Eifel Grand Prix: PreviewOctober 6, 2020
Haas F1 Team is ready to delve into rural Rhineland as Formula 1 ends a seven-year absence from Germany’s Nürburgring for the Eifel Grand Prix.
The Nürburgring is synonymous in motorsport circles courtesy of the Nordschleife circuit that winds its way through the Eifel Mountains. The 22.8km Nordschleife circuit, featuring over 100 turns, was regarded as one of motorsport’s greatest challenges and its danger was apparent – with Sir Jackie Stewart giving it the nickname ‘The Green Hell’. The near-fatal accident that befell Niki Lauda in 1976 brought an end to Formula 1 action at the Nordschleife and when the championship returned to the calendar in 1984 it was on the GP-Strecke, the layout of which has remained unchanged since 2002, when an additional sequence of corners was added to the opening sector of the lap.
Formula 1 events at the Nürburgring have previously been called the German Grand Prix, the European Grand Prix and even the Luxembourg Grand Prix, and for 2020 it has another name – the Eifel Grand Prix, named after the mountain range in which the circuit is located. Those mountains can have an influence on the weather. Even in the height of summer sudden downpours and chilly conditions can be expected – and with Formula 1 visiting Nürburgring in the fall the paddock is braced for potentially cold and changeable conditions, bringing another challenge into the unusual 2020 season.
The Nürburgring has not featured on Formula 1’s calendar since 2013 but that event was a memorable one for Romain Grosjean, who scored a podium finish, joining World Champions Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen in spraying the champagne. Kevin Magnussen has never entered a Nürburgring grand prix but has mounted its podium, winning races in Formula Renault 2.0 and German Formula 3 on his way to Formula 1.
Haas F1 Team will field Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott for the opening 90-minute practice session on Friday, in place of Grosjean. Ilott currently holds second in this year’s FIA Formula 2 Championship with three victories and four pole positions to his name. The 21-year-old British driver has prior Formula 1 experience after testing Alfa Romeo’s C38 at Barcelona in 2019 and Ferrari’s SF71-H at Fiorano last week. Grosjean will return to track action from FP2 onwards.
The Eifel Grand Prix will take place across October 9 to 11, with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday, final practice and a three-part qualifying hour on Saturday, the results of which set the grid for Sunday’s 60-lap grand prix. Lights out is due for 14:10 local time (08:10 EST/13:10 BST).
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
Kevin Magnussen has produced some amazing start performances this season and at the Russian Grand Prix both cars were into the top 10 by the end of the opening lap – having started from 16th and 18th respectively. Does team strategy now take into account the possibility of such starts on a Sunday afternoon?
“I wouldn’t say you can put it in your strategy. I think Kevin has shown that he’s one of the best starters, if not the best one on the grid. It’s been pretty amazing what he’s done this year with his starts. You always hope for it but starts are such an unknown that you cannot really strategically use them. We always hope for the best, but it doesn’t go into our strategy planning.”
Recent Formula 1 races have brought much talk about track limits and track design. Do you feel there should be more consultation with drivers and teams on such topics and do you think it’s in danger of overshadowing the racing?
“I think we’re particularly talking about turn two in Russia. We had a problem last year which we brought up to the FIA. I wouldn’t say everything is wrong with the corner, it’s just it should be reworked, or at least some more thought goes into how to deal with it. So, it was no surprise that it happened again this year. As long as nothing changes, the same thing will keep on happening. Hopefully that doesn’t mean more accidents happen, but the corner is just not right. I hope after a second year with controversy there they’ll change it for the future. There is nothing else like turn two in Russia anywhere else on the Formula 1 calendar.”
Ferrari Driver Academy member Callum Ilott will make his FP1 debut for the team at the Nürburgring. With track time on a race weekend at a premium, what kind of session program do you put together so both team and driver benefit?
“The program will be the same as it would be for one of our regular drivers. Maybe we tell him (Callum) to be a little bit more careful when he goes out there as at the moment rain is predicted. Otherwise, we just always try and work through our FP1 program and do the best we can knowing that for a driver being in his first weekend session in a Formula 1 car – there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of unknowns. We don’t look too much at the time, we’re looking at his consistency and the feedback he can bring to the team. That’s where we judge a driver, not on outright pace, because 90 minutes is not a long time to be sitting in a car like a Formula 1 car. We’ll just try to manage that we get feedback and that he gets a good experience with us.”
What are your expectations from the Eifel Grand Prix? Are we set to potentially see another Mugello-style race given it’s been seven years since the circuit hosted a Formula 1 race?
“Hopefully we can get a Mugello-style race. That was an interesting one for all the teams, all the spectators, basically it was great for everyone involved in it. The unknowns just kept coming towards us. Hopefully the same thing happens this weekend at the Nürburgring. As I said before, rain is the prediction for Germany, that will make things even more interesting. The best outcome will be if we have a good race, with lots of variables, and from our perspective, to come home with some points – something we haven’t achieved a lot of this year.”