Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Nurburgring, 2020

Will Bottas seize his chance to cut Hamilton’s points lead again?

2020 Eifel Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Valtteri Bottas has chipped into Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead in two of the last three races. By taking pole position at the Nurburgring, he’s bought himself an opportunity to make it three out of four.

Admittedly on both prior occasions events turned in his favour: Hamilton collected penalties for entering a closed pit lane at Monza and a practice start violation in Sochi. If Bottas is going to prove himself capable of beating Hamilton in a championship fight, he needs to make this opportunity count, and leave the Nurburgring having further reduced hthe is 44-point gap between them.

Getting away from the line cleanly will be job one – an area where Bottas hasn’t excelled this year. The very sharp first corner at the Nurburgring is always a tricky braking zone and will be even more so given the very low temperatures expected on Sunday.

The Mercedes drivers, along with all the others who will start inside the top 10, have chosen soft tyres to start the race on. After qualifying Lewis Hamilton indicated he preferred to start on the medium rubber but again those low track temperatures would make than an unwise move, as team principal Toto Wolff explained.

“In the debrief that was discussed and it’s clear that the soft is the right tyre to start with and Lewis agreed to that,” said Wolff. “The reasons being that starting on the medium, you’re losing about three to four metres against the soft and all his competitors are on the softs. So it makes no sense to take big risks and a big gamble.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Nurburgring, 2020
Verstappen could be quick enough to take on the Mercedes
Wolff doubted anyone could have qualified on the mediums, though Hamilton’s first run in Q2 seemed to indicate it was a possibility. He believes Hamilton’s preference for the tyre simply comes down to his desire to have an alternative strategy to challenge Bottas with.

“Lewis doesn’t like to be in P2 or worse. That’s why an alternative strategy always makes a lot of sense because just accepting to follow a car is not how he operates. But the soft was the right choice for the race.”

Hamilton’s concern will be that if he spends the first stint tucked up behind Bottas, both on soft tyres, with Max Verstappen potentially within range, he won’t have a strategy option to attack his team mate and could even fall prey to the Red Bull driver through the pit stops.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Nurburgring, 2020
Cold temperatures will shape the race
A key factor in the race will be the performance advantage of fresh, heated tyres. Any restarts – virtual, Safety Car or standing – are going to be tricky. When the standing restart procedure was attempted in the low temperatures of pre-season testing, some drivers suggested there could even be an advantage in pitting before the restart and putting warm tyres on in conditions such as these.

For those hoping for a lively race, there are an encouraging number of unknowns. The cancellation of yesterday’s practice sessions means the long-run performance of the tyres in low temperatueres is a mystery to many of the teams. It’s also an unfamiliar track with unforgiving run-off areas in several places – spins or crashes could easily disrupt the race.

Then there’s the ever-present question mark of races at the Nurburgring: What will the weather do? The current forecast indicates it should be dry, but very cold. There is a slight risk of rain towards the end of the race – whether this materialises, or only arrives in time to dampen the podium proceedings, remains to be seen.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’26.5731’25.971 (-0.602)1’25.269 (-0.702)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’26.6201’25.390 (-1.230)1’25.525 (+0.135)
3Max VerstappenRed Bull1’26.3191’25.467 (-0.852)1’25.562 (+0.095)
4Charles LeclercFerrari1’26.8571’26.240 (-0.617)1’26.035 (-0.205)
5Alexander AlbonRed Bull1’27.1261’26.285 (-0.841)1’26.047 (-0.238)
6Daniel RicciardoRenault1’26.8361’26.096 (-0.740)1’26.223 (+0.127)
7Esteban OconRenault1’27.0861’26.364 (-0.722)1’26.242 (-0.122)
8Lando NorrisMcLaren1’26.8291’26.316 (-0.513)1’26.458 (+0.142)
9Sergio PerezRacing Point1’27.1201’26.330 (-0.790)1’26.704 (+0.374)
10Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren1’27.3781’26.361 (-1.017)1’26.709 (+0.348)
11Sebastian VettelFerrari1’27.1071’26.738 (-0.369)
12Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’27.0721’26.776 (-0.296)
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’27.2851’26.848 (-0.437)
14Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1’27.5321’26.936 (-0.596)
15Kevin MagnussenHaas1’27.2311’27.125 (-0.106)
16Romain GrosjeanHaas1’27.552
17George RussellWilliams1’27.564
18Nicholas LatifiWilliams1’27.812
19Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1’27.817
20Nico HulkenbergRacing Point1’28.021

