Will F1’s Nurburgring return deliver another 2020 epic?
One hour of practice instead of the usual four would present big challenges for the drivers at any Formula 1 circuit. But a tricky old-school track which hasn’t graced the calendar since 2013 and which 12 of the current grid haven’t raced an F1 car on? That – not to mention that it will be one of the coldest races in modern F1 – creates plenty of unknowns and, hopefully, an excellent race.
- Watch today’s Eifel GP at 1.10pm on Sky Sports F1, build-up at 11.30am
Safety Cars at the Nurburgring, meanwhile, are usually never too far away. Nor, indeed, have they been in recent F1 2020 races – with incidents bringing one out in each of the last four Grands Prix.
Bottas vs Hamilton and a momentum swing?
“Sometimes he can lose his momentum and he can dip down, and he’ll stay down for a couple of races.”
It’s far too early to suggest Hamilton is losing any sort of momentum after one disappointing weekend in Russia – where he picked up two penalties yet still finished on the podium – but an off-colour qualifying does add particular pertinence to the above quote from Nico Rosberg, a man who knows Hamilton, how to beat him in a championship battle, and his supposed “weakness”, better than most.
Saturday was by far Hamilton’s least competitive qualifying compared to his team-mate all season and, while he still holds a 44-point lead over Bottas, the Finn is enjoying a boost in momentum himself after following up a first win in nine races last time out in Sochi with a first pole in five here. And Rosberg was certainly right to insist Bottas must grab any opportunity that might fall his way.
You’d suspect a chance to equal Michael Schumacher’s win record and the challenge of little track running would spur on Hamilton in a fight Mercedes insist the pair can race wheel-to-wheel in, while cutting Hamilton’s title lead should be motivation enough for Bottas.
The Eifel GP provisional grid – top 10
But Mercedes vs Verstappen could be even more decisive…
Bottas and Hamilton may be on the front row but Red Bull have been closing the gap significantly in recent weeks and Max Verstappen was on Saturday, perhaps for the first time this season, a genuine pole contender. If he backs that up in the race, when he is usually more competitive, then we might well have a three-way fight for victory.
“The Red Bulls have closed the gap so they could be faster than us,” admitted Hamilton. Rosberg added: “If there is a tiny, tiny chance, you know Verstappen is going to go for it.”
Ferrari the surprise midfield leaders
In most of the races since F1’s shortened summer ‘break’, Ferrari have been closer to the backrunners and a Q1 exit than to the sharp end of the midfield. But while Sebastian Vettel failed to make Q3 for the seventh time in a row on Saturday, Charles Leclerc ensured Ferrari rejoined what has been F1’s more common battle in recent years – Mercedes vs Red Bull vs Ferrari – in the top four. Judging by Ferrari’s race form this season compared to qualifying, you’d suspect Leclerc has a good chance of a strong race, even though Red Bull’s Alex Albon may prove too fast from fifth.
Behind that, Renault are once again on form, while McLaren, Sergio Perez and the aforementioned Vettel should be top-10 contenders at the very least.
The Eifel GP provisional grid – 11-20
Hamilton isn’t the only man on the verge of an F1 record
Hamilton can equal an F1 record on Sunday, but Kimi Raikkonen will break one. Don’t expect too much celebrating from the Iceman, particularly as he lines up a disappointing 19th on the grid, but a 323rd race start is quite the achievement.
And we have a special Kimi x Rubens Barrichello x Martin Brundle feature coming up in our race show at 11.30am…
What could this be? 👀 #SkyF1 #F1 #Formula1 #EifelGP #F12020
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Hulkenberg on a mission on unexpected F1 return
In his last Racing Point stand-in appearance, Nico Hulkenberg qualified third and finished seventh. Given he starts 20th today – understandable given he was bolted into the car just before Saturday’s shootout – the only way is up for a driver who, as he has proved over the years, can shine on a Sunday.
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