THERE was much to celebrate at the Eifel Formula 1 Grand Prix: the crowds were back, Lewis Hamilton won to match the 91-win record of Michael Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo secured his first podium for the Renault squad, both Haases finished and Kimi Raikkonen drove his 324th Grand Prix.
The 60-lap race on the short (5.1km) section of the Nürburgring got off to a fiery start between Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, with Hamilton forcing his pole-sitting Mercedes teammate wide — but being passed again by the Finn.
The ding-dong continued until Bottas locked up at Turn 1 on lap 13 and a a few laps later an ‘unusual’ power problem forced him to retire.
Hamilton then had a fairly easy run up front, to win from Red Bull’s Verstappen by 4 seconds, with Daniel Ricciardo third after an entertaining scrap with Sergio Perez in the Racing Point.
Ricciardo’s podium was his first since Monaco in 2018, when he was still with Red Bull, and Renault’s first in 10 years.
It also meant Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul will probably now have to get his first tattoo, in terms of a pre-season bet with Ricciardo.
The Perth driver had a great start, shooting from 6th on the grid to pass the Red Bull of Alexander Albon, who locked up going into Turn 3 and tagged the rear left of Ricciardo’s Renault — but not causing any damage except to his own car’s tyres, which flat-spotted, necessitating an early stop for fresh rubber.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc occupied 4th place until lap 9, when Ricciardo eventually got past by taking the long way around the Ferrari.
Sebastien Vettel made one of his now customary errors while trying to pass the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and spun his Ferrari, forcing a change of tyres.
On his record-breaking 324th start, Kimi Raikkonen nosed the Williams of George Russell into the air resulting in Russell having to retire with damaged rear suspension.
Albon was also in the wars, taking the front wing off Daniil Kvyat’s AlphaTauri in the chicane and later very nearly crashed into the other AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
Raikkonen got a 10-second penalty for his troubles and Albon was handed a 5-second penalty, which didn’t matter since he retired early with power unit problems.
“The AlphaTauris race me so hard,” Albon lamented to his race engineer.
A lap later Esteban Ocon, who was running 6th in his Renault, retired with hydraulic problems.
McLaren’s Lando Norris also had power problems and he stopped on the run-off area on lap 44, resulting in a Safety Car.
That set up a fascinating final 10 laps as the field tightened up at the re-start and Verstappen was attacked by Ricciardo, who in turn, had to defend from Perez.
Gasly passed Leclerc on Lap 51, moving up to P6, and Leclerc was next attacked by Nico Hulkenberg, who 27 hours before the race start had been casually enjoying a coffee with a friend in Cologne, when he got a call to come and stand in for Lance Stroll, who had taken ill.
Leclerc did manage to hold on to P7, but Hulkenberg, who started from P20 won the ‘driver of the day’ award for his sterling performance.
Ninth and 10th were Romain Grosjean, scoring the first points for Haas, and Antonio Giovinazzi, in the Alfa Romeo.
Grosjean bravely drove most of the race with a finger broken by gravel thrown up by Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.
Hamilton was emotional after poignantly receiving one of Michael Schumacher’s helmets from Mick Schumacher during his post-race interview.
“I don’t even know what to say,” he said.
“When you grow up watching someone and you generally idolise them, really, just in terms of the quality of the driver they are and what they are continuously able to do year on year, race on race, week on week, with their team . . .
Seeing his dominance for so long, I don’t think anyone, especially me, didn’t imagine I would be anywhere near Michael in terms of records and it is an incredible honour.
“It’s going to take some time to get used to it.”
There was a lot of joy in the Renault camp too.
“Oh wow, it feels like the first time I ever got a podium,” Ricciardo said.
“These emotions and that feeling you get when you get out the car, hug the team, the mechanics slapping you on the helmet, it’s just amazing and I am so happy we did it!
“It’s obviously my first one with Renault and it’s something I wanted to achieve when I set out on this journey with the team.
“I felt like it was coming with our performances in recent races, so I am so happy to have done it. What a day!”
The last time the team was on the podium was after Robert Kubica’s third place at Spa-Francorchamps in the 2010 Belgian Grand Prix.
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul said he’d like to share the emotion at the track with every team member.
“It’s been a huge, huge journey to get here and today is a milestone,” he said.
“We earned that podium: we’ve seen it coming for some time. We have had the potential to be there and today we had the right circumstances.
“Daniel drove a great race and fully deserved this – we will have to see about that bet now!”
Next up is the Portuguese Grand Prix at the magnificent Portimao track on October 23-25.
|2||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||60||+4.470s||19|
|4||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||60||+16.070s||12|
|8||27||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||60||+32.596s||4|
|10||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||60||+40.035s||1|
|12||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||60||+41.476s||0|
|NC||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||23||DNF||0|
Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Albon received a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision.
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