The Russian Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Valtteri Bottas & Mercedes emerge victorious, with teammate Lewis Hamilton in 3rd, rounding off the podium.
This weekend, we find ourselves in Germany, moving from the Sochi Autodrom in Russia, to the Nürburgring GP-Strecke, located in the outskirts of Nurburg. Valtteri Bottas starts from Pole, with teammate and Championship rival next to him.
Ahead of the lights going green later today, we have compiled a list of things to watch out for ahead of the race.
The Circuit – Nürburgring GP-Strecke
The Nürburgring is a permanent motorsports complex located in the town of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate. The complex has a rich history, and is renown for it’s North Loop, better known as the Nordschleife.
The track features a total of 14 different configurations, utilising the 2 main layouts, the GP-Strecke, and the Nordschleife. Of the 14 configurations, the longest is the Combined Circuit, clocking in at 25.947km and utilising the Full Track, while the shortest configuration, the Müllenbachschleife, clocks in a mere 1.489km. For the Eifel Grand Prix, F1 will be using the 5.148 km long GP-Strecke, inclusive of the Mercedes Benz Arena.
The official lap record for the GP-Strecke stands at 1:29.468, set by Michael Schumacher in 2004. Yesterday’s pole time set by Valterri Bottas, stands at 1:25.269.
The Things to Watch Out for:
How much or how little overtaking will we see as Formula One returns to the GP-Strecke? F1’s previous outing at the circuit saw a total of 41 on-track passes.
Given the fast, flowing nature of the track, expect overtaking to be difficult around the narrow circuit, with dirty air in the wake of cars being the chief obstacle for drivers. However, the cambered nature of several corners around the track could provide overtaking opportunities for drivers bold enough to use alternate lines.
The main overtaking points are at the run down to Turn 1, ahead of the Mercedes Benz Arena Complex, alongside the Turn 13 chicane.
Can Bottas carry his momentum from Russia forwards? This is the question on everyone’s mind this weekend, after the Finn broke his 8 race win drought a fortnight ago. If the Finn can successfully carry his momentum forward for the rest of the season, he could breathe further life into his title battle with Hamilton.
Bottas arrives at the ‘Ring, with a 2 wins, 2 poles, and 161 points. His biggest rival, and teammate, Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, arrives with 6 wins, 7 poles, and 205 points. Ahead of Russia, the gap between the pair stood at 55 points, and now stands at 44 points. Should Mercedes continue achieving 1-2 finishes, Bottas would need to achieve the fastest lap and the victory, alongside the win for the next 6 weekends in order to overhaul Hamilton in the standings. Should he fail to achieve fastest lap, he will need to win every remaining race this season…
With just 7 rounds to go to the season finale, this leaves Bottas with little to almost no margin of error.
Bottas topped FP3 yesterday, and followed it up with Pole in Qualifying. If the Finn can carry his pace demonstrated in FP3 & Q3 forward into the race, he could certainly give his title hopes a further boost, by claiming both the victory and fastest lap. If Red Bull & Max Verstappen can prove a threat to Mercedes, they could certainly do Bottas a favour if the Finn is able to break free of Hamilton right from the start of the race…
Leclerc & Ferrari
Charles Leclerc’s 4th place starting spot on the grid today came as a surprise to the fans and media, and can perhaps be described as a wonderful surprise for the Scuderia. Leclerc’s performance comes after several poor race weekends for the Prancing Horses recently, held at tracks which did not suit the SF1000.
Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel failed to reach Q3, which may not have been a major surprise to many. However, Leclerc’s 4th place can certainly be something for the Scuderia to cheer about. Laurent Mekies, Scuderia Ferrari Sporting Director felt that Leclerc’s performance at the Nurburgring was an indicator that the team had made strides in the right direction in terms of car development, the team having introduced new parts this week.
Could potentially bode well for Ferrari, who could luck their way to the podium with Leclerc today…
2009 GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg has made yet another shock return to F1, replacing Lance Stroll, who had skipped FP3 after being hit with a stomach upset.
In his previous outings, Hulkenberg performed admirably, coming in 13th in Quali for the British GP, before storming to 3rd in Quali for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, and eventually finishing 7th. However, the German was thrown into the car without any FP3 run this weekend, and ended up qualifying down the order at the back of the grid.
Given the tight & twisty nature of the Nurburgring, it will certainly be a challenge for the Hulk to charge is way to the front, and many eyes will be looking at how he performs today.