Eifel GP - Stat Wrap
By Sean Kelly
C4F1's Virtual Statman
Formula 1 welcomed its second inductee into the “91 Club” this weekend, as Lewis Hamilton finally moved level with Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record.
For some reason, this record seems to be synonymous with 14-year cycles. Hamilton has equaled Schumacher 14 years after the German’s last victory at the 2006 Chinese GP. Schumacher had equaled Alain Prost’s previous win record of 51 wins in 2001, 14 years after Prost had equaled Sir Jackie Stewart’s record of 27…. which had stood for 14 years (!)
✌🏾😊— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) October 12, 2020
Continuing the weird relationship with that number, Hamilton has reached 91 wins in 260 Grands Prix starts – 14 more than it took Schumacher – but his win rate increased exponentially since the dawn of the hybrid era. In 132 races since the start of 2014, Hamilton has been the winner on 69 occasions, a remarkable 52% success rate.
Sunday was Hamilton’s seventh victory of this truncated campaign, as he floats his way toward a Schumacher-equaling seventh world title. Nobody has ever lost the world title with a points lead as large as the 69-point advantage currently enjoyed by the Englishman, and as unusual as it sounds, it ended a long winless streak for Mercedes at a venue with which it was once synonymous.
The Silver Arrows were victorious at the Nurburgring on six occasions in the German GP and a further four occasions in the Eifelrennen during the pre-war Grand Prix era, yet until Sunday they lacked a victory – or even a podium finish – at the Nurburgring since Juan-Manuel Fangio’s win in the 1954 race.
Hamilton also maintained a run of success for drivers starting second on the grid at this track, who have now won five of the last six F1 races here, and it continued Mercedes’ total dominance of yet another Grand Prix season. They have taken every pole position in 2020, and have led every lap of the race in eight of the 11 Grands Prix.
Having said that, their dominance played out in mono rather than stereo this weekend. Valtteri Bottas ended Lewis Hamilton’s run of five consecutive pole positions but his Sunday afternoon was ended by a power unit failure, the team’s first mechanical failure of the year.
This left Max Verstappen to take second place almost by default, doing so for the second consecutive Grand Prix and the fifth time this year, but it held significance for Red Bull’s power unit provider, Honda.
The Japanese manufacturer made their F1 debut at the Nurburgring in 1964, when Ronnie Bucknum raced their RA271 chassis with an unusual 1.5-litre V12 engine. Despite that distinction, Honda have never won or taken a pole at the Nurburgring and prior to Sunday had only scored one podium finish (Jenson Button’s BAR in 2004).
Speaking of long waits for podium finishes, Renault finally saw their team back in the top three this weekend for the first time since 2011, when Nick Heidfeld finished third in the Malaysia GP.
Daniel Ricciardo had looked a strong candidate for a podium all season, and the demise of Bottas finally gave him the opportunity he needed. He also admitted that not being part of a podium ceremony since winning the 2018 Monaco GP was the reason he forgot to do his usual “shoey” celebration!
He made Renault the seventh different constructor to finish on the podium in the 2020 Grand Prix season, the most in F1 since back in 2012. It means that now only Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams are lacking a top three result.
Sergio Perez has been waiting for a podium even longer than Ricciardo – having not been up there since Azerbaijan 2018 – but he has now taken consecutive fourth-place finishes in Sochi and at the Nurburgring and now lies fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, an impressive achievement having missed two rounds due to a positive COVID-19 test.
When discounting those absences, Perez has scored in his last 15 consecutive races, tying the best run of his career set during the 2016/17 season. Had he been on the podium this weekend it would have been the ninth of his career, but his second in a race taking place on October 11, having finished third on the same date in the 2015 Russian GP.
Racing Point were forced into running a Force India throwback driver lineup this weekend, as illness to Lance Stroll forced them into hurriedly calling up Nico Hulkenberg as a substitute. In fact it was so last-minute that Hulkenberg raced with his 2019 Renault helmet design, the distinctive black-and-yellow colours contrasting with the pink RP20 chassis!
Having previously stood in for Perez during his quarantine, it made Hulkenberg the first man to substitute for both drivers in a team since Brendon Hartley was the beneficiary of the driver merry-go-round at Toro Rosso in 2017.
Although his last-minute appearance meant he was the slowest qualifier, Hulkenberg settled back into the car during the race and finished in a fine eighth place. When combined with his seventh-place result at Silverstone, it means that super-sub Hulkenberg now has as many top-eight finishes in 2020 as his full-time compatriot Sebastian Vettel!
Carlos Sainz had enjoyed a real feast-or-famine run of results in recent events, with his career-best second place at Monza sandwiched between a did-not-start at Spa, elimination in the lap six pile-up at Mugello and then a first lap DNF in Sochi.
With that in mind, fifth place this weekend was a welcome result for a McLaren team that saw teammate Lando Norris retire due to a failing power unit.
Sainz was only denied victory at the Italian GP by Pierre Gasly, and the AlphaTauri driver scored the team’s second top-six result of the year by finishing sixth on Sunday. It means that AlphaTauri now have an eight-race scoring streak, the longest in the team’s entire history under any name (having started life as Minardi from 1985-2005, and continued as Toro Rosso from 2006-2019).
Ferrari went into Sunday on a positive note for a change, as Charles Leclerc had qualified fourth on the grid, his best since he was in the same position at the British GP – a race in which he claimed the team’s most recent podium finish.
The Nurburgring race was less successful as Leclerc clearly did not have the race pace to sustain his qualifying performance, but seventh place is better than nothing in the week that he will be celebrating his 23rd birthday.
It continues to appear that the Ferrari engine is weaker than its opponents, as the slowest five cars in the qualifying speed trap all used the Maranello powerplant. Nevertheless, the Ferrari-powered Haas of Romain Grosjean was able to take ninth place to finally end a 14-month wait for a points finish. His last score also came on German soil, when he was seventh at Hockenheim last July.
The last point went to Antonio Giovinazzi, who was a) able to reach Q2 for the first time this season, and b) able to maintain his distinction of being the only driver to gain positions on the first lap of every race in 2020.
His Alfa Romeo teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished 12th in his record-breaking 323rd Grand Prix start, breaking the mark that had been held by Rubens Barrichello since 2008.
Their careers overlapped for most of the 2000s, with Barrichello finishing on the podium when Raikkonen won his first race at the 2003 Malaysia GP, while Raikkonen was on the podium for Barrichello’s last victory at Monza in 2009.
The Finn has reached 323 starts despite missing an additional 38 races in 2010-11 during his flirtations with the World Rally Championship and the NASCAR series. As inscrutable as ever, Raikkonen admitted to not really caring about Formula 1 statistics.
We’re therefore assuming he has not read this article.