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Eifel Grand Prix: Preview

Nurburgring returns after 7 years

Formula 1 enters unknown territory at the Eifel GP. “No worries, we are not going to France”. Nurburgring, located in the heart of Eifel region, one hour away from the cologne, makes its return to the calendar for the first time since 2013. Initially, the calendar was packed with races in Asia, and America, nobody has thought we could race in Germany nor Nurburgring. Here we are in Germany for the 11th round of the 2020 season.

For the first time in their history, Nurburgring will host a race in October. Teams could face a unique challenge in colder conditions with the maximum temperature expected to be around 10-degree celsius with medium to high chance of rain throughout the weekend. For the 5.148 km high downforce circuit, Pirelli have brought C2, C3 and C4.

This will 41st Formula 1 World Championship race at Nurburgring, wherein 19th race in the shortened circuit and 9th race after the restructuring in 2002, where they replaced Castrol chicane with a sharp right-hander. Teams except Haas have already raced at the track. However, their data collection will start from scratch because the conditions would be a lot different from the previous races. The off-track simulations could play a pivotal role. The previous races here suggest the track is not demanding a lot from the tyres, but teams could face a challenge in warming up the tyres due to the low temperature.

Mercedes

Mercedes head to their home race with 366 points and 174 points ahead of their nearest rival Red Bull Racing. For the first time in recent years, Mercedes head to a track without any prior success.  It’s a rarity to see a track, where Mercedes never scored a win nor a podium. In a shortened Nurburgring, Mercedes have raced only twice, which was before the hybrid era, wherein they registered only one pole position and the highest finish of 5th.

Mercedes would be carrying the rule book in the hope of avoiding the error, which robbed them off two 1-2 finishes in the last 3 races. A strong finish at their home will strengthen their bid for their 8th Championship in a row.

Lewis Hamilton would be more determined to win his 91st Grand Prix and equal Micheal Schumacher’s record this weekend. The Englishman was the victim of the rule book error made by Mercedes at Monza and Russian GP, which robbed him off two potential victories. Lewis Hamilton has a pretty good track record at Nurburgring with a win and a pole to his name.

Hamilton
Credits: Formula 1

Valtteri Bottas is coming to Nurburgring, fresh from a victory and just 44 points behind Lewis Hamilton. Moreover, he raced only once at Nurburgring in his career. With 7 races remaining, the Finnish driver is running out of races to play catch up to Lewis Hamilton. Valtteri Bottas would be keen on securing his first back to back win in his F1 career and close the gap on Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull Racing

Red Bull Racing have raced 6 times at Nurburgring where they won once and registered pole position twice. The unprecedented nature of the circuit and rain in the horizon mean Red Bull Racing have an equal probability along with Mercedes of winning the race this weekend.

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Max Verstappen, makes his first appearance at Nurburgring, is just 33 points behind second-placed Valtteri Bottas. A win would help him close the gap on Valtteri Bottas. The wet weather virtuoso would be hoping for rain this weekend to showcase his ‘Senna-Esque’ drive.

Alex Albon has scored only 4 top 5 finishes, this season. He has scored only 64 points so far, which is 50% of Max Verstappen’s tally. He’s 5th in the Championship, a point behind Lando Norris. A solid race ahead of his rivals at Nurburgring will help him to take the 4th spot in the Championship.

McLaren

McLaren are one of the successful teams at Nurburgring where they have secured 3 pole positions and 4 wins. They may not be able to repeat the same feat this year, but they need a strong result this weekend after a disappointing show at the Russian GP. The last time McLaren failed to score points for two races in a row was in Abu Dhabi 2018. With Racing Point just 2 points behind them, the seeds are sown for a fascinating battle between both teams this weekend to get the upper hand.

Carlos Sainz had a frustrating last couple of races where he failed to finish the race. The frustration encapsulates with an embarrassing mistake in the first lap of the Russian GP. The last time he had two retirements in a row was in 2019 Belgian GP and Italian GP. The Spaniard is in 11th place in the standings with 23 points behind his teammate. Carlos Sainz, racing for the first time at Nurburgring, is in search for a strong show to leapfrog Pierre Gasly in the standings and put Russian GP embarrassment to the bed.

