Lewis Hamilton made Formula One history last weekend with a 92nd race win and the Mercedes driver can match another record at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher won 72 Grands Prix during his time with Ferrari, and six-time world champion Hamilton can reach the tally for the Silver Arrows if he wins at Imola.

The track is back on the calendar for the first time since 2006, though no fans will be able to attend due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Italy.

After his dominant victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Hamilton has won nine times this season as he closes in matching Schumacher's haul of seven F1 world titles.

We preview a race which starts at 13:10 local time (12:10 GMT).

 

LAST TIME OUT

It was a landmark win for Hamilton in Portugal, as the Briton surpassed Schumacher's record of 91 F1 victories.

Hamilton started on pole, but slipped to third place on the second lap before coasting to yet another victory ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The 35-year-old leads the championship by 77 points and it is surely only a matter of time before he wraps up a fourth straight world title.

Alex Albon had been challenged by Christian Horner to make an impact in the Algarve, but the Red Bull driver got off to a slow start and never looked likely to challenge for points, ultimately finishing in 12th.

Carlos Sainz faded after a strong start, while Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel finished fourth and 10th respectively. 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT IMOLA

All eyes will of course be on Hamilton, but Bottas will be looking to gain some of the limelight.

Bottas is 17 points ahead of Verstappen, and the pair might have to battle it out for second place with Hamilton riding on the crest of a wave.

If Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen finish on the podium at Imola, it will be the second-most repeated top-three in F1 history, behind a top three of Hamilton, Vettel and Nico Rosberg.

Albon will need to start mounting a response to his poor form if he is to cling onto his Red Bull seat next season, while Ferrari's Leclerc has not finished on the podium since the British Grand Prix at the start of August.

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Senna's legacy lives on – Ayrton Senna died in an accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The legendary Brazilian took eight pole positions at Imola, more than any other driver at the Italian circuit.

Seven up for Mercedes – Mercedes are 12 points away from claiming the world F1 team championship for a seventh consecutive year, the best run for a team in F1.

History maker – This will be the 32nd different grand prix for Hamilton, who has won more races (27) and taken more pole positions (27) at different Grands Prix than any other driver.

Bottas' conversion issues continue – Bottas has claimed 14 poles in total, yet he has won just won five races after starting at the top of the grid.

Vettel's qualification woe – Vettel has failed to reach Q3 in the last eight qualifying sessions – the worst run in his F1 career. The four-time world champion has gone 15 consecutive races without reaching the podium.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 

Drivers 
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 256 
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 179 
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 162 
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) – 80 
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 75 

Constructors 
1. Mercedes – 435 
2. Red Bull – 226 
3. Racing Point – 126 
4. McLaren – 124 
5. Renault – 120 

Lewis Hamilton's 92nd race win at Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix saw him surpass Michael Schumacher for the most in Formula One history. 

The Mercedes man, who equalled Schumacher's haul of 91 a fortnight earlier in Germany, started from pole but had to recover from a tough start to beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas. 

Hamilton is now top of the pile, yet both he and Schumacher stand well clear of the rest in F1. 

Sebastian Vettel is third in the standings with 53 wins, just ahead of Alain Prost's 51. Ayrton Senna had 41. 

With the help of Opta, we take a look at more numbers behind Hamilton's success and his pursuit of Schumacher...


HOW HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENTS BREAK DOWN

The 35-year-old's record haul of victories have come from 262 grands prix at a win rate of 35.1 per cent. 

Of his 92 successes, 80 have come from the front row of the grid (87 per cent) and 57 from pole (62 per cent). 

With seven wins after qualifying in third, two from fourth and one each from fifth and sixth, only one Hamilton victory has come with the Briton starting from outside the top six – the 2018 German Grand Prix, he claimed a remarkable triumph after beginning the race way down in 14th. 

Meanwhile, this latest win marked a 28th different circuit at which he has come out on top - another record - and arrives amid a dominant hybrid era. 

Hamilton had at least nine wins in every season between 2014 and 2019 and, with eight so far, is on course to reach that mark again this year. No other driver has achieved this feat in six different seasons. 


WHAT IS LEFT FOR LEWIS TO LOOK FOR?

The most notable Schumacher record still on the table is his tally of seven drivers' championships, an achievement Hamilton will surely match this year. 

But the German great also still leads the way in terms of various other statistics. 

Hamilton spoke this week of a desire to remain at Mercedes next year and that should allow him to bring other benchmarks into view. 

