The Morning After: Bottas at his best

Valtteri Bottas

After Friday at the Nurburgring that saw absolutely nothing to remark upon, Valtteri Bottas ensured that Saturday turned out the complete opposite.

As much as questions abound about the Finn’s future with the team – and indeed, will continue to do so for the foreseeable future – he deserves nothing but praise for what was undoubtedly his best effort on a Saturday of the 2020 Formula 1 season.

No, I wouldn’t call his 0.256s over Lewis Hamilton a shellacking exactly, but his other two poles this season were won by less than a tenth, and in an overall qualifying battle he trails on average by a similar margin, it’s quite the turning of the tables.

Of course, those tables can quickly be flipped again should Hamilton get the better run into the first corner, but there’s no denying Bottas came up big here. Given the championship stakes, he needed this pole position, and he got it. What more could you ask for?

Quick Hits

Hats-off to both Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc for their respective performances. Max certainly put the fear of god into Mercedes, while Charles continues to out-drive that dog of a Ferrari. Sheer quality from both.

To think Nico Hulkenberg went from sitting in a coffee shop at 11am to driving a F1 car just a few hours later – some days I struggle just to get out of my pajamas.

It seems that when Kimi Raikkonen said he didn’t care about his F1-record 323rd race start, he should’ve clarified he didn’t care about qualifying for it either. 19th on the grid when his teammate gets through to Q2 has to be one of his worst Saturday performances in quite some time.

Sunday race strategy preview, courtesy of Pirelli

The theoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli for the Grand Prix based on the data collected from FP3 and qualifying and on weather conditions expected for the race, are as follows:

THE QUICKEST TWO-STOPPER: 1 stint on soft (19 laps) + 1 stint on medium (22 laps) + 1 stint on soft (19 laps) to the flag

2ND QUICKEST TWO-STOPPER: 1 stint on soft (18 laps) + 1 stint on medium (21 laps) + 1 stint on medium (21 laps) to the flag

SLOWER (quickest one stopper) ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on medium (29 laps) + 1 stint on hard (31 laps) to the flag

 

The most likely strategy for the 60-lap Eifel Grand Prix is a two-stopper, but with the track not having been used for Formula 1 since 2013 and with no running yesterday, strategy is something of a question mark for all the teams. Adding to the tactical complexity is the fact that tomorrow could be wet – and it will certainly be cold – making it even harder to accurately predict tyre behaviour.

The theoretically quickest way will be to start on the P Zero Red soft, then on lap 19 switch to the P Zero Yellow medium for 22 laps, and finally do a 19-lap stint on the soft again. As usual, this combination of compounds can be used in any order.

Second-fastest is another two-stopper: one 18-lap stint on the soft plus two 21-lap stints on the medium.

Slower is a one-stopper, going from medium to P Zero White hard after 29 laps (or the exact opposite, running 31 laps on the hard before going to medium). The data suggests that a one-stop strategy using medium and soft is not possible.

FOCUS ON

  • Weather. Track temperatures were the coldest seen all year during a race weekend, with 10 degrees ambient and 17 degrees of track temperature at the end of qualifying. Even cooler conditions are likely tomorrow, and there is a high risk of rain as well. Getting the tyres up to temperature (particularly the fronts) and keeping them there will be crucial: especially if there is a safety car.
  • Track evolution. This was influenced by the track not having been used yesterday and no rubber laid down, with conditions still ‘green’ and slippery.
  • Experience. Formula 1 hasn’t raced at the Nürburgring since 2013 and there was no running on Friday, so the teams and drivers headed into qualifying and the race with much less experience and information than they would normally have.
  • Strategy. The lack of information will have a big impact on strategy. The race strategies are much less clear cut than usual, as it’s really not clear which strategy is most advantageous in real world conditions.
  • Speed. The evolution of the cars and tyres since the last time F1 went to the Nürburgring meant that the all-time track record, set by Michael Schumacher back in 2004 (1m28.351s) was already broken by most of the field in FP3.