Eifel GP driver ratings

Lewis Hamilton makes history, Daniel Ricciardo makes the podium; Rating all 20 drivers on an unpredictable return to the Nurburgring

By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway

Last Updated: 12/10/20 3:12pm

Qualified 2nd, Finished 1st

260 races. 91 wins. He may have taken longer than Michael Schumacher to reach that record total – 15 races in fact – but the form Lewis Hamilton is in, coupled with the fact he shows no signs of slowing down or stopping, means he will, surely, be the most successful driver of all-time. And while he was not on top of his game at the Eifel GP – particularly in qualifying when he was further behind Valtteri Bottas (0.2s) than he had been all season – he still delivered when it mattered most. On Sunday he was supreme. Near-perfect. And relentless.

Hamilton very nearly grabbed the race lead at the very start into Turn One, only to be denied by an impressive defence by his team-mate, but Bottas made an error on Lap 13 – the kind we just do not see from Hamilton these days. Shortly after, Lewis’ main title rival’s race was over and, after building a big gap to Max Verstappen only for it to be eradicated through a late Safety Car, Hamilton kept his cool through the restart and closing stages to take a giant step towards another of Schumacher’s records, a seventh crown.

Sixty-nine points ahead, with six races remaining. Game over?
Rating out of 10: 9

Qualified 3rd, Finished 2nd

Another race and another flawless performance from Max Verstappen, who maintains his sequence of finishing every race in which his car has not failed him this season on the podium. It is a run that actually stretches back to last November’s United States GP, underlining the level of consistency the Dutchman operates at these days.

It was second again here, but Red Bull’s performance bodes well for the rest of the season. Verstappen did truly challenge the Mercedes drivers for pole, before the grip went away right at the end of Q3. He could not make an impression on Hamilton in the race, but ran close enough to the lead to keep the sole Mercedes on its toes after Bottas’ demise.

“He’s such a great talent,” said Hamilton to Sky F1 after the race. “He’s so fast and consistent so it’s not easy to beat this young up-and-coming champ.” If Red Bull can continue to edge closer towards next year, it will be an edge-of-the-seat battle between the grid’s top two.
Rating out of 10: 9

Qualified 6th, Finished 3rd

He had not been on the podium since winning the 2018 Monaco GP – while Renault’s wait had lasted almost a decade – but it is safe to say Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 2020 top-three finish had been coming. Nobody has been fourth more times than the Australian (3) this year and, in truth, only the two drivers who finished this race ahead of him can really claim to have been in better form.

Beating Esteban Ocon in qualifying again to make it 10-1 Ricciardo for the season, he then enjoyed a typically storming start to the race, dispatching Alex Albon on Lap One and then Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari soon after. From there he built his buffer and, although Sergio Perez may well have caught him without a Safety Car, Ricciardo still had to fend off the Racing Point on the restart. That he did, displaying defending skills to add to his overtaking highlights earlier in the afternoon.

Ricciardo finished his last season with Red Bull sixth in the championship. He is now fourth with Renault. A class act.
Rating out of 10: 9.5

Qualified 9th, Finished 4th

This was another performance from Sergio Perez that underlined that it would be something of an absurdity if he is left without an F1 drive for next season. Whether or not any seat turns out to be at the kind of competitive level Perez’s results deserve is another question, but the Mexican did his prospects no harm here via fourth place and a career-best-equalling 15th consecutive points finish.

And it could even have been better, had the Safety Car not stymied his pursuit of Ricciardo. “Without the Safety Car we would have had a really strong change,” reckoned Perez, who was 10s behind the third-placed Renault at the time. “We were catching Daniel really fast and I was really happy with that medium set [of tyres].”

Qualifying only ninth had been a relative disappointment, but one of those canny long stints on soft tyres at the start brought the Mexican back into play. He is also firmly into play for the wide-open race for fourth in the Drivers’ Championship now too.
Rating out of 10: 8.5

Qualified 10th, Finished 5th

It says a lot about the unpredictable nature of Sunday, and the amount of midfield retirements, that Carlos Sainz finished fifth – which not too long ago would have equalled his best F1 result – in a race we rarely saw him in.

