Martin Brundle: F1 record-matching win just a stepping stone for Lewis Hamilton
In his Eifel GP column, Martin reviews a historic victory and explains the characteristics and driving skills that have set Hamilton apart, just like Schumacher. Plus, reflections on an eventful race including words of advice, from personal experience, for Alex Albon
Last Updated: 14/10/20 6:04am
The Nurburgring gave us yet another enjoyable race in this compressed and edgy season. In cool conditions, not really cold or any different to a winter's test day in Barcelona, Lewis Hamilton matched Michael Schumacher's tally of 91 Formula 1 victories in a very fitting style.
The hard facts are that Mercedes have led every lap in 8 of the 11 races so far this season, but it feels a whole lot more entertaining than that.
We can be pedantic with the statistics and note that Michael took 15 races less to do this, and that Lewis has had far more races per season in his prime years to make his mark, but LH is still at the very top of his game and this appears to be but a stepping stone to many more victories.
Lewis has also had the best car in a particularly challenging technical era, but so have his team-mates, and Michael also had a whole team focussed on him with a dominant car for a while.
- Hamilton opens up on equalling Schumacher record
- Hamilton and Schumacher: How their record win tallies compare
What a great idea it was to have Formula Two championship leader Mick Schumacher hand Lewis one of Michael's race helmets before the podium. I so wish Michael could have been there to do that, and it reminded me of the last conversation I had with Michael over dinner in Monza 2013 which was partly looking through his amazing sky diving images but also about how to nurture a son who races.
Michael was a pure winning machine in and out of the car. All the right people wanted to be in his team and be part of the success because he was so fast, so good. He largely dominated his team-mates in and out of the car, whether he was using his right foot or his streetwise mental capacity and guile.
Lewis is the same. A classic comment of his on Sunday post-race was that he could see Valtteri Bottas was graining his front tyres and so he pushed. He was driving two Mercedes at that point, and sure enough under braking and also with a few spots of rain Valtteri locked his front wheel and ran wide.
Valtteri made the comment that this gave Lewis advance warning of less grip, but whatever the circumstances Hamilton seized a lead he would not remotely relinquish despite ensuing safety cars. He threw Bottas a consolation prize after the race by complimenting his determination to regain the lead in turn two of the opening lap, which was indeed a fine piece of aggressive and precision driving.
We'll never know if Valtteri's forced two-stop strategy with the flat-spotted front tyre could still have payed dividends later on as he lost power and retired, but probably not given the safety car scenarios for various incidents.
I'd hoped that Red Bull and Max Verstappen would be more of a threat to Mercedes on this track and in those conditions, but he could just about hang on for a while and was never a real threat. It was quite telling how excited he and the Red Bull team were to at least steal the single championship point from Lewis for fastest lap on the final tour for a solid second place. Nothing much more he can do at the moment.
Max's brilliance has broken the confidence of another team-mate in Alex Albon who had a shocker really, no other word for it. Locked brakes, flat-spotted tyres, pulling back onto the racing line despite not being fully past Daniil Kvyat's AlphaTauri, penalty points on his licence and a time penalty in the race. Complaining on the radio that the AlphaTauris were racing him so hard. Then an apparent water leak retiring his car.
It's a long way back from there and his credit in the bank from the Mugello podium has been heavily eroded.
A couple of times against Senna in F3 and Schumacher in F1 I found myself in a hole, and with nothing to lose and assuming it was all over, I simply rebounded from rock bottom and let the natural talents and experience flow in a carefree way and started beating them. That's what Alex needs to do if he can.
The fight for the final podium spot was intriguing between Renault's Daniel Ricciardo, who's heading to McLaren in six races' time, and Racing Point's Sergio Perez, who's heading to who knows where in the same timeframe. Great drives by both of them but Ricciardo grabbed his first podium in 18 months, which he's been threatening to do for a while now.
Seb Vettel replaces Perez at Racing Point/Aston Martin but he had another race to forget with a clumsy spin once again racing among the Alfa Romeos with a similar power unit and a fraction of the budget. Seb finished out of the points although Charles Leclerc scrambled a seventh in the sister car.
Ferrari are showing more absolute pace, particularly in Leclerc's hands, but that's not translating into faster race stints yet as they tear up their tyres.
Nico Hulkenberg stood in for a poorly Lance Stroll at literally the eleventh hour, and despite qualifying an unsurprising last after nil running beforehand he drove nicely, and aggressively when required, to a fine eighth place and more points for the team. In the last eight races, despite only appearing twice at the last minute, he has outscored Vettel.
Perez and Hulkenberg would make a hell of a pairing for somebody on the F1 grid…
Lando Norris was probably the man looking most likely to grab another podium for McLaren with some great pace for a while until his newly installed Renault power unit failed and left him abandoned in a deckchair beside a marshals' post.
The McLaren updates weren't working particularly well for Carlos Sainz in the sister McLaren but he secured a solid fifth ahead of the ever impressive Pierre Gasly 2.0 in the AlphaTauri.
Kimi Raikkonen, one of the fairest and best F1 drivers in recent history, managed to celebrate breaking Rubens Barrichello's 322 start record with a clumsy error in the challenging turn-one braking zone, almost putting George Russell on his roof. It was that kind of day.