Three names synonymous with glory and success will grab attention for contrasting reasons today when the once-legendary Nurburgring hosts a Formula One race for the first time in seven years.
Lewis Hamilton will be seeking, at the second attempt, to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins while the seven-time champion German’s son Mick was set to make his F1 debut in Friday’s opening practice with Alfa Romeo.
Alongside them, Sebastian Vettel – the last winner at the historic venue in 2013 – will be bidding to avoid any banana skins as he embarks on his closing chapter with Ferrari, having admitted on Wednesday that his spell with the Italian team has been a failure.
All three men and the rest of the travelling F1 circus are expected to face severely cold conditions with rain and low temperatures forecast for the weekend’s inaugural Eifel Grand Prix.
For Hamilton, there is more at stake than a chance to claim another record as he presses on in pursuit of equalling Schumacher’s haul of seven drivers’ championships.
After his disappointment at the Russian Grand Prix, where he was handed two controversial five-second penalties on his way to a fighting third and a subsequent outburst, in which he claimed there was a conspiracy to slow him down, he will be seeking to reclaim his dominance and dignity.
Like Vettel, he is a former winner at the track which, in a previous incarnation as the feared ‘Nordschleife’, witnessed the birth of the ‘Silver Arrows’ in 1934, when Manfred von Brauchitsch won the International Eifel Race.
Hamilton triumphed in 2011 with McLaren, powered by a Mercedes engine, but he has not claimed victory in the Eifel mountains since joining the current Mercedes works team.
Mercedes have registered only one F1 win at the venue – delivered on the daunting ‘old’ circuit by Juan-Manuel Fangio in 1954 – and may not find it easy this weekend despite their absolute dominance since the start of this Covid-19 affected season.
Hamilton goes into the race with a 44-point lead in the drivers’ title race ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who won in Sochi two weeks ago and remains determined to close the gap on the six-time champion.
“I won’t give up and we’ll keep pushing,” he said, mindful that Hamilton is expected to react to his testy defeat in Russia, since when the defending champion has kept a low profile, with a typically inspired display.
Formula Two championship leader Mick Schumacher will not be the only one of Ferrari’s junior drivers in action at the German circuit as his rival and colleague Briton Callum Ilott was due to drive for Haas . Both are hopeful hope of landing an F1 seat next year.
F1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
DRIVER’S 3,000M RESULT
1. Lewis Hamilton 205 pts
2. Valtteri Bottas 161
3. Max Verstappen 128
4. Lando Norris 65
5. Alexander Albon 64
6. Daniel Ricciardo 63
7. Charles Leclerc 57
8. Lance Stroll 57
9. Sergio Pérez 56
10. Pierre Gasly 45