Eifel GP Qualifying: Bottas beats Hamilton to pole at Nurburgring as Hulkenberg makes a return

Valtteri Bottas absolutely smashed the competition from his teammate Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take pole at Nurburgring on a chilly Saturday afternoon. With yesterday’s practice sessions washed out, the little running that did happen in FP3 suggested that there would be a close fight for pole and things exactly unfolded that way.

Mercedes’ 72nd front row lockout will certainly be a welcome result for them but missing out on pole here means Lewis Hamilton’s quest for the famous 91st win is still set to continue. Verstappen held provisional pole during the first run of Q3 but the Dutchman complained of lesser grip during the second run which ultimately saw him end up in P3.

It looked set to be an all-Red Bull second row after a decent qualifying run from Alex Albon but an amazing lap from Charles Leclerc saw the Monegasque driver finish P4, repeating a similar story from the previous races this season where he has been driving his red car to the limits, sometimes even over. Things were not that good for his teammate Vettel after his qualifying effort saw him finish only at P11 and miss out on Q3 by over three tenths of a second.

GP GERMANIA F1/2020 – SABATO 10/10/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

It was another excellent qualifying session for Renault after Daniel Ricciardo overcame his bad first run in Q3 and managed to qualify at P6, just ahead of his teammate Ocon in P7.  This result in qualifying means that Renault will have a slight advantage going into the race, especially considering third place in the constructors championship seems to be anybody’s between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault.

Racing Point found themselves in a similar situation to Silverstone earlier this year with the team needing to call up Hulkenberg again, this time for Lance Stroll who has been taken sick and missed out on FP3 earlier. The German driver was luckily in Cologne and was readily available as a replacement. The outing proved quite tough for him after he could only finish last but nevertheless, a commendable effort. Sergio Perez in the other Racing Point finished 9th, splitting the McLarens with Norris in P8 and Sainz in P9.

Both the Alpha Tauri cars could not manage to get into Q3 which was slightly surprising given Gasly’s amazing form this year. They are set to start with Gasly in P12 and Kvyat in P13. A surprise entrant into the top 15 this year is Antonio Giovinazzi, who has finally managed to get into Q2 in his Alfa Romeo and will be starting in P14. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start his record-breaking 323rd Grand Prix , the most by any driver, in only P19.

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are set to line up 15th and 16th in their Ferrari-powered Haas cars after a flurry of deleted lap times for both drivers in their Q1 runs. Williams are set to line up with George Russell in P17 and Latifi in P18 with Russell, despite being unhappy with his lap, maintaining a 100% qualifying record versus his teammate.

A three-way fight for pole ensured a tight Saturday in the very cold temperatures of the Nurburgring and with conditions set to become more cooler and damper compared to today, a similar fight could pan out for the race win. A slight possibility of rain is also set to be in the mix for the race which can only make things that much unpredictable. Hamilton would be very eager to make it 91 wins on Schumacher’s home soil but his party might be spoiled by either his teammate or by Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, all pointing towards the prospect of a classic German Grand Prix.

The race that was…the 2013 German Grand Prix

This weekend Formula One heads to the mighty Nurburgring for the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix. As it’s been seven years since F1 last raced at the Ring, we’re throwing things back to its most recent visit—the 2013 German Grand Prix.

Taking a quick glance down the grid, 2013 doesn’t look too far removed from present-day F1. There are seven drivers from 2013 that are still racing in F1 today: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez (or eight, if you include Racing Point stand-in Nico Hulkenberg).

Of those that aren’t, Fernando Alonso will be returning next year, and it wasn’t that long since we last saw the likes of Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg either.

But of those seven drivers still in F1 today, only Hamilton at Mercedes is still with the same team as in 2013. Back then, Vettel was still the reigning champion at Red Bull-Renault, while his future Ferrari teammate Raikkonen was in the second year of his F1 comeback partnering Grosjean at Lotus.

Meanwhile, Bottas was a rookie at Williams, Perez was enduring his ill-fated McLaren season, and Ricciardo was still cutting his teeth in a Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso before his Red Bull break a year later.

