. 

Thankfully, the return of the Nürburgring certainly didn’t disappoint, and with that here is our assessment of the grid: 

TOP OF THE CLASS

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to teammate: +0.256s | Race margin to teammate: Bottas (RET)

Lewis Hamilton had a blinding race weekend, smashing world records and taking the race win: The 91st of his career, equalling Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.  

At the start of the race it looked like it was going to be a fair fight between poleman Bottas and Hamilton as the lights went out, however by lap 19 Bottas’ luck ran out when his Mercedes W011 cruised into the pit garage with a loss of power, ending his race. Lewis, sitting in second pulled out a lead over Verstappen, and despite a safety car towards the latter quarter of the race, Verstappen was unable to contest Hamilton for the top step of the podium. 

There’s no hiding that Hamilton has joined the ranks as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time and will continue to smash all the records for years to come as he has no plans of stopping. 

Daniel Ricciardo – Renault DP World F1 Team

Qualifying margin to teammate: -0.019s | Race margin to teammate: Ocon (RET)

There was no hiding the Honey Badger’s smile this weekend. It was a storming drive from Ricciardo, giving Renault their first podium since Nick Heidfeld’s third place in Malaysia in 2011 and subsequently team principal Cyril Arbiteboul a commemorative tattoo… 

The Australian has been locked in the battle for fourth place in the championship standings with Lando Norris, Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc going into the weekend and this deserved third place finish has cemented this. Daniel has proved time and time again he is an exceptional racer and his performance during the Eifel Grand Prix is hopefully the start of something good for him, and the motivation Renault needs for the remainder of the season. 

Max Verstappen – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Qualifying margin to teammate: -0.485s |  Race margin to teammate: Albon (RET)

Again Verstappen was the closest contender to the Mercedes duo, with a strong qualifying session – having ended the session third fastest – followed by a stellar start from the line during the race. Max kept up momentum during the 60 lap race, finishing some four and a half seconds behind Hamilton in second place. Lewis even commented following the race that he was surprised at the pace of the RB16 over the team radio. Another top drive from the Dutchman. 

Sergio Pérez – BWT Racing Point Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to teammate: Hulkenberg out in Q1  Race margin to teammate: -16.526s

As a Vettel fan from the beginning, I’m certainly pleased he has a seat next year, but in the same utterance I’m about to exclaim how ridiculous it is that Sergio Pérez got booted to make room for him. Sergio has masses of talent, deserves a drive on the Formula One grid and here he is finishing in fourth place in the RP20 and currently sitting without a drive for the 2021 season. The Mexican crossed the line a mere two seconds adrift of third placed Ricciardo and if the race was only that little bit longer, could we have witnessed Sergio’s first podium since Baku in 2018? Maybe, but let’s not dwell on that and hope his current consistency persists into the next round at Portimao; a team will be sure to snap him up soon. 

Nico Hulkenberg – BWT Racing Point Formula One Team

Qualifying margin to teammate: out in Q1 | Race margin to teammate: +16.526s

Hero of the hour Hulkenberg saved the weekend again for BWT Racing Point with another last minute call up due to illness (not coronavirus-related this time). Hulkenberg had one impressive race. Having only been able to participate in qualifying prior to the race, his eighth place finish was phenomenal. The German, by the end of lap one, made up three places on the opening lap alone, before making the most of the retirements ahead of him. The raw pace of the RP20 coupled with Hulkenberg’s unquestionable talent has the media and fans alike seeking teams to seriously think about signing Nico up for a full time drive in 2021. He didn’t think a top 10 finish was possible with lack of track time and neither did we, but here we are. Amazing once again. An amazing stat is Hulkenberg currently sits seven points behind four times world champion Vettel, after only contesting in three races… 

Romain Grosjean – Haas F1 Team

Qualifying margin to teammate: Out in Q1 | Race margin to teammate: -10.504s

You’ve got to hand it to Romain. He’s become somewhat of a joker card amongst the F1 fans. We adore him, but his race performance of late has not been the greatest. Considering the Haas F1 Team duo has suffered from being down on power (Ferrari engines), the Frenchman exceeded expectations and scored the team’s second points finish of the season. Throughout the race Grosjean suffered a sore index finger after a rogue piece of gravel flicked up and hit his hand during the opening laps, nursing through it to claim tenth overall. Being cynical you could say he only scored the point due to others retiring in front of him, with Norris joking to Ricciardo about the same fate, but that would be unfair and removing the positives from what the Nürburgring gifted us on race day. 