A victory in a 15th consecutive season in 2021 would tie Schumacher's historic run from 1992 to 2006. Hamilton's first (at Canada in 2007) came 255 races ago, with a longer stretch between successes enjoyed only by Kimi Raikkonen (294 between his first win in Malaysia in 2003 and his most recent in the United States in 2018). 

Regardless of any extension to his stay with the Silver Arrows, Hamilton will likely add to his tally of 71 triumphs for the German outfit – only Schumacher has more successes with any one team (72 with Ferrari). 

Another trip to Hungary could bring Hamilton's ninth victory there. No driver has ever reached nine wins at a single grand prix, with Schumacher having also registered eight in France.  

Lewis Hamilton claimed pole in qualifying as he attempts to set a new Formula One record at the Portuguese Grand Prix. 

Hamilton moved level with Michael Schumacher on 91 victories in F1 at the Eifel Grand Prix last time out to consolidate his lead at the top of the championship. 

The reigning champion will take to the track in Portimao on Sunday at the front of the grid after recording a time of one minute, 16.652 seconds on his final run in qualifying. 

He pipped Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was quickest in all three practice sessions, to pole, with Max Verstappen of Red Bull in third. 

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

Hamilton and Bottas completed their first runs on soft tyres, with the latter taking provisional pole, yet the duo switched to the medium compound after coming back out from the garage. 

Bottas improved on his time, but Hamilton – who went back on the track earlier – capitalised on an extra flying lap to finish ahead of his team-mate and secure a ninth pole of the season. 

 Sebastian Vettel's time with Ferrari is approaching its end and the former world champion failed to reach Q3 for an eighth successive grand prix. He will start from 15th, while team-mate Charles Leclerc qualified fourth.  

THE STARTING GRID 

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Sergio Perez (Racing Point), 6. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren), 8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), 10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
11. Esteban Ocon (Renault), 12. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
13. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri), 14. George Russell (Williams) 
15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), 16. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), 18. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
19. Kevin Magnussen (Haas), 20. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

All eyes will be on Hamilton on Sunday, but credit must go to his team-mate Bottas, who drove brilliantly through practice and qualifying. 

If Bottas keeps it up, Hamilton will have to be at his best to hold onto first place and claim a record-breaking victory, though Mercedes may well instruct Bottas to support and protect their lead driver as he aims to make history. 

The Finn was left to rue not leaving the garage as early as Hamilton Saturday, meaning he only had one flying lap compared to two for the six-time world champion. 

Verstappen should not be discounted, and fellow Red Bull driver Albon has a point to prove over the remainder of the season if he is to secure his future with the team. 

Vettel looks down and out as a Ferrari driver and acknowledged after qualifying that Leclerc was in "another league", while Daniel Ricciardo endured a frustrating session with Renault unable to apply sufficient repairs in time for him to get back on the track after a spin in Q2. 

WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID

Lewis Hamilton (pole): "I didn't know whether or not I was going to get a lap that would be able to compete with his [Bottas'] – I was always off a tenth or half a tenth or whatever it is – but the decision I took at the end was what created the opportunity. The idea of having an extra lap, an extra chance, an extra stab at getting pole looked good to me so I chose to go that extra lap and I think Valtteri chose the one, but he still did a great job and it was very, very tough and I had to dig very deep." 

Valtteri Bottas (2nd): "Obviously the benefit going of going for one, you can fuel for just one timed; if you do two laps you have to fuel for two laps, which is more weight, so based on what I felt in Q2 – and it was a good feeling with the tyres on a single lap – I went for it again in Q3. Ultimately it was the wrong decision but I think maybe the track temp – I don't know – dropped slightly or I just couldn't get the tyres to feel quite the same as they felt in Q2. At the end of that lap I was just hoping I could have one more lap but obviously didn't have the fuel. Wrong call from my side and it is annoying for sure, but Lewis did a good job at the end."

Max Verstappen (3rd): "For me [it was] not personally enjoyable to drive at the moment, with the tyres and grip on the track, because, I mean, I was here in January and I thought it was going to be amazing to drive a Formula One car. I mean, the scenery, everything is perfect but the grip we have… For me personally, you can't really push, you're just driving on ice. It's a bit of a shame."

Daniel Ricciardo (10th): "The team got very close to getting me back out on track for Q3. One more minute and we were on track. It's a shame, I could see them working hard in the mirrors, trying to make it work for me, so it was a bit of a let-down for them, but we'll make it happen tomorrow and move up." 