As for F1’s current crop of drivers, the likes of Carlos Sainz, Esteban Ocon and Alex Albon were all racing in Formula Renault categories in 2013. As for Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and George Russell, they were all still in karts.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG)

One thing that will be familiar for today’s F1 viewers is that the 2013 German Grand Prix started with Hamilton on pole for Mercedes. However, the Mercedes W04 was a far cry from the juggernauts that its turbo-hybrid successors would be.

The W04 was undoubtedly fast, and between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had taken six of the season’s nine pole positions at that time. But a common theme of 2013 was Mercedes qualifying well only to struggle with tyre temperatures early on in the race and fall back through the field.

And that’s exactly what happened at the Nurburgring, as Vettel and Mark Webber (starting from second and third respectively) both got the jump on Hamilton into Turn 1. Meanwhile, Hamilton dropped back behind Grosjean and Raikkonen, whose James Allison-designed Lotuses were famously very gentle on their Pirelli tyres compared to the Mercedes.

With Vettel and Webber’s pace out front, Red Bull looked set for another 1–2 finish. But that fell apart when Webber came in to change tyres on lap 14 and left his pitbox with his right-rear not properly attached.

As Webber got away, the wheel detached and bounced down the pitlane—it hit FOM cameraman Paul Allen, who suffered a broken shoulder and cracked ribs and was taken to nearby Koblenz hospital for treatment. Allen later recovered fully and Red Bull were given a €30,000 fine for the incident.

Mark Webber, Red Bull (Lars Baron, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Webber was able to rejoin the race, as he stopped just outside his pitbox and was promptly wheeled back and fitted with new tyres. But when he returned to the track he was a lap down on Vettel, while Grosjean and Raikkonen were closing in after setting multiple fastest laps.

On lap 23 the safety car was deployed when Jules Bianchi had to stop his Marussia with an engine fire. This allowed Webber to get back onto the lead lap. But after making initial progress when the race resumed, Webber then got stuck behind Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez for ten laps, and was forced to make another stop after eating through his tyres trying to get by.

Raikkonen took the lead of the race on lap 41 when Vettel and Grosjean both made their third stops, and Lotus extended his stint until lap 49. This left Raikkonen with much fresher soft tyres for the final laps of the race and gave him the best chance of hunting down Vettel for the win. With this and the championship in mind (Raikkonen was then third in the standings behind Vettel and Alonso), Lotus instructed Grosjean to let the quicker Raikkonen by for second.

But despite his pace, Raikkonen was unable to stop Vettel taking his first home Grand Prix victory. The win was also the 30th of Vettel’s career, making him only the sixth driver in F1 history at the time to score more than 30 wins (the others being Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell).

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean (Lotus) (Lars Baron, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Raikkonen finished second and Grosjean third ahead of Alonso. Hamilton’s race stabilised in fifth, while Webber recovered to seventh between the McLarens of Button and Perez. Rosberg and Hulkenberg rounded out the points for Mercedes and Sauber respectively. Williams had looked set to finish in the points in what was their 600th Grand Prix, only for wheel gun problems in the pit stops to drop Pastor Maldonado and Bottas down to 15th and 16th place respectively.

The 2013 German Grand Prix was an enthralling race, but it was also a fascinating look back at F1’s recent history. It shows a Sebastian Vettel at his peak en route to a fourth consecutive World Championship. It shows the early signs of the Mercedes success to come, back when Lewis Hamilton only had one title and 21 wins to his name.

But more importantly for F1 today, it shows that the Nurburgring can provide some excellent racing and drama throughout the field, which can only bode well for the Eifel Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Eifel Grand Prix Preview

Following Valtteri Bottas’ much needed win at the Russian Grand Prix, Formula 1 heads to the Nurburgring, set to stage the ever anticipated 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

LOOKING BACK

The German Grand Prix has played host to F1 under a variety of names which include the Luxembourg and European Grand Prix. This year the race was named after the towering Eifel mountain range that straddles the famous circuit and stretches between Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia and three nations in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

The Eifel played host to the German GP up until 1976 on the longer Nordschleife configuration. The demanding 23-kilometre-long track was abandoned after the horrific crash involving Niki Lauda on the 1st August 1976 when his Ferrari 312 T2 clipped the earthy bank at Bergwerk corner, collided with the wall and burst into flames.  Lauda narrowly escaped the inferno with his life after quick and decisive actions by fellow drivers: Guy Edwards, Harald Ertl, Brett Lunger and Arturo Merzario who pulled him from the wreckage.

