Hamilton coasts to record-equalling 91st GP win after Bottas mistake
By Martin Moravec
NUERBURG – World champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes took another step towards Formula One immortality on Sunday (11) when he drew level with Michael Schumacher on a record 91 career race victories at the Eifel Grand Prix.
Hamilton achieved his latest milestone on the Nuerburgring track where the Schumacher-S section is named after the German great, ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in dry but cold conditions.
The Briton took advantage of a 13th-lap mistake from then leading team-mate and pole sitter Valtteri Bottas, who then had to retire a little later after a loss of power.
In an emotional moment, Schumacher’s son Mick presented Hamilton with one of the helmets of his father, who has not been seen in public since suffering severe head injuries in a skiing accident in 2013.
“I don’t even know what to say. It’s an incredible honour and it’s going to take some time to get used to it,” a visibly touched Hamilton said.
“When I came into the pit lane that’s only when I realized I had equalled it, I hadn’t even computed it when I had crossed the line. I couldn’t have done it without this incredible team. A very big thank you and huge respect to Michael.”
Hamilton joined F1 in 2007 at McLaren and won his first race that year in Canada. He is already the all-time leader in pole positions with 96, and can get sole possession of the race win record in a fortnight in Portimao, Portugal, in what would be his 262nd race.
The Briton increased his lead over Bottas in the championship to 69 points as he seeks a seventh world title, which would also equal a record by Schumacher from whom he took over in 2013 at Mercedes.
But, with Verstappen snatching an extra point for fastest lap, Hamilton is not taking anything for granted.
“It was not an easy race. Max drove extremely well. You could see his pace at the end. We have got a serious fight on our hands,” he said.
Verstappen said: “The Mercedes was just a little bit too fast for us but I managed to get that fastest lap for the extra point so I’m happy with that. We finished second, which was where we belonged.”
Bottas barely made the most of his pole position with Hamilton edging past him into turn one, both running wide but Bottas was then in the better position to move past his team-mate again on the inside into turn two with impressive driving.
But on lap 13 the Finn locked up into turn one and ran wide, with Hamilton taking full advantage to sweep into the lead.
Bottas needed to change tyres as Hamilton now led Verstappen by some five seconds, before the virtual safety car was deployed after George Russell’s Williams was hit by the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn received a 10-second time penalty for the incident in what was an F1 record 323rd race started since a 2001 debut, one more than Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
Hamilton and Verstappen meanwhile used the occasion to pit for fresh rubbers while soon after Bottas complained about a loss of power and had to retire, for the first time this season, at the end of lap 18.
Up front, Hamilton led Verstappen by some 10 seconds but the retirement of McLaren’s Lando Norris with 16 laps left spiced up matters a little in the form of the safety car.
But, after everyone went into the pits for fresh tyres, Hamilton handily won the restart and then coasted into the record books with his seventh season win.
Ricciardo meanwhile got his first podium since winning in 2018 in Monaco and Renault’s first as a works team since 2009, He confirmed that according to a bet team principal Cyril Abiteboul will now get a tattoo.
“It’s been a while! It feels like the first podium all over again,” Ricciardo said, adding on the tattoo issue: “We’ll have to do some thinking now. Probably something to do with me but with a German flavour. This is the place we did it, so a little tip of the hat to something in Germany as well.”
Nico Huelkenberg, standing in at short notice for unfit Lance Stroll at Racing Point from qualifying onwards, finished in the points in eighth after starting from the back of the grid.
Ferrari had a mixed race with Charles Leclerc seventh after qualifying fourth, and Sebastian Vettel, the last Nuerburgring winner in 2013 before the race dropped off the calendar, outside the points in 11th.