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Home   /   Hamilton takes record-equalling 91st win as Ricciardo returns to the podium
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Written by Tony Robertson

Sub-edited by Riley Taylor

For the first time since 2013, Formula 1 was racing at the Nurburgring. The last race here saw Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean on the podium and how times have changed. Lewis Hamilton was looking to take a record-equalling 91st race win while Kimi Raikkonen officially became the most experienced driver on the grid with 323 starts.

As we went lights out on a cold Nurburgring Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton went full throttle into turn one with the Brit winning the race to the first corner. However, Hamilton pushed them both wide as he broke late thus making him unable take advantage of the runoff and hold the position against pole-sitter Bottas who reclaimed it around the outside through turn two and stretched the lead to 1.7 seconds.

Behind the championship front runners, Max Verstappen kept himself within reach of the battle between the two Mercedes. His teammate Alex Albon continued his run of poor starts as he dropped down the order at the expense of Daniel Ricciardo, who was still looking for his first podium with Renault.

Super-sub Nico Hulkenberg, was another big winner in the opening laps climbing up four places from his starting place of P20 following a disappointing qualifying session where he didn’t have enough time to get to grips with the car or the circuit.

Throughout the race turn one seemed to be a minefield for drivers as they consistently ran it too deep, perhaps a combination of the cold conditions and a lack of practice with both of Friday’s practice sessions being washed out.

First to pit was Albon, who confirmed he would be on a two-stop strategy pitting on lap eight for medium tyres. A lap later saw Ricciardo finally get past Charles Leclerc, with the Aussie hunting down the Ferrari since lap one, taking him around the outside of turn two with a switchback running out of turn one.

Lap 11 saw more cars pit from softs to mediums, while the last race winner here Vettel spun out at turn one, luckily avoiding the gravel trap but unfortunately flat-spotting his tyres and causing a subsequent pit stop which wasn’t ideal considering he started on mediums.

George Russell also had a bad time on lap 11, suffering a puncture at turn one caused by a rear-left suspension failure after Raikkonen punted him into the turn one run-off, giving the new record holder a 10-second time penalty on his milestone race.

At the front of the grid Bottas locked up at turn one and opened the door for Hamilton to overtake. Bottas consequently pitted and re-joined on medium tyres behind Ricciardo. However, lap 16 saw the first Virtual Safety Car (VSC) of the session as Russell retired his car allowing Hamilton and Verstappen to take a semi-free pit stop on lap 17.

At turn 14 Albon ripped off Daniil Kvyat’s front wing as he pulled over to get back on the racing line not realising he wasn’t clear of the Russian.

Things went from bad to worse for Bottas as he reported a loss of power which eventually led to the pit wall calling him in, to retire the car citing an MGU-H problem. Esteban Ocon also retired soon after though this appeared to be a hydraulics issue. Albon joined them on lap 25.

Reliability was a common problem amongst the teams, with Lando Norris also suffering from a loss of power despite a brand-new unit being installed after Saturday’s qualifying, leading him to lose his place to Sergio Perez.

Lap 33 saw Perez v Leclerc as the Mexican overtook the Frenchman following a bad runoff from the chicane but was left red-faced after Leclerc got DRS since he made it to the detection zone after Perez did, allowing him to regain the position before turn one. Perez completed the move for P4 on lap 36, with Leclerc this time unable to fight back.

With Bottas out of the race Hamilton’s only challenger was Verstappen who was now 8.1 seconds adrift. The final podium spot was looking like it would go down to the wire with Ricciardo occupying the position but with Perez behind him with plenty of laps to go, it would be a hard-fought podium.

Luckily for Ricciardo, a safety car was deployed, due to his future teammate Norris retiring his car with the engine completely cutting out. With the safety car out, Ricciardo pitted along with every other driver except for Grosjean, who driving with a sore thumb, didn’t want to relinquish the track position of P7, hoping for his first points of the season.

Lap 49 saw the race get back underway, but good defensive driving saw most cars retain their position with Grosjean on the older and slower Hard tyres being the big loser on the restart losing two places. Hamilton used his wealth of experience bolted away from Verstappen to be 1.6 seconds ahead within a lap.

When the chequered flag finally flew over the Nurburgring, it was Hamilton who took a record-equalling 91st race win of his career just an hour’s journey from the birthplace of Michael Schumacher. Verstappen came P2 yet again, but it was Ricciardo who took a podium for the first time since his race win at Monaco 2018 and Renault’s first podium since Malaysia 2011. He and Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul will be discussing tattoos in the debrief with the wager finally being fulfilled on one end.

The rest of the top 10 was made up by Perez, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Leclerc, Hulkenberg coming from P20, Grosjean scoring his first points of the season and Antonio Giovinazzi.

The race result moves Norris down from fourth to sixth in the driver’s rankings with Ricciardo and Perez moving up at his expense with Racing Point also moving ahead of McLaren in the constructors. It also means Hamilton has stretched his championship lead to 69 points.

Championship table

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