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Formula 1

The winners and losers of Formula 1’s Eifel Grand Prix

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
7 min read

Lewis Hamilton’s Michael Schumacher-equalling win and Daniel Ricciardo’s breakthrough podium for Renault stole headlines after the Eifel Grand Prix, and duly feature high up in the winners column of our regular post-race feature.

Yet on the other end of things, the treacherous cold conditions of the Nurburgring proved a challenge to steep for many a driver, irrespective of their previous history at the track.


Lewis Hamilton, history-maker

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, Germany

After an uncharacteristically ‘large’ qualifying defeat on Saturday, a quarter of a second down to Valtteri Bottas, Hamiton had his old team-mate Nico Rosberg – in pundit mode this weekend – suggest he was getting into a bit of a slump. This was a good way to hit back and show that was nonsense.

Hamilton was outmuscled by Bottas on the opening lap, having to cede ground based on track position. As the first stint developed he was the quicker of the two and starting to apply pressure when Bottas made a mistake and handed him the advantage.

Therefore, Hamilton kept Max Verstappen at arm’s length and managed the unknowns of the tyre in difficult conditions plus a lengthy safety car period to secure a record-equalling 91st victory and extend his championship lead to 69 points as Bottas retired.

Not a bad day at the office at all. – Scott Mitchell

Daniel Ricciardo and Renault

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, GermanyRicciardo’s move to Renault has been hard work at times, but the car has improved recently to the point where finally he claimed his first podium since leaving Red Bull and Renault’s first since reviving its works team in 2016.

Most impressively, this happened at a high-downforce track where Renault has generally been at its weakest.

A reward for Ricciardo’s efforts and confirmation of genuine team progress. – Edd Straw

The Nurburgring

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, GermanyAny chances of a genuinely close battle for victory went up in MGU-K smoke relatively early on, but the sight of F1 cars tackling the Nurburgring again – and producing genuine, exciting battles – was pretty wonderful to behold.

And while the sub-optimal seasonal timing of the round cost us Friday running, it made up for it with conditions different enough to genuinely challenge drivers – which the lack of FP1 and FP2 obviously also helped with.

Was it good enough to make F1 return to the track for the longer-term? Well, no, that’s really not how things work in this world – but the track’s case for future grands prix certainly wasn’t weakened. – Valentin Khorounzhiy

Romain Grosjean and Haas

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, GermanyIt didn’t start promisingly for Grosjean, who was running last on the first lap with his left index finger in pain after it was hit by gravel kicked up by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

But a Haas strategy call gained track position at the safety car and, despite losing places to Pierre Gasly and Nico Hulkenberg, Grosjean held on to ninth to the chequered flag.

In doing so, he scored his first points of the season and allowed Haas to close the gap to Alfa Romeo. – ES

Nico Hulkenberg

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Qualifying Day Nurbugring, GermanyHulkenberg started last after his 11th-hour call-up on Saturday but drove a fine race to bank eighth place.

Yes, he was helped by the fact there were five retirements but considering the lack of preparation and the fact he’d been out of the car for two months, it was a good performance – peaking with him nicking eighth place from Grosjean at the restart. – ES


Kimi Raikkonen

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Tuscan Grand Prix Qualifying Day Mugello, ItalyRaikkonen’s record-equalling start was absolutely fine for 99% of its distance, but really quite bad in the remaining one, when he clobbered George Russell out of the race and earned himself a deserved penalty.

The dirty air from Sebastian Vettel right up ahead was almost certainly a factor as Raikkonen locked up and understeered into the Williams, but it was a clear misjudgment all the same.

Pre-weekend it emerged Raikkonen was close to getting the Alfa seat sealed for 2021 and extending his F1 journey another year. Most of his performances in 2020 have warranted him sticking around, but this was not one of them. – VK

Sebastian Vettel

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, Germany Vettel was the only German driver scheduled to take part in F1’s German race. And he finished second of the two German drivers that eventually did.

OK, Hulkenberg had a car advantage. But Vettel had the advantage of actually being on-site before, well, qualifying. Among all the other advantages every driver had over last-minute supersub Hulkenberg.

But this isn’t a comparison to his compatriot. Vettel had a messy race. He was already struggling vs Leclerc on pace in qualifying and wrecked his plan to run long on mediums by getting stuck early on then having a big half-spin that flat-spotted the fronts with a peculiar swerve behind Giovinazzi at Turn 1.

A long, long time later Vettel found himself tucked up under the Alfa Romeo again – and couldn’t get past, finishing outside the points once more. – SM

Alex AlbonMotor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, Germany

The goodwill from Albon’s first podium at Mugello has faded quite badly. The odd flickers of performance and potential remain but the races are getting messier.

This was a disappointing grand prix that should have ended in a second podium. Red Bull comfortably had the second-quickest car but Albon was outqualified by Leclerc, then mugged by Ricciardo on the opening lap.

He then flat-spotted his tyres with a big lock-up two corners later, getting away with light contact as he slid into the Renault.

Then he hurt his race further later on by a careless move across Daniil Kvyat, breaking the AlphaTauri’s front wing and picking up a penalty.

A suspect engine problem ended his race soon after. But the damage had long been done, and it was entirely self-inflicted. – SM

Valtteri Bottas and the title race

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, GermanyBottas certainly does not deserve the grief he gets from many pundits and many more regular commenters, and you get the feeling he’d be much more cherished if he had stayed a midfield driver and kept annihilating this team-mates for the past few years.

His pole yesterday was excellent, and as further evidenced by his latest retirement luck on average has not been on his side . He also did such a nice job fighting off Hamilton at the start…

Yet, simply put, that Turn 1 lock-up is a mistake Hamilton doesn’t make. And it is why, even if Bottas beat Hamilton to pole every single time, you’d still probably wager on him being outscored by the Briton over a season.

Maybe Hamilton’s new 69-point gap, which basically confirms for all intents and purposes that the championship fight is over for 2020, will allow Bottas to shed some of the pressure he may be feeling and prepare himself fully to give it his best shot yet in 2021. That’d be nice. – VK


Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, GermanyThe Williams team has always talked about the need to take chances on days like this, but it came away with no points on an afternoon where its rivals for eighth place in the constructors’ championship, Haas and Alfa Romeo, both picked up points.

Admittedly, there wasn’t much it could have done to avoid Russell being clobbered by Raikkonen, but it means Williams is now a more-distant last in the standings. – ES

Lando Norris Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Eifel Grand Prix Race Day Nurbugring, Germany

Lando can feel very hard done-by to feature in this section because it was not of his own making, but he is an undisputed loser of this race.

He was driving an excellent first stint and putting himself into contention for a podium challenge based on the tyre offset he’d enjoy, but that was undone by a Renault engine problem.

Initially it looked like it had just cost him a shot at third and could be managed to the end, and Norris was doing well to minimise the time loss and potentially still bag a top-six finish.

But then he pulled over with his engine cover starting to scorch, and an excellent salvage job on a weekend McLaren’s been a little behind its rivals went begging. – SM

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