Lewis Hamilton took his 91st career victory with a dominant drive to the flag in the Eifel Grand Prix that puts him level with Michael Schumacher on Formula 1’s list of all-time winners. In cold and tricky conditions at the Nurburgring the Briton passed team-mate and early race leader Valtteri on lap 12 and thereafter drove faultlessly to finish ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who scored the French marque’s first podium finish since 2011.
When the lights went out at the start, Verstappen held his starting place but when pole position man and early race leader Valtteri Bottas dropped out of the race with a technical issue Verstappen climbed to second place behind Hamilton and thereafter drove a composed race to the flag.
It was a more painful day for Alex Albon, however, with the Thai driver forced out of the race after 23 laps by stone damage to a radiator.
At the race start Hamilton made a better getaway than team-mate Bottas but as the pair headed into Turn 1, the Finn tried to hang on around the outside, a move that sent both Mercedes cars wide. Verstappen closed in but Hamilton and Bottas were swiftly back on track, with Bottas somehow squeezing through Turn 2 ahead of his team-mate.
Behind them Alex made a sluggish start from P5 on the grid and as he went into Turn 2 he was passed by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Thai driver tried to fight back but locked up into Turn 3 and lost ground to the Australian who quickly began to chase down Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The race settled briefly, but on lap 12, under pressure from Hamilton Bottas locked up and went wide into Turn 1 and the championship leader seized the chance to power past his team-mate and take the lead. Bottas then pitted and took on a new set of medium tires.
Within moments of the lead changing hands, the complexion of the race changed again. George Russell was involved in a collision with Kimi Raikkonen when the Alfa Romeo driver braked too late into Turn 1 and lost and bounced the Williams off track.
Russell tried to limp back to the pit lane but the damage was too great and he was forced to stop at the side of the track. The brought out the VSC and during the caution Hamilton and Verstappen pitted, with both taking on medium compound tires.
At the front Hamilton was now firmly in control of the race and at two-thirds distance the Mercedes driver was a little over nine seconds ahead of Verstappen who was now a massive one minute ahead of Ricciardo
However, what seemed like a foregone conclusion was briefly spiced up on lap 43 when Lando Norris pulled over at the side of the track, his McLaren finally succumbing to electrical issues that had plagued it for most of the race.
The Safety Car was deployed and that sparked a rush to the pitlane. Both Hamilton and Verstappen took on soft tyres under the SC, with Ricciardo also pitting for the red-banded rubber.
When the SC left the track, Hamilton held his lead but Verstappen, who had suffered a small lock-up in the final corners, was almost mugged by Ricciardo as they went into Turn 1. The Dutch driver recovered, however, and swiftly slammed the door on his former team-mate to reating second place. Ricciardo held third ahead of Pérez and Sainz but behind them Pierre Gasly completed a brave move past Leclerc to claim sixth place.
And there the order settled. After dismissing Ricciardo’s re-start challenge, Verstappen steadily opened a gap to Ricciardo, as ahead Hamilton eked out a small margin back to the Red Bull driver.
The only tussle remaining was the one for fastest lap. On lap 58 Hamilton powered to a purple time of 1:28.145, but as if to prove the point that the Bulls had closed in over the weekend, Verstappen found an extra reserve of pace on the final lap of the race to edge the Mercedes driver by six thousandths of a second.
Behind the top two, Ricciardo took his first podium finish since his win with Red Bull Racing in Monaco 2018, while Sergio Pérez took fourth for Racing Point. Fifth place went to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, with the Spaniard finishing just ahead of Gasly and Leclerc. Racing Point supersub Hulkenberg finished in an impressive eight place after starting 20th and the final two points places went to Haas’s Romain Grosjean and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Eifel Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 60 1:35’49.641
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 60 1:35’54.111 4.470
3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 60 1:36’04.254 14.613
4 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 60 1:36’05.711 16.070
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 60 1:36’11.546 21.905
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 60 1:36’12.407 22.766
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 60 1:36’20.455 30.814
8 Nico Hülkenberg Racing Point/Mercedes 60 1:36’22.237 32.596
9 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 60 1:36’28.722 39.081
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 60 1:36’29.676 40.035
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 60 1:36’30.451 40.810
12 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 60 1:36’31.117 41.476
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 60 1:36’39.226 49.585
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 60 1:36’44.090 54.449
15 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 60 1:36’45.229 55.588
Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 42 1:06’15.551 Power Unit
Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 23 36’51.535 Power Unit
Esteban Ocon Renault 22 35’10.341 Hydraulics
Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 18 28’59.777 Power Unit
George Russell Williams/Mercedes 12 19’37.453 Collision