Bottas on pole for Eifel Grand Prix

As Hulkenberg steps in for unwell Stroll

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By Olivier Ferret

10 October 2020 - 16:07
Bottas on pole for Eifel Grand (...)

Valtteri Bottas beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the 2020 FIA Formula 1 Eifel Grand Prix in a tightly contest qualifying session at the Nürburgring that saw Red Bull’s Max Verstappen miss out of a front-row spot by just under four hundredths of a second and Nico Hulkenberg return to action for Racing Point in place of Lance Stroll who is unwell.

Stroll had missed out on the weekend’s only practice session on Saturday morning and in the hours between the start of that session and qualifying the Canadian was deemed too ill to take part in the rest of the weekend. Hulkenberg, who was working as a TV analyst at the Nürburgring, was quickly drafted in for this third grand prix weekend in pink of 2020 after two outings in Silverstone earlier this year when Sergio Pérez was ruled out with COVID-19.

At the top of the hour-long session, Hamilton was the first of the front-runners to set a time but his early Q1 benchmark of 1:26.703 didn’t last long as Verstappen quickly bypassed it with a lap of 1:26.319 that would remain the quickest of the opening segment. Bottas got closest to Verstappen’s pace with a lap of 1:26.573 that put him half a tenth ahead of Hamilton who improved marginally on a second run.

At the bottom of the Q1 order the task of trying to escape the drop with no practice laps under his belt was too much for Hulkenberg and 2020’s supersub was eliminated in 20th and last place. The exit door also beckoned for 16th-placed Romain Grosjean of Haas, Williams’ George Russell and Nicholas Latifi and 19th-placed Alfa Romeo man Kimi Räikkönen.

While Verstappen and Albon opted for soft tyres for their opening runs in Q2, Mercedes, Ferrari and Racing Point chose mediums compound Pirellis.

With the benefit of softer rubber than his close rivals Verstappen took P1 with a time of 1:25.720. Hamilton took P2 and Alex Albon in the second Red Bull slotted into P3 with a lap of 1:26.286. Bottas made a mistake on his opening run, however, and in P8 ahead of the final runs, he was forced to make another run. Surprisingly, Hamilton joined his team-mate and both set their fastest laps on soft tyres, with the championship leader taking P1 with a lap of 1:25.390.

Verstappen completed a second run on softs and his improved time of 1:25.467 was good enough to bump Bottas to third ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, and Leclerc who took P5 on soft tyres after his medium run was deemed not safe enough to guarantee progress. Eliminated at the end of Q2 was 11th-placed Sebastian Vettel with the German bowing out ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

After losing his Q1 top spot to Hamilton in Q2, Verstappen seized control once again in the first runs of the final session. With track conditions worsening as temperatures began to drop, the times were not as quick as those of Q2 but Verstappen’s 1:25.744 was still good enough to take provisional pole, 0.068s ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton, meanwhile, was a hundredth further back in third place.

But while all the top three drivers improved on their final runs of the top-10 shootout, it was Bottas who made the biggest gain. The Finn found more than half a second on his final flyer to take the 14th pole position of his career. Verstappen almost claimed his 14th front row start with a good lap of 1:25.562 but a lack of grip on the cold track allowed Hamilton to steal P2 by the narrow margin of just 0.037s.

Leclerc took an impressive fourth place in the session, edging Albon by just over one hundredth of a second, while sixth place went to Ricciardo. The Renault driver finished ahead of team-mate Ocon, while Norris took eighth ahead of Pérez and McLaren team-mate Sainz.

Pos.DriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 timeQ3 time
01 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes W11 1:26.573 1:25.971 1:25.269
02 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W11 1:26.620 1:25.390 1:25.525
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RB16 1:26.319 1:25.467 1:25.562
04 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF1000 1:26.857 1:26.240 1:26.035
05 Alex Albon Red Bull Honda RB16 1:27.126 1:26.285 1:26.047
06 Daniel Ricciardo Renault RS20 1:26.836 1:26.096 1:26.223
07 Esteban Ocon Renault RS20 1:27.086 1:26.364 1:26.242
08 Lando Norris McLaren Renault MCL35 1:26.829 1:26.316 1:26.458
09 Sergio Perez Racing Point Mercedes RP20 1:27.120 1:26.330 1:26.704
10 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault MCL35 1:27.378 1:26.361 1:26.709
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari SF1000 1:27.107 1:26.738
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda AT01 1:27.072 1:26.776
13 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri Honda AT01 1:27.285 1:26.848
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari C39 1:27.532 1:26.936
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-20 1:27.231 1:27.125
---------------- --------------- ---------- ---------- ----------
16 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari VF-20 1:27.552
17 George Russell Williams Mercedes FW43 1:27.564
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes FW43 1:27.812
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari C39 1:27.817
20 Nico Hülkenberg Racing Point Mercedes RP20 1:28.021

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