Sebastian Vettel (15th): "At the moment [Charles] is beyond me. It's not just beating, it's like another league. I try everything I can. I think the laps I make, which I am content with, are still too slow. At the moment there is nothing more I can do than just getting everything out of myself and the car."

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 230
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 161
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 147
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) – 78
5. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) 68

Constructors
1. Mercedes – 391
2. Red Bull – 211
3. Racing Point – 120
4. McLaren – 116
5. Renault – 114

Lewis Hamilton will begin from pole position when he attempts to set a new Formula One wins record at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday.  

Championship leader Hamilton moved level with Michael Schumacher on 91 victories in F1 at the Eifel Grand Prix last time out - and he boosted his chances of making history in Portimao by securing his place at the front of the grid.  

The Mercedes driver capitalised on having an extra flying lap in Q3 as he pipped team-mate Valtteri Bottas by recording a time of one minute, 16.652 seconds on his final run.  

Bottas was quickest in all three practice sessions but will start from second after going one tenth slower, while Max Verstappen guided his Red Bull to third.

While Verstappen will start the race on the soft tyres, the Mercedes duo will be on the medium compound at lights out.  

Bottas was on provisional pole after the Mercedes duo completed their first runs on softs, but when they came back out from the garage they switched to mediums as the wind picked up.  

The Finn improved on his time with his only flying lap to displace Hamilton but the Briton, who went back out on track earlier, was not to be denied and eked out his ninth pole of the season and 97th of his career.  

Sebastian Vettel failed to reach Q3 for the eighth straight race and will begin proceedings from 15th, behind the Williams of George Russell.  

However, Charles Leclerc steered his Ferrari into the final session on medium tyres and will start from fourth.  

Daniel Ricciardo was unable to set a time in Q3 with Renault unable to apply sufficient repairs in time for him to get back on track after a late spin in Q2.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION   

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:16.652 
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.102s 
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.252s 
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.438s 
5. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) +0.571s 
6. Alex Albon (Red Bull) +0.785s 
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +0.868s 
8. Lando Norris (McLaren) +0.873s 
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +1.151s 
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) no time 

Toto Wolff says Mercedes do not have an "opportunity" to move for Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

The prospect of a dream partnership between six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Formula One's top young star Verstappen has often been speculated over.

But Verstappen is under contract with Red Bull, who will lose its engine provider, Honda, after next season, until 2023.

Wolff is happy to have Hamilton partnered by Valtteri Bottas, the duo providing a level of team harmony much different to when the Briton was sharing a garage with Nico Rosberg.

"The situation around Max doesn't provide any opportunity now," Mercedes team principal Wolff said to the Beyond the Grid podcast.

"He's bound to Red Bull, I respect his loyalty a lot and I think it's important for Red Bull to have Max.

"There's a lot of narrative around that and Red Bull picked him up from very early on when he joined Toro Rosso. The situation is what it is and it's good for him and good for us.

"Valtteri does a great job for us, and Lewis does a great job for us and they are still at the peak of their performance levels.

"Then we have juniors that are coming up that have been with us for many years and could be the future for us. So this is what we look at."

In-form Verstappen has reached the podium in the eight grands prix he has finished in 2020, winning once and taking second place five times.

Ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend, Hamilton leads Bottas by 69 points, with Verstappen just 14 adrift of the Finn in third.

Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams in 2017 after the surprise retirement of Rosberg, who had just been crowned world champion after a heated 2016 title battle with his former friend Hamilton.

"Some things between Nico and Lewis we will never understand, because it goes back many years from go-karting into junior formulas," added Wolff.

"It grew from camaraderie to rivalry to animosity. They just fell out, pretty early on actually when I joined in 2013. Then it gets worse and worse and worse.

"There was a lot of negativity and that would drag the whole room down. It was very difficult. It is so refreshing that since Valtteri joined, we haven't had any of that."

Victory for Hamilton in Portugal – the first race held in the country for 24 years - would be the 92nd of his F1 career, moving him in to sole possession of the race wins record above Michael Schumacher.

The championship leader has won at three out of the last four circuits he has raced at for the first time - in Mugello this year, Sochi (2014) and Austin (2012).

Bottas, meanwhile, was unable to win at the Eifel Grand Prix last time out despite starting from pole position – the ninth time that has happened from his 14 poles.

In-form Lewis Hamilton can take the Formula One record for most race wins outright as the series returns to Portugal this weekend.

Defending champion Hamilton again tops the drivers' championship this year after winning seven of the 11 grands prix so far in 2020.