His teammate, Lando Norris has already scored 16 points more than his last season’s tally. He failed to finish on points at the Russian GP, after a run of 6 races in points. At the same stage last year, he scored only 22 points, which is 43 points less than the current season.  Carlos Sainz leads Lando Norris 6-4 on the head to head battle in the qualifiers this season. However, Lando Norris has outraced Carlos Sainz 4 times compared to only 3 times by Carlos Sainz when both drivers are classified in the race. Lando Norris could be determined to get back in the points to consolidate his 4th place in the standings.

Racing Point

Racing Point have raced at Nurburgring with their former name Force India three times. They have finished on points only once and started in the top 10 only twice at Nurburgring. Their best finish and the grid positions are 6th and 8th, respectively. However, they can have a better outing this weekend. After unluckily missing out of double top 5 finish at Mugello and Russia, Racing Point deserve a fair bit of luck going their way to produce a strong result this weekend to lead frog McLaren.

Sergio Perez has raced twice at Nurburgring with his best finish of 8th place in 2013 German GP. The Mexican despite missing 2 races this season has put consistent performance to accumulate 56 points, only one behind his teammate Lance Stroll, who had an upgrade in his car in the last two races. On top of it, he has finished on points and out-qualified his teammate Lance Stroll in every race since the comeback.

However, his Canadian teammate, Lance Stroll, after crashing out twice in as many races, would be disappointed not to collect the data from the new upgrades. As Sergio Perez is breathing down his neck in the championship standing, it remains to be seen if Lance Stroll has a conviction, that he’s good enough to lead the team until the end of this season.

Renault

Renault come to Nurburgring after a strong show at the Russian GP. In the last 4 races, they have amassed 63 points, which is more than their midfield rivals and also Red Bull Racing, who has only accumulated 57 points. Only Mercedes have scored more points than them in the same period. Moreover, they are only 7 points behind 4th placed McLaren. A similar performance would put Renault in the driver seat for the 3rd spot in the constructor’s championship.

Ricciardo has competed twice at Nurburgring. One race each for HRT and Torro Rosso, wherein he registered 22nd and 6th in qualifiers and, 19th and 12th in the race. Daniel Ricciardo has 63 points so far this season, which is 27 more than his teammate Esteban Ocon. He has outraced Esteban Ocon in 6 races in which both drivers classified. Also, he has annihilated his teammate 10 – 0 in qualifiers. With just 2 points separating him and Lando Norris in 4th, he would be determined for yet another top 5 finish, and try for that elusive podium this weekend.

The performance difference between Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo could play a decisive role in Ocon’s aspirations to be a Mercedes driver.  The Frenchman finished disappointing 16 seconds behind his teammate at the Russian GP. However, the Eifel GP can give him a glimmer of hope to turn around this season.

Ferrari

Ferrari are the most successful team with 6 wins to their name at Nurburgring. However, the Italian team have scored 74 points with only two podiums so far this season. As a silver lining, the upgrade package at the Russian GP has worked better than expected. They are also expecting more upgrades for the Nurburgring, which could boost their chance of catching up the midfield rivals in the standings.

Charles Leclerc, who is just 8 points off 4th placed Lando Norris, needs a good result at Nurburgring to have any hopes of finishing top 4 in the Championship. However, his teammate Sebastian Vettel hasn’t finished in top 5 this season, with 6th place being his best. Sebastian Vettel has qualified in top 10 only thrice this season. The last time he took part in Q3 was in the British GP 2020. He has been out-qualified by Charles Leclerc in 8 sessions this season. He may not be able to repeat his 2013 heroics at Nurburgring, but the German is determined to end his last home race with Ferrari on a stronger note.

Nurburgring 2013
Credits: Formula 1

What’s expected from the remaining teams?

Alpha Tauri are on a point-scoring run from the British GP 2020. They are in a touching distance of leapfrogging Ferrari, where only 15 points separate them and Ferrari. Despite being 31 points behind Pierre Gasly, Daniel Kvyat has outraced his teammate 3 times to 2 when both drivers finished the race.  When it comes to qualifiers, Pierre Gasly leads the head to head battle by 8 – 2.

There is something to be excited for Alfa Romeo and Haas as F2 Championship contenders Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilot will make their FP1 debut on Friday.

Williams, being the third most successful team at Nurburgring, would be delighted, if the track throws some surprises for them to score that elusive top 10 finish and open their points-scoring account for this season.

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