A report by Giles Richards for London’s Guardian.
- Mercedes driver matches 19-year-old record at the Nürburgring
- Seventh win of 2020 edges him closer to German’s tally of titles
Lewis Hamilton won the Eifel Grand Prix and in doing so has matched Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula One wins. The world champion had started from second on the grid at the Nurburgring but took the lead early in the race and remained untouchable out front.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen claimed second but was unable to really challenge. Having started the day in pole position, Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas retired with a power failure, while Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was third. Sergio Pérez was fourth for Racing Point and Carlos Sainz fifth for McLaren.
Hamilton had been disappointed not to take pole but executed on Sunday when it mattered. He had taken the lead from Bottas before the Finn retired and closed out with a sequence of fastest laps that defined the clinical way he has dominated this season and F1 for the past six years.
It was a performance that illustrated how he has come to stand alongside Schumacher with a victory tally that many thought to be far out of reach. In matching Schumacher Hamilton has achieved a remarkable feat, doing so in his 261st race.
Schumacher took his first victory at Spa in 1992 and his last in China in 2006 at his 246th grand prix. He retired for the first time at the end of that season. The German won 19 races with Benetton and 72 with Ferrari, while Hamilton’s tally is also spread across two teams, 21 with McLaren and now 70 with Mercedes.
Hamilton already holds the records for pole positions and podiums scored. He is now in his 14th season in the sport and remains the only driver to have taken a win during every season in which he has competed. Schumacher’s greatest record of seven world championships is now all but in Hamilton’s hands. He leads Bottas by 69 points in the world championship with a maximum of six races remainingand has previously stated he covets the title record far more than the victories tally.
Hamilton has yet to sign a new contract for next season with Mercedes but has been clear that he feels he could race on for several more years at least.
This is second win at the Nürburgring, having taken the flag for McLaren in 2011 and it is also a significant victory for Mercedes who have not won here since 1954 when Juan Manuel Fangio was behind the wheel.
The weekend had been a testing time for the team. Two personnel tested positive for Covid-19 and four others subsequently quarantined, leading to six new team members flying out from the Brackley headquarters. Hamilton noted that they would have to do their best and minimise the disturbance to the team’s operation this would cause. Then, with no practice running on Friday due to adverse weather conditions, the weekend became increasingly intense, especially given that F1 has not raced here since 2013.
Hamilton duly delivered. He made a quick start and edged in front of Bottas at turn one but as the pair went wide Bottas held his line rather than giving way and regained the lead on the inside though turn two.
Verstappen settled in astern from the leaders and the front three immediately opened up a gap. That the Red Bull was competitive was clear with Verstappen staying comfortably within a second and a half of Hamilton but the British driver held his station with a similar gap to Bottas.
By lap 13, however, Hamilton had closed the gap and when the Finn had a major lock-up into turn one, the world champion seized his chance and dived up the inside to take the lead. Bottas had flat-spotted his tyre and had to immediately pit. Hamilton, who has remarkable skill in managing his tyres, stayed out. In the cold temperatures, where graining was a real threat, his touch was deft but sure.
Hamilton pitted on lap 17, also to take the medium tyre, and Verstappen matched him but hopes of a proper fight out front were dashed when Bottas suffered further problems. The Finn lost power on lap 18 and fell through the field. He was forced to retire the car a lap later.
With his teammate out of the picture, Hamilton opened a solid gap to Verstappen and enjoyed a serene run to the flag, in doing so executing perfect lap after perfect lap, including managing a late restart on cold tyres after a safety car with calm composure. The execution that has ensured his success could not have better been illustrated. It may have been far from spectacular but will surely be memorable for Hamilton.
Pierre Gasly was in sixth for AlphaTauri, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took seventh. Nico Hülkenberg, drafted in for Racing Point at the last minute before qualifying on Saturday, did superbly to take eighth from 20th on the grid. Haas’s Romain Grosjean was in ninth and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi finished 10th.