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Valtteri Bottas27.811 (2)35.453 (1)22.005 (2)
Lewis Hamilton27.829 (3)35.490 (3)21.902 (1)
Max Verstappen27.804 (1)35.478 (2)22.120 (3)
Charles Leclerc27.908 (4)35.742 (5)22.350 (9)
Alexander Albon27.964 (5)35.712 (4)22.371 (10)
Daniel Ricciardo27.996 (7)35.901 (6)22.170 (4)
Esteban Ocon27.981 (6)35.961 (9)22.228 (6)
Lando Norris28.020 (8)35.935 (8)22.270 (7)
Sergio Perez28.084 (9)35.920 (7)22.326 (8)
Carlos Sainz Jnr28.156 (10)35.961 (9)22.222 (5)
Sebastian Vettel28.344 (15)35.969 (11)22.372 (11)
Pierre Gasly28.244 (12)36.105 (14)22.427 (13)
Daniil Kvyat28.325 (14)36.100 (13)22.423 (12)
Antonio Giovinazzi28.215 (11)36.241 (16)22.443 (14)
Kevin Magnussen28.255 (13)36.106 (15)22.565 (15)
Romain Grosjean28.389 (16)36.037 (12)22.692 (17)
George Russell28.453 (17)36.444 (18)22.667 (16)
Nicholas Latifi28.477 (18)36.482 (19)22.709 (18)
Kimi Raikkonen28.688 (20)36.388 (17)22.741 (20)
Nico Hulkenberg28.509 (19)36.567 (20)22.720 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sergio PerezRacing PointMercedes321.0 (199.5)
2Nico HulkenbergRacing PointMercedes318.5 (197.9)-2.5
3Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes318.0 (197.6)-3.0
4Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes317.7 (197.4)-3.3
5Lando NorrisMcLarenRenault317.5 (197.3)-3.5
6Esteban OconRenaultRenault317.5 (197.3)-3.5
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLarenRenault316.2 (196.5)-4.8
8Daniel RicciardoRenaultRenault315.0 (195.7)-6.0
9Antonio GiovinazziAlfa RomeoFerrari314.8 (195.6)-6.2
10George RussellWilliamsMercedes314.5 (195.4)-6.5
11Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda313.2 (194.6)-7.8
12Daniil KvyatToro RossoHonda313.2 (194.6)-7.8
13Max VerstappenRed BullHonda312.8 (194.4)-8.2
14Alexander AlbonRed BullHonda312.5 (194.2)-8.5
15Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedes312.4 (194.1)-8.6
16Charles LeclercFerrariFerrari311.5 (193.6)-9.5
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa RomeoFerrari310.9 (193.2)-10.1
18Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari310.7 (193.1)-10.3
19Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari310.6 (193.0)-10.4
20Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari309.0 (192.0)-12.0

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Over to you

Will Bottas or Verstappen keep Hamilton from a record-equalling 91st win? What can Charles Leclerc do in his surprisingly rapid Ferrari?

And where will Nico Hulkenberg finish from last on the grid, having only driven his car for 20 minutes? Share your views on the Eifel Grand Prix in the comments.

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

Browse all 2020 Eifel Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Will Bottas seize his chance to cut Hamilton’s points lead again?”

  1. “Lewis doesn’t like to be in P2 or worse. That’s why an alternative strategy always makes a lot of sense because just accepting to follow a car is not how he operates. But the soft was the right choice for the race.”

    But that makes no sense. Hamilton clearly had a preference for starting on mediums before he knew he’d finished in P2, since the issue obviously had to have arisen earlier, in Q2, when he set a good enough time to get through to Q3 on mediums, and the team then persuaded (or told) him to go out and set a faster time on softs. Hamilton wouldn’t have been questioning the decision otherwise.

    1. I think Mercedes wanted to avoid that medium tyre. Cooler conditions later, it is expected to be the coldest day during the weekend later, could amplify the effect of the difference between the soft tyre and medium tyre at the start. Hamilton could easily lose at least 2 positions before turn 1. I do wonder if Bottas got his lap in Q2 without any mistakes, if they would have done the same thing.

