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  • Writer's pictureRhonan Colquhoun

F1: Hamilton equals Schumacher's win record with Eifel GP victory

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's record of 91 race wins. The Brit was victorious round the Nurburgring winning ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Renault's Daniel Ricciardo.

11th October 2020

His 91st Grand Prix victory wasn't a walk in the park for the 6 Time World Champion. He was beaten to Pole by Mercedes team-mate Valterri Bottas in Qualifying and the Finn muscled his way back into the lead after briefly losing it to Hamilton. But on Lap 13, Bottas heavily locked-up into Turn 1 and Hamilton took the lead on route to a very important milestone in his F1 career.

Hamilton had a smooth run to the flag overcoming a Safety Car restart and the threat from Max Verstappen behind, to equal a record many thought never would be matched.

Bottas fights Hamilton as the top 3 pull away from the chasing pack

The lights went out and it was Hamilton who made the better start to take the racing line on the run-down to Turn 1. Bottas had kept second and was side-by-side with Hamilton into the braking zone. Hamilton braked late and ran wide, pushing Bottas even wider but the Finn kept his foot in and in doing so, took the racing line through Turn 2 to retake the lead.

Max Verstappen held onto third ahead of Charles Leclerc with Daniel Ricciardo fending off Alexander Albon to hold fifth place. Bottas's super attacking skills had pegged Hamilton back with the Finn opening up a one and a half second gap come the end of the first lap.

It had been great starts for Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, who reached the second part of qualifying for the first time this season yesterday, and, for Racing Point's Nico Hulkenberg, who drove for the team instead of an unwell Lance Stroll. Both had gained three positions and sat in 11th and 17th.

Come Lap 4, Leclerc was a distant fourth with the Ferrari driver now nine seconds behind Bottas and around seven seconds behind Verstappen in third. The Monegasque had the rest of the chasing pack behind him and first in line to overtake him was Renault's Ricciardo.

Teams report the threat of rain as Bottas's championship challenge takes a hit

After a number of laps of trying, Ricciardo succeeded in overtaking Leclerc. Ricciardo used the DRS down the main straight on Lap 9 which put Leclerc under pressure with the Ferrari driver taking the defensive line into Turn 1. Ricciardo switched-back, getting better drive out of the corner to swoop round the outside of Turn 2 to complete the move.

On Lap 11, Leclerc bailed and pitted from fifth, swapping the Soft tyres for a new set of Mediums. An early pit-stop for Albon had worked well with the Red Bull driver now ahead of Leclerc after being stuck in the train the Ferrari driver had formed in the opening laps. Leclerc's team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, spun at Turn 1 in avoidance of making contact with Giovinazzi. As a result, Vettel pitted and ventured back onto the track on the Hard tyres.

Upfront, Hamilton had been working hard and kept the gap to just over one second to Bottas ahead so when the Finn locked-up heavily into Turn 1, Hamilton pounced and took the lead exiting Turn 2. With his tyres ruined, Bottas pitted at the end of Lap 13 and rejoined in fourth behind Ricciardo.

In a clumsy incident with Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1, George Russell failed to make it back to the pits with damage on his left-rear suspension. Raikkonen lost control of the rear of the Alfa under-braking and this led to contact with Russell.

Russell: "Ahh I gave him plenty of space, plenty, plenty of space."

The Virtual Safety Car was called in order for the marshals to recover Russell's stricken car with Hamilton and Verstappen taking advantage of this and pitting. Pitting under a VSC is basically a free pit-stop and this added more misery to Bottas's day with the Finn losing out even more.

Alpha Tauri's Daniil Kvyat's day was ruined when Albon misjudged his overtake into the final corner with the Red Bull driver ripping off Kvyat's front wing. Since the incident happened after the entry to the pit-lane, Kvyat had to trundle slowly round the track before he could pit.

Into the final couple of corners on Lap 17, Bottas was passed by both McLaren's Lando Norris and Racing Point's Sergio Perez. The Finn, who made his 150th race start, reported that he had lost power. He continued for one more lap but nothing would solve his problem. He pitted and he became the second retirement of the race.

The battle for third hots up

Under the VSC, Renault made the decision and pitted Ricciardo with the Aussie rejoining in eighth. This became seventh, with the retirement of Bottas, and then sixth as his team-mate, Esteban Ocon, retired from the race on Lap 23. Ahead of Ricciardo was Norris in third, Perez in fourth and then Carlos Sainz in fifth.

Albon, who had tried to put the incident with Kvyat behind him, was battling the other Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. This personal battle resulted in Gasly staying ahead of Albon but the Red Bull driver's day had come to an end with retirement, shortly after he had received a time penalty for the incident with Kvyat.

Norris, who had yet to pit in third, reported to his team of a loss of power. The Brit was able to continue as his team tried to work out what had gone wrong. In an attempt to undercut Norris, Perez pitted on Lap 29 along with Sainz with the Mexican and the Spaniard rejoining in seventh and in ninth. Norris responded and pitted a lap later, rejoining in fifth, ahead of Perez, but still with a loss of power. His defensive driving wasn't good enough as Perez sailed past on the run to the chicane on Lap 31.

Norris's gremlins triggers full Safety Car

After overtaking Norris, Perez had his eyes set on Leclerc's fourth place. Ricciardo now held third by about 16 seconds and an attempted overtake, which briefly resulted in Perez getting ahead of Leclerc, backfired as Leclerc muscled back past. It was second time lucky for Perez as he made the move stick.

Norris's luck had finally ran out. He had dropped to sixth before pulling over at Turn 6. He became the fifth retirement of the race and the full Safety Car was required. Norris found a deck chair as he watched the cars fly past. Renault were quick to react and pitted Ricciardo with Mercedes and Red Bull pitting Hamilton and Verstappen.

Hamilton and Verstappen rejoined in first and second while Ricciardo held onto third after Perez decided to pit for fresh tyres. Before the Safety Car, there was a huge field spread with Hamilton and Verstappen in a world of their own. So, the Safety Car stayed out until everyone had bunched-up and was back in order. With 10 laps to go, racing resumed.

Hamilton equals Schumacher as Ricciardo gets Renault on the podium

It was a perfect restart by Hamilton as Verstappen struggled with tyre warm-up and this allowed Ricciardo to nibble at his former team-mate's heels. Verstappen had the measure of the Aussie but now Ricciardo had to contend with Perez behind. Both drivers were searching for their first podium finish since 2018. Ricciardo looked to have the upper-hand as Gasly overtook Leclerc for sixth.

With only a couple of laps to go, Hamilton looked to have the race win in the bag with a three second gap to Verstappen behind. Ricciardo had a one and a half second lead over Perez with Sainz, having the same gap to Gasly, in fifth and sixth.

Hamilton crossed the line to win the Eifel GP and more importantly, this equalled Michael Schumacher's 91 career wins. Verstappen crossed the line four seconds behind but Ricciardo held onto third to give Renault their first F1 podium since 2011.

Super-sub Hulkenberg, who received the Fans Driver of the Day, came home in eight after starting last while Romain Grosjean scored his first points of the season in ninth.

So while the win for Hamilton equalled another record for the Brit, Raikkonen set a new record beating Rubens Barrichello's race starts of 322 to 323 for the 2007 World Champion.

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