He qualified behind team-mate Lando Norris, who was in fact the only driver he passed on-track. And even that was a touch fortunate given the Englishman’s engine issues. McLaren’s upgrades have not quite got them back battling Renault just yet and while Sainz was propelled right behind the Ricciardo-Perez fight after the Safety Car, he spent the closing laps concentrating on holding Pierre Gasly behind rather than being on the attack.

Still, considering his afternoon, and the fact he has been on the wrong end of misfortune so often this season, 10 points is a very solid return.
Rating out of 10: 7

Qualified 12th, Finished 6th

Nothing is quite going to grab the headlines like a victory at Monza, but it is credit to Pierre Gasly’s form this year that sixth for the Frenchman in the AlphaTauri is not regarded as a shock. Saying that, their fairytale Italian victory aside, this was the team’s best other result of the season – and not one that appeared on the cards after qualifying.

With limited time to dial in the car ahead of practice, Gasly and Daniil Kvyat were both knocked out in Q2 and Pierre actually lost two positions from 12th in the race’s early laps. But his race picked up from there during a 30-lap opening stint on medium tyres and, eighth in the queue under the Safety Car with 10 laps to go, he successfully picked off Grosjean and then Leclerc within two laps of the restart.
Rating out of 10: 8

Qualified 4th, Finished 7th

The star of Saturday quickly became a sitting duck on Sunday as it became evidently clear early on in the race that Charles Leclerc’s second-row-starting Ferrari was not going to have the pace to contend with faster midfield cars directly behind.

He will be slightly disappointed to have been passed by good friend Gasly after the Safety Car restart – not helped by Ferrari leaving him out on old medium tyres – but admitted “seventh is the best we could do today”.

Considering Sebastian Vettel’s struggles, Leclerc was still one of the better performers of the weekend.
Rating out of 10: 8

Qualified 20th, Finished 8th

Who you gonna call? Nico Hulkenberg! That’s proving the very-successful default dial for Racing Point after they were forced to turn to their former driver for the third time in eight races to serve as super-sub, with Lance Stroll feeling too unwell to drive.

Hulkenberg was due at the Nurburgring on Saturday anyway but that was for TV commitments, not to take part in qualifying without any practice. It was all a little too rushed for even the experienced German to qualify off the back row but the race allowed him to settle back into the recently-upgraded RP20 and get his driving eye back in, which he did with a very accomplished run to eighth place and four crucial points for Racing Point.

Until the next time, Nico…
Rating out of 10: 9.5

Qualified 16th, Finished 9th

It may not be a podium – as Romain Grosjean secured at F1’s last Nurburgring visit in 2013 – but a first points finish in 21 races is a great result for the Frenchman. Particularly after being left with what he feared was a broken finger after being hit by gravel early on in the afternoon.

“It is blue,” admitted Grosjean to Sky F1 after the race, in which he secured ninth place largely thanks to a brave strategy call by Haas upon the Safety Car – leaving Grosjean out to lift him up four places – and some excellent defending from Romain himself from Antonio Giovinazzi and Vettel.
Rating out of 10: 8.5

Qualified 14th, Finished 10th

It may or may not have come too late to save his seat at Alfa Romeo, but this was nonetheless a good time for Antonio Giovinazzi to return to the points for the first time since 2020’s first race back at the start of July.

Getting into Q2 for the first time this year was a big confidence booster, as was turning 14th on the grid into 11th at the end of the race’s first lap. He drove well from there and, although ultimately felt the Safety Car cost him a place or two, 10th ahead of Vettel was still a good result.
Rating out of 10: 8

Outside the points

We will let Sky F1’s Nico Rosberg summarise Sebastian Vettel’s Eifel GP.

“He jumped the start and got lucky he didn’t get penalised, he spun twice this weekend on his own, he’s a half a second a lap off the pace [compared to Leclerc] – it really doesn’t get much worse than that.”