The most recent iteration of the race came in 2013, won by Sebastien Vettel in the Red Bull, a race where Romain Grosjean nearly claimed his first win in Formula One until an unfortunate safety car meant he had to settle for 3rd. No hard feelings Romain?

A safety car and a late Kimi Raikkonen pit stop denied Lotus the win in 2013, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel winning his home race – courtesy of Red Bull content pool

THE TRACK

The Nurburgring is a fast and flowing circuit.  The 15 corners and 5.5 kilometres of tarmac is expected to test the drivers and cars to their very limits. Expect plenty of overtaking into the heavy braking zones of Turn 1 and Turn 13, both preceded by long DRS Zones. The first sector of the lap provides a significant challenge due to its twisty nature while many liken the final right-hand corner as ‘Hungaroring-esque’.

Interestingly, this will be the first time seeing this current generation of V6 turbo hybrid, high downforce cars at this circuit. The big stops and sensitive traction zones will be great fun for the current crop that now have significantly swifter power delivery than their predecessors.

Expect wind, cold track temperatures and low levels of grip to play a factor. We have seen certain manufacturers such as McLaren make no secret that they have a sensitivity to wind, while getting heat into the harder compound tyres may prove tricky.

While not as technically demanding as the Hungaroring, cars with quick cornering speeds will be rewarded in sector two and three.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Given that F1 has not visited the circuit in years, determining a winner would be difficult in any other circumstance. However, the W11 has looked strong at most circuits this year and would be expected to continue their dominance here this weekend.  Lewis Hamilton can make history by matching Michael Schumacher’s all time win record of 91 victories in Formula One to cement his legacy as one of the sport’s most successful drivers.

Lewis Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Further down the order, the fight for third in the constructors will be as tight and enthralling as we have seen all season. McLaren and Racing Point head into the weekend separated by two points while Renault are hot on their heels a further five points behind.

T​he Eifel Grand Prix will also be a historic one for a couple of young drivers currently in Formula 2. Championship leader Mick Schumacher will be rewarded an FP1 outing in the Alfa Romeo for his successes this season, including two victories and a plethora of podiums. It marks the first time a Schumacher will set foot in a Formula 1 car since his father Michael’s retirement in 2012. The Ferrari junior academy driver is touted for a full-time seat in 2021 allegedly alongside Kimi Raikkonen and will be looking to impress.

Mick Schumacher currently leads the F2 Championship – Courtesy of F1 Media

Additionally, championship hopeful Callum Illot will also be given an FP1 outing with Haas after rarely featuring outside the top two in the championship for most of the season. With Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen’s future in doubt, there is a big possibility that he could also be handed a full-time drive next year and will be one to watch closely.

Of course, following the news of Honda’s withdrawal from Formula One in 2022, expect media coverage to follow this news with fervent interest. Speculation is already happening as to what Red Bull’s options are in terms of their future engine supplier. Do they return to Renault? Will they build their own? Will this hamper their 2022 car development? And will this prompt the beginning of the end of the Red Bull – Verstappen love story?

This weekend’s race comes after the news that Honda will pull out of F at the end of next year – Courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Lastly, if weather forecasts are anything to go by in Formula One this year, disregard them entirely. However, rain could play a big part in this weekend with the Eifel Mountains particularly prone to cold and changeable conditions during this time of year. The weather forecast indicates there is strong possibility of rain across the entirety of the weekend which could shake qualifying up magnificently.

With all this in mind the Eifel Grand Prix should be a brilliant event. Make sure not to miss the race which is scheduled for 2:10pm local time, an hour earlier than usual. Set your reminders!

And as ever, ThePitCrewOnline will be here to keep you informed, entertained and up-to-date on all things Formula One throughout the weekend.

F1 completes 2020 schedule as Istanbul returns

Yes, you heard that correct! With its heavily revised schedule that stemmed from F1 having to suspend its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we now know for a fact that F1 will have a season containing 17 Grands Prix from July to December.

