RACE DEBRIEF

    Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton may have secured his record-equalling 91st Grand Prix victory at the Eifel Grand Prix – but was it enough to put him top of the Power Rankings, after Formula 1 returned to the Nurburgring for the first time since 2013? Our judges votes are in…

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our five-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out to produce a race score – with those scores then tallied up across the season on our overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    What a run Daniel Ricciardo is on currently. Having finished in the top six at every Grand Prix since Belgium, the Australian finally got that podium that he so desperately wanted with Renault. Yes, fortune played a part, thanks to his future team mate Lando Norris retiring his McLaren and forcing a Safety Car that protected Ricciardo from the approaching attack of Sergio Perez. But nonetheless, it was a fine race from Ricciardo, who’d helped his chances of scoring that podium by jumping Alex Albon at the race start.

    WATCH: Ricciardo left gobsmacked after being reminded he'd not done a 'shoey' on podium

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    Max Verstappen continues to do all he can, in a Red Bull that’s good, but clearly not quite on the level of Mercedes’ W11. Just 0.037s off Lewis Hamilton in qualifying, Verstappen was once again left to spend his Sunday afternoon clinging onto Mercedes’ coattails, always close, but never quite close enough to really launch an attack. But the RB16’s upgrade package appeared to have moved it on a step in Germany – and if they can spend free practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix properly dialling it in, we could have a tasty end-of-season, and 2021, battle coming our way.

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    Usually, qualifying 20th and finishing eighth wouldn’t get you a top three spot in the Power Rankings. But this was no ordinary appearance from Nico Hulkenberg, who was enjoying a nice orange mocha frappucino (or similar) in Cologne four hours before qualifying, before getting the call-up from Racing Point and rushing to the ‘ring to fill in for Lance Stroll. He could therefore be forgiven for qualifying last, while his rise up to eighth was solidly unspectacular – but under the circumstances, deeply, deeply impressive.

    READ MORE: Hulkenberg delighted with ‘totally unexpected’ P8 on one-off return in Germany

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    Sergio Perez may well have had his ninth career podium at the Nurburgring, had the Safety Car not been brought out after Norris’ DNF. Before that, fourth-placed Perez had been catching Ricciardo in a way that would have seen the pair fighting it out in the final laps for the last podium place, Ricciardo having the advantage of track position, but Perez with 12-lap fresher tyres. As it was, the 'free' pit stops for him and Ricciardo neutered the battle – but it had been an excellent recovery from the dependable Mexican after qualifying a disappointing ninth.

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    Gasly’s excellent 2020 continues onwards, the Frenchman earning an 8.6 from our judges – his seventh 8+ score in 11 races – having climbed from P12 all the way to P6. Gasly secured that P6 by passing Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari nine laps from the end – while he would also have enjoyed the battle with Red Bull’s Alex Albon earlier in the race, Gasly keeping the Thai driver at bay, and leading Albon to complain over team radio that he was being raced too hard by Red Bull’s sister team.

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    Is Hamilton’s placing at joint-sixth harsh, after he qualified second, won the race and matched Michael Schumacher’s 91 Grand Prix victories? Perhaps. But given that, much like Bottas’ win at Sochi two weeks before, Hamilton’s victory had been assured by his main rival being taken out of the equation – and with Bottas having beaten Hamilton to pole by over a quarter of a second – it’s probably fair enough, despite Hamilton’s superb record-matching efforts.

    READ MORE: ‘I can't respect his efforts enough’ – Vettel, Verstappen and more praise Hamilton as he matches Schumacher's 91 wins

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    Even Ferrari probably doubted that the upgrades brought to their car this weekend were enough to earn Charles Leclerc a spot on the second row of the grid. But Leclerc is driving beautifully at the moment, and duly scooped P4 in qualifying – although his Sunday then saw Ferrari’s race pace woes continue, with Leclerc gradually falling down the order to seventh by the chequered flag, pushed down by the aforementioned pass on him by AlphaTauri’s Gasly on Lap 51 of 60.

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    Haas once again lacked the pace of their competitors to truly challenge at the Nurburgring, but some strategic cunning allowed Romain Grosjean to use a one-stop strategy – the only driver at the Eifel Grand Prix to try it – to claim ninth place, marking only the second time Haas have scored all season. Meanwhile, Grosjean’s first points since Germany 2019 (yes, you read that right) were all the more merited given that the Frenchman drove the majority of the Eifel Grand Prix thinking that he’d broken his finger, after getting struck by some gravel.

    WATCH: Haas ecstatic with Grosjean points finish

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    Lando Norris was convinced that, had mechanical gremlins not stuck his freshly-fitted power unit, fourth place at the Eifel Grand Prix would have been his – while he even felt he might have had enough pace in hand to have denied Ricciardo his podium. But the debilitating issue that appeared on his McLaren MCL35 – and which required him to perform a cramp-inducing error code clear on his steering wheel every single time he went around a corner – eventually resulted in Norris’ DNF, and his second consecutive non-score.

    READ MORE: ‘I had cramp in my thumbs’ – Norris explains how hard he had to work to manage Eifel GP power unit issue

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    It was looking so good for Russian GP winner Bottas, as he aced qualifying, taking pole by 0.256s from Hamilton, before showing a steely resistance in his fight with his team mate at the first corner that left even Hamilton impressed. But his lock-up into Turn 1 on Lap 13 handed an easy lead to Hamilton – while Bottas then retired with a suspected MGU-H issue five laps later, his championship hopes now seriously in trouble, given he sits 69 points off Hamilton.

    READ MORE: Bottas admits he ‘needs a miracle’ in title battle after ‘disappointing’ Eifel GP retirement

    MISSING OUT

    Carlos Sainz and Antonio Giovinazzi were the two drivers to narrowly fail to make the cut this week. Sainz actually did a bang-up job to haul a McLaren MCL35 that he was decidedly unhappy with to fifth – albeit helped by some big-ticket retirements, including his own team mate’s.

    Meanwhile, with Ferrari Driver Academy members Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott on the ground at the Nurburgring and both hungry from Giovinazzi’s seat next year, this was an opportune moment for the Italian to follow up his first Q2 appearance of 2020 on Saturday with his first points since the season opener in Austria on Sunday.

    READ MORE: Sainz calls Eifel GP a ’60-lap struggle’ despite taking P5

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    There wasn’t a whole lot of movement in the leaderboard post the Nurburgring, with the top 10 drivers all staying the same, Norris dropping down a place while Bottas climbed up one. Meanwhile, down at the lower end of the table, Sergio Perez climbed two places to 17th – the Mexican having been hurt by his two Covid-related no-shows at Silverstone. Could he crack into the leaderboard before the end of the year?

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