Those successes have seen the Briton seize a slice of history, tying Michael Schumacher's mark of 91 F1 victories last time out.

The Portuguese Grand Prix, which begins at 13:10 local time (GMT) on Sunday, can now provide the setting for Hamilton's big moment as he seeks to surpass the former Ferrari great.

LAST TIME OUT

Hamilton certainly enjoyed himself at the Eifel Grand Prix in Germany 10 days ago.

Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had started on pole, but an early error allowed Hamilton to take advantage and he held off Max Verstappen to take the win and further increase his season lead. Bottas retired on lap 19.

Mick Schumacher, son of Michael, had been due to get his F1 bow in practice before adverse weather conditions intervened.

But Hamilton's feat - a record-equalling 91st success - meant Mick still had a part to play, handing over one of his father's helmets to the victor.

"This is such an honour," Hamilton told the 21-year-old. "I really appreciate it."
 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN PORTUGAL

Hamilton is determined to ensure his looming achievement does not provide a distraction, insisting he is wary of the threat of Red Bull and Renault, whose Daniel Ricciardo finished third in Germany.

"I think Red Bull as well as Renault have really picked up their game and closed the gap, so we've got to continue to keep our heads down," he said.

But while all eyes will of course be on Hamilton, there are others who need a performance just as badly.

Ferrari have now gone seven races without a podium since Charles Leclerc finished third at the British GP. Only once since the turn of the century - in the final eight grands prix of the 2014 campaign - have the Scuderia endured a longer such run.
 

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

More Hamilton history? - The season leader can become just the second driver - after Schumacher (5111) - to lead for 5000 laps if he runs in first place from start to finish on Sunday.

Ending the wait - The Portuguese GP is back 24 years after its previous race, when Jacques Villeneuve (Williams) won in 1996. Portimao is the fourth track to be used for this event, following Estoril, Porto and Monsant.

Another ticked off - This will be the 32nd different circuit Hamilton has raced at. He has tasted victory at 27 of the other 31 and achieved pole at 28 - both records.

Winning Williams? - Williams have won five of the past six races in Portugal, also taking pole position at five of these grands prix. No team can top their overall tallies of six wins and five poles in Portugal.

Or maybe not... - Williams pair George Russell and Nicholas Latifi are the only drivers on the grid without a single point in 2020.
 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 230
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 161
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 147
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) - 78
5. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) - 68

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 391
2. Red Bull – 211
3. Racing Point - 120
4. McLaren – 116
5. Renault – 114

Sebastian Vettel should have decided to retire from Formula One rather than continue racing, according to three-time champion Jackie Stewart.

After Ferrari and Vettel opted against extending their agreement beyond this season, the 33-year-old agreed to take a seat with the Aston Martin works team from 2021.

The four-time champion has struggled to mount a serious title challenge since joining the Scuderia in 2015, winning just 14 races in an era dominated by Mercedes.

Vettel admitted prior to signing with Aston Martin that retirement was an option he was considering, and Stewart thinks leaving F1 would have been a good choice.

Stewart told Stats Perform News: "Sebastian Vettel's a very nice gentleman. He's had a wonderful career and I personally would love to see him retiring and do what I do.

"Go to some of the best events, get involved with some of the best multinational corporations. He’d be a great ambassador for the sport apart from anything else. But if he wants to continue racing it’ll be because he loves the sport."

Vettel has scored just 17 points in the truncated 2020 season, with Charles Leclerc claiming Ferrari's only two podiums of the campaign.

The Scuderia are sixth in the constructors' standings and Stewart hopes their woes this year are not a sign of a long-term decline.

"Ferrari is one of the great brands that has ever lived. For whatever reason, this year has been a disaster for them. I hope and pray that next year we can see Ferrari as they really should be," he added.

Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 F1 wins at the Nurburgring last time out and could surpass him at the Portuguese Grand Prix next weekend.

Hamilton appears on course to match Schumacher's seven drivers' titles, but Stewart feels it is impossible to determine whether the Briton is the greatest driver of all time.

"It's a fantastic achievement to win as many races as he has. He's driving definitely the best car on the track," said Stewart.

"Nevertheless, he's driven extremely well but it's very difficult to say he was the greatest driver of all time. Was [Juan Manuel] Fangio better than Michael Schumacher? You don't know that. Was Arnold Palmer better than Gary Player? Or much more importantly was he better than all of the current golfers?

"But Lewis has driven extremely well and deserves the success that he has."

In his 150th Formula One grand prix, Valtteri Bottas has the chance to win back-to-back races for the first time and simultaneously deny Lewis Hamilton a history-making victory.