Along the way, we have unfortunately lost fan favourite events such as Baku, Suzuka and Interlagos, and the two new additions to the schedule Hanoi and Zandvoort. But in their place we’ve had some incredible tracks added in to more than make up for it. These being new circuits such as Mugello and Algarve, and returning beloved circuits such as Nürburgring and Imola. Well another much beloved circuit is making an unexpected return and that’s Istanbul Park – the home of the Turkish Grand Prix between 2005 and 2011.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – MAY 08: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing holds off Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit on May 8, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber; Fernando Alonso // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI201412160311 // Usage for editorial use only //

With the announcement of the return to Turkey which will be on November 15th, also came the completion of the entire schedule. F1 will finish off the season with a triple header in the Middle East: two Grands Prix on the Bahrain International Circuit on November 29th and December 6th, then the ever beloved (I say with sarcasm) Yas Marina circuit will host the final GP on December 13th.

The second race in Bahrain however, does have an added variable. With the other two circuits to host two GP’s this year (Red Bull Ring and Silverstone), neither circuit was held on an alternative layout, but the two Bahrain races will not be on the same layout. For those of you who were watching F1 back in 2010, you’ll remember that Bahrain held the season opener and used a longer variant of the usual layout with a section between the typical turns four and five that extended out and fed back into the regular GP circuit.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

It wasn’t a beloved layout and they reverted back to the regular layout from 2012 onwards after the 2011 race had to be called off due to civil unrest. Rest assured, this second race in Bahrain isn’t going to be on what is dubbed the ‘Endurance’ layout, nor is it on the ‘Paddock’ layout that players of the most recent F1 games have grown accustomed to when racing the alternate Bahrain GP layout.

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday

The second Bahrain race will take place on the ‘Outer circuit’, which breaks away from the traditional Grand Prix circuit at turn four like the Endurance layout, but then takes a detour to what is normally turn 13, so it misses the entirety of the infield. Ross Brawn has gone on record stating that it’s perhaps the closest F1 will get to an oval, so expect the teams to be running a radically different downforce package to the race on the traditional GP loop.

Alright now that’s over with, let us wax lyrical about how amazing Istanbul Park is! F1 hasn’t been to the Turkish GP venue since 2011 but it still holds a special place in F1 fans’ hearts. The circuit has not got one bad corner, the peak of which comes at the quadruple apex turn eight which a lot of F1 fans are excited about considering the cornering speeds of the current era cars.

ISTANBUL (TURCHIA) 06/05/2011
© FOTO ERCOLE COLOMBO

Istanbul has always had a lack of attendees, the result of the organisers not seeing value in it after their stunt in 2006. They attempted to get the world to recognise a breakaway of the island of Cyprus as the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” of which only Turkey recognises. This resulted in Cyprus filing a complaint and the FIA fined the organisers five million dollars.

Since losing the Grand Prix, the organisers have turned the circuit into an over-glorified car showroom, which just hurts to hear. it’s like using the Mona Lisa as a coaster for a hot drink mug. It had even lost its FIA Grade-1 rating which is why I wasn’t expecting it to be in the conversation to be hosting a Grand Prix on the revised schedule. But it has, and it is! Savour it everyone, potentially we may never see this circuit again.

Hopefully Codemasters can find a way to get all the new tracks into the next F1 game, even if it is later on as downloadable content.

That’s it, the 2020 Formula One World Championship will conclude on December 13th with the Abu Dhabi GP after 17 races. If only we could pick Istanbul up and drop it in France so the French could have a decent circuit to host their Grand Prix, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Nevertheless, I’m sure a lot of you out there are looking forward to seeing the return of this beloved circuit.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

F1 adds Nürburgring, Imola and Algarve to 2020 schedule

Going into the 2020 F1 season, we were set to have the most Grands Prix in the entire 70-year history of the sport. However, the COVID-19 pandemic heavily compromised the F1 schedule and a revised calendar of eight races was published with two Grands Prix held at the Red Bull Ring in Austria and Silverstone in Britain, with the rest also taking place within Europe. They were joined later on by a circuit that had never hosted a Grand Prix before: Mugello.