HOMEWORK TO DO

Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN

Qualifying margin to teammate: Out in Q1 | Race margin to teammate: +1.441s

You can probably guess why Kimi is here. Even on his 323rd race start, you’d think he would just slip into the ether and have a fairly uneventful race as normal however, the Finn collided with the FW42 of George Russell going into turn one sending Russell flying through the air. It looked as if Raikkonen had understeered into the corner clipping the right rear of Russell. He was subsequently handed a ten second time penalty and two penalty points on his racing licence by stewards who deemed it avoidable. Kimi explained following the race that he felt there was nothing he could do. 

Not the desired end to his record breaking number of Formula One race starts was it? 

Alexander Albon – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Qualifying margin to teammate: +0.485s | Race margin to teammate: Albon (RET)

The Eifel Grand Prix really did not bring out the best in Albon. Horner and Marko are watching Albon like a hawk and he’s forever having to prove he is worthy of his place in the team at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. The last race really did not count in Alex’s favour, with the 24-year-old coming to blows with both Scuderia Alpha Tauri Honda drivers: former teammate Danil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly. Albon wiped Kvyat’s front wing clean off and a lock up later on saw him come oh so very close to a collision with Gasly. 

To make matters worse, the timing of the team calling him to retire from the race raised eyebrows, with Horner later saying the retirement was due to an issue with the radiator, and before that point he had every faith in Alex to improve as the race went on. 

With Albon on a very tight leash with the Red Bull team, it was a huge shame, after scoring his first podium at Mugello, that he’s had two races since that have been missed opportunities to prove his talent to the team and secure his seat there. 

REST OF THE FIELD

Scuderia Ferrari had a steady race with Leclerc taking the points haul for the team, crossing the line in seventh. Leclerc was on for a strong result from the start having started the race in fourth place. However it was inevitable that the performance difference between the SF1000 and the rest of the field would start to show. Vettel just missed out on points finishing the race in eleventh place despite having a couple of wobbles and a spin during the race, which is an indication of his lost mojo. 

Carlos Sainz Jr. had a much more successful outing, after being all out of luck at both Mugello and Sochi taking fifth place overall. The Spaniard was in the upgraded McLaren package which helped him stay out of trouble and kept up the pace with the front runners until the safety car bunched everyone behind back up. However he does leave the race eleventh in the drivers standings. 

Scuderia Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly had a much more successful race than his teammate, with the Frenchman taking sixth place behind Sainz and taking much needed Drivers’ Championship points to knock Sainz out the top 10 by two points! Kvyat’s race was hampered by the collision with Albon, where the Russian saw his front wing come clean off, which set him on the back foot for the remainder of the race; finishing fifthteenth. 

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s Antonio Giovinazzi celebrated his second points finish of the season, tailing the top 10 having started fourteenth. The Italian enjoyed battles with Sebastian Vettel to clinch the last point from the German – it was one of the Italian’s better races of the season. 

All bar one retirement from the race were due to mechanical issues with the cars, therefore it was unfair to rate their performances based on this: George Russell was crashed into by Raikkonen; Bottas retired due to a lack of power; Lando Norris nursed his McLaren MCL35 around the circuit, resetting to default settings almost every lap – eventually his MCL35 retired with a huge burn mark on the side. Elsewhere, Esteban Ocon retired due to power issues with his Renault R.S.20 and Albon was retired by the team due to suspected power issues. 

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