      1. @krichelle Both good points. The medium tyre might well be a liability from the start. But that begs the question of why they ran the medium tyre at all, and like you said, what they would have done if Bottas has put in a better Q2 time on the mediums. It suggested they were thinking about starting on the medium tyres at least. Then when Bottas had to use softs to ensure he got into Q3, Mercedes insisted on both doing the same so they would be on the same strategy – which seems to be what matters to the team most. Which is why I’m a bit sceptical about Wolff’s comment.

  2. The speed traps have a telling engine order. Merc>Renault>Honda>Ferrari.
    Only the not unexpectedly underperforming Williams being in the wrong spot and Giovinazzi – who must have been peddling mighty fast.

    1. I’m a big critic of the way honda performed since they’re back, and indeed, in the article where they were leaving it seemed like a lot of people were sad cause honda was performing well, yet I don’t think so, this clearly shows renault would be an upgrade for red bull, which means the honda switch failed: red bull was getting a few wins a year even before leaving renault, and when ferrari had a good engine they obviously didn’t want to supply red bull, and same for mercedes.

      1. Gertrude Misty
        11th October 2020, 8:37

        The top speed is also affected by drag and downforce, on many weekends it’s not a Merc that tops the speed trap times, often their greater engine power allows them to run more downforce which slows their top speed on the fastest bit of the course but gives them a much greater average speed because they can negotiate all the corners more quickly.

        The speed trap tells you almost nothing in this respect.

  3. Mercedes appear to be under some pressure here and it bodes well for a closer race!! I certainly hope so as the season has becoming a very boring exercise when it comes to the championships. The biggest disrupter will be the tyre choices and who will get the best performances out of the mediums? We definitely need something to spice things up at the top end. Then again given the unknowns of long distance performances maybe the mid field can spring a few surprises. Now that I’d like to see.

  4. VB will make yet another ‘fluffed’ start and let LH past into a race winning position before the first corner. Only problem for VB is that MV may get past him as well. Maybe I am wrong, but that has been my initial feeling.

    Good luck to NH for a steady climb up from the back of the grid.

  5. 6 out of 10 drivers did worst times in Q3 in comparison with Q2. What is the explanation for that?

    1. I wondered about that too. maybe it got a little colder as the sun went down?

  6. Lewis will drift him and then take him into the first corner.
    He’ll then pick up a penalty for wearing an unauthorised t-shirt at the anti-racism parade. Ten seconds stop and go.

  7. Go Lewis go!

  8. Will Bottas or Verstappen keep Hamilton from a record-equalling 91st win? – The former, yes, if everything goes well for him.
    What can Charles Leclerc do in his surprisingly rapid Ferrari? – Not much, I expect home to lose at least some positions.
    And where will Nico Hulkenberg finish from last on the grid, having only driven his car for 20 minutes? – Hopefully, at least in the points, but going to be difficult under the circumstances.

    1. @jerejj I suspect the only person who can keep Hamilton from a record-equalling 91st win is Hamilton himself, as at the last round.

  9. It would just take a Hamilton DNF and Bottas win for this championship to suddenly become interesting.

    1. I’d rather not. to win the championship regardless of what Hamilton does, Bottas will have to win almost every race. if he does this, then he’ll definitely deserve the championship. personally; I highly doubt it

  10. Are those sector times a driver’s fastest sector time for all sessions or are they the sector times for the fastest lap? The reason I ask is when I looked at the sector times for Lewis I see 27.829+35.490+21.902 = 85.221 = 1′ 25.221. The lap time given for his fastest lap was 1’25.525, which is 0.304 seconds slower than what the cumulative sector times say.
    Now compare that with Valtteri’s effort, the sector times were 27.811+35.453+22.005 = 85.269 = 1’25.269. The lap time given for his fastest lap was 1’25.269, so we can see in this case the cumulative sector times add up to the same as the fastest lap time.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      11th October 2020, 9:32


      I’m really confused by this. I did the same calculations as you. On Bottas’s final run, he got 3 purple sectors. Are they not the 3 fastest times of the session? Seeing Hmailton’s 3 best sectors really doesn’t add up. He was 0.013 quicker on the first lap.

      There is also something odd about this:

      What is wrong with this?

  11. @thegianthogweed
    I think those are best sector times over all qualifying runs (Q1, Q2 and Q3).
    Ham went faster in Q2, so these 3 split times won’t add up to his Q3 time.
    Bottas did get three purple sectors in Q3, but those TV graphics are reset for each section of qualifying, so only applied to Q3 in that instance.
    It can definitely get confusing!

Comments are closed.