Scuderia Ferrari Media

Well now we have some more welcome additions to the newly revised Corona edition of the 2020 schedule. The Nürburgring will host the Eifel Grand Prix on 11 October, Algarve will hold the Portuguese Grand Prix on 25 October, and Imola will host the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on November 1st. For the first time in F1’s history, Imola will be a two-day Grand Prix event as opposed to the traditional three-day format.

Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The first and last circuits will sound familiar as they are former Grand Prix venues, with the Nürburgring GP circuit having last hosted a Grand Prix back in 2013. This was part of an alternating arrangement with Hockenheim every other year since 2007, before the Nürburgring dropped off the schedule ahead of the 2014 season.

Hockenheim had become a fan favourite over the years and hosted Grands Prix in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019 before being left off the initial 2020 calendar, and it had been in the running to host a race this year on the revised schedule before the circuit boss ruled out that possibility. I may be in the minority but I much prefer the Nürburgring, so I’m absolutely elated to hear that F1 is finally returning to what I would consider the rightful home of the German Grand Prix.

Next up is Imola, which was previously the home of the San Marino Grand Prix and F1 last raced there in 2006. Since then, it has had a minor change to its layout, with the old last chicane Variante Bassa section being moved over and used for the motorcycle layout. However, car racing now completely skips past it so when F1 goes back there, they’ll be running from Ravazza to Tamburello completely flat out on the not-so-straight start/finish straight.

Imola and Nürburgring are very old school and have a lot of long corners with plenty of elevation change, and are of course both known quantities to the F1 world, however the third track in question is not.

The Algarve circuit is located in Portugal, which last held a Grand Prix in 1996 at Estoril. Algarve hosts World Superbikes and even held a round of the GP2 2009 Championship, as well as being a test venue for Formula One. Therefore it has a lot in common with Mugello. A lot of you may recognise it as the circuit from in the first episode of The Grand Tour, in which Clarkson, Hammond and May went there to see which was quickest between the McLaren P1, the Porsche 918 and the Ferrari LaFerrari.

Like in my Mugello article, I have a video of an onboard lap I recorded in advance on Project CARS 2 in a Formula Renault 3.5. Again, as in my Mugello article, please excuse my terrible driving and usage of driving line because I am not David Tonizza.

Starting the lap you have a huge drop before running into a very fast right-hander called Primeira, which will definitely separate the men from the boys in qualifying. Then a quick right-handed flick before the Lagos hairpin which takes you onto a very fast and steep left hander, and a long run towards the Torre Vip hairpin.

Run through the flat out turn seven into turn eight which is rather deceptive and I reckon a lot of drivers may be compelled to commit to it being flat out but it does tighten up before it opens back out again. You don’t have time to think about that as you’re already entering Samsung corner, which looks tighter than it is as you come out of it and enter a huge dip.

The Craig Jones corner is next, and I would be very surprised if it wasn’t flat for the F1 drivers, as it sits on a steep incline and Portimão corner follows, which is also very blind. I can imagine a few drivers will lock their brakes here as they are turning more and more trying to open the corner.

A rollercoaster-esque downward turn 12 then meets turn 13, a slow speed yet still very open hairpin which will be undoubtedly tricky to get the optimal exit speed needed for the last two corners. Sagres starts out tight but opens up on exit and that leads to the iconic Galp corner, a downhill flatout right hander that many drivers will love, before a small incline that leads to the end of the lap.

Algarve like Mugello is high speed, undulating and will no doubt be a favourite of all these drivers. Whether or not it will produce good racing with these cars is another matter, but at least the worst case scenario is a boring race on an amazing set of circuits as opposed to boring racing at Sochi.

The Nürburgring, Algarve and Imola circuits join the already confirmed Red Bull Ring, Hungaroring, Silverstone, Barcelona, Spa-Francorchamps, Monza, Mugello and Sochi on the revised 2020 schedule. With the FIA having ruled out the Americas to host any racing this year and very little chance of any happening in far east Asia, the most we can perhaps expect is two more Grand Prix in the Middle East, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

13 Grand Prix have been confirmed, and the most we will get is 15. I do not feel envious of Codemasters, but I do hope they add in Mugello, Nürburgring, Algarve and Imola in next year’s game.

Feature Image Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media