Now failing to reach Q3 on seven straight Saturdays and without a top-nine finish since the Spanish GP, Vettel continues to struggle in F1 2020.
Rating out of 10: 5

It is probably just as well that Kimi Raikkonen was barely inclined to dwell on the achievement of becoming F1’s most experienced-ever driver before the race as what followed will not feature prominently among memories of those record 323 starts. ‘The Iceman’ has been on a good run recently, but this was tough going with a 19th-place qualifying result followed by an early-race tangle with George Russell that earned Raikkonen a 10s penalty. The fact he still finished 12th despite all that was actually good going.
Rating out of 10: 5

Kevin Magnussen was rather unfortunate to finish behind team-mate Grosjean given his strong qualifying – making it into Q2 for just the third time this season and then rising two places to 13th on a typically strong first lap. But a two-stop strategy just did not work for Magnussen as a one-stop strategy did for Grosjean, while being overtaken by Vettel and Raikkonen in the closing stages did not help either.
Rating out of 10: 6.5

A “fun” but “challenging” Sunday afternoon at the Nurburgring for Nicholas Latifi, who certainly had a busy finish to the afternoon with Vettel, Raikkonen and Kvyat all running behind him following the late Safety Car. The first two got by, but the AlphaTauri did not. “I think for the last five or six laps I was defending into turn one, battling through one, two and three, so it was fun to have that fight,” he said. “We will have to go away and analyse to see why we were lacking pace this weekend.”
Rating out of 10: 6

“I didn’t understand his manoeuvre really, what he was doing,” said Daniil Kvyat of the collision with Alex Albon when battling for 10th place. “I think it was quite unprofessional of him and very poor judgement. You wouldn’t expect that from a driver of his level who’s been racing for so long. The race was ruined from there.”

Points could and should really have been possible for Kvyat given he was running just behind team-mate Gasly at the time of that clash, which took off his front wing.
Rating out of 10: 6.5

Did Not Finish

Poor Lando Norris. Ricciardo and Perez ultimately battled for the last podium place but the Englishman very likely would have been in that scrap without an engine sensor issue, which he encountered when leading Perez by a couple of seconds during a lengthy first stint which had him up in third. He lasted many more laps but had slipped down to sixth at the time of his stoppage.
Rating out of 10: 7.5

A disaster of a weekend for Alex Albon. Fifth on the grid was not a disaster (although the 0.5s deficit to Verstappen was alarming) but he then lost a position on the first lap of the race rather than gaining one. He was then forced into an early pit-stop after flat-spotting his tyres and, soon after, clumsily clattered into Kvyat – which earned him a time penalty. Red Bull retired the car from the race after that, citing a power unit issue.

“He’s just driven very, very badly this weekend,” said a scathing Rosberg. “He’s been slow, and he’s made so many mistakes out there. That’s the opposite of what he needs at the moment. He needs a good result to secure his seat. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to keep that seat for next year which is a pity because he’s so likeable and we know he can drive well.”
Rating out of 10: 5

Esteban Ocon was running behind Perez and Norris but ahead of Sainz when he was forced into a race retirement with a hydraulics issue. “It was looking decent to be honest and we were definitely in line for a top-five finish,” said the Frenchman, who has still yet to out-qualify Ricciardo in a dry qualifying.
Rating out of 10: 6.5

That is now 32 F1 Sundays without a point for George Russell, who so often seems to be unlucky in these kind of races. He probably would have been fighting for a top-10 finish at the end of the race, but never got there after being shunted into by Raikkonen at Turn One on Lap 12.
Rating out of 10: 6

For all the good that victory in Russia did his confidence, Valtteri Bottas really needed victory at the Nurburgring too if Sochi was to prove something more significant in championship terms against Hamilton. He took an impressive pole, and then braved it out well around the outside of his Mercedes team-mate coming out of Turn One at the race start. But running wide at the first corner again 12 laps later was an unforced error he really needed to avoid and, when his power unit developed a rare fault several laps later, it was game over for the race – both on the day and, almost certainly, the title one too.
Rating out of 10: 8