The Eifel Grand Prix – which sees the Nurburgring return to the calendar for the first time since 2013 – will have Bottas starting at the front after he ended Hamilton's run of five straight pole positions.

Hamilton will be attempting to equal Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 race wins, which he was unable to do in Russia last time out when Bottas emerged triumphant.

Max Verstappen, who was second in Sochi, could also be in the hunt on Sunday after running the two Mercedes cars close in qualifying, while Charles Leclerc is bidding to inject some life into Ferrari from the second row.

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

A three-way battle between Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen looked to be going the way of the Red Bull driver as he led after the first runs of Q3, although there was under one tenth of a second between the trio.
Bottas ultimately produced a stunning lap to finish an impressive 0.256 seconds clear of Hamilton, who just edged out a game Verstappen by 0.037s.
Leclerc gave Ferrari a lift with a superb fourth place ahead of Alex Albon, equalling the Scuderia's best 2020 grid slot, having earlier eliminated team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who will start 11th, from Q2.
Multiple drivers discussed how difficult the cold conditions were, particularly as they did not have much running at the circuit after Friday's practice running was called off due to poor weather.

 


THE STARTING GRID 

1. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), 2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull), 6. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
7. Esteban Ocon (Renault), 8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Sergio Perez (Racing Point), 10. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
11. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), 12. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
13. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri), 14. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 
15. Kevin Magnussen (Haas), 16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
17. George Russell (Williams), 18. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
19. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), 20. Nico Hulkenberg (Racing Point)


EIFEL GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

Bottas has the chance to win two consecutive F1 races, something he has never done before. As well as denying Hamilton the chance to equal Schumacher, such a result would further reduce the deficit in the drivers' championship, which stands at 44 points.

Verstappen said after an impressive qualifying that Red Bull were continuing to close the gap on Mercedes and will hope unusual conditions – a race in Germany in October – or the front two battling among themselves could play into his favour.

Leclerc continues to get the most out of his sluggish Ferrari as the Italian team look to end a six-race run without a podium, their worst form since 2014 when they went eight without having a driver in the top three.

The pressure is on Albon once more – he starts fifth and has been out-qualified by Verstappen at every race in 2020.

The back row is more interesting than normal as Raikkonen (19th) is set to start for the 324th time in F1, beating the previous benchmark set by Rubens Barrichello, while Hulkenberg (20th) is standing in for Racing Point once more as a last-minute replacement for the unwell Lance Stroll. He previously replaced Perez for two events this year after the Mexican tested positive for coronavirus.


WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID

Valtteri Bottas (pole): "It is going to be a new day on Sunday, so I just need to focus on the small details that are going to matter and the first of those is going to be the race start. I can't enjoy the pole too much because Sunday is the day that really matters. Obviously being on pole is a good achievement but I can't say it is a turning point yet."

Lewis Hamilton (2nd): "I'm not really sure [where my pace dropped off], the grip didn't feel the same in Q3. I need to go back and have a look. I'm just trying to understand what happened. It is a long race. We will see with the weather – it is a lot cooler here, not the easiest place to overtake either, but there could be lots of opportunities, so I will be pushing hard."

Max Verstappen (3rd): "We brought a few upgrades so the car is working a bit better. Of course with only having run [on Saturday] there are still a lot of things to go through and analyse and optimise as well because of the understeer I had in the car [in Q3]. But it is definitely a good step forward so we are on the right way, I just hope we can keep heading in that direction and keep improving."

Charles Leclerc (4th): "I'm very happy. Quite surprised, to be honest, with the performance we've had this morning and this afternoon, especially in those conditions, as we were expecting to struggle in cold conditions and instead we are performing quite well. I really hope to bring a good result home – it is going to be a tricky race we have not done any high-fuel running yet, but I will try to make the best out of it."

Daniel Ricciardo (6th): "Solid one from the team again, sixth and seventh. This is a maximum downforce circuit, more like Barcelona, where we have struggled more, so it confirms the progress the team has made. Sixth is alright. We can have a good one from there and obviously Charles and Alex in front, they could be in our race."

Nico Hulkenberg (20th): "It was even wilder and crazier than last time. I was in Cologne which is an hour from here. I was due to come this afternoon anyway to do some TV stuff. I was sat with a friend having a coffee at 11am when I see that Otmar [Szafnauer, Racing Point team principal] rings me and says, 'Hulkenberg, hurry we need you here!'"

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 205
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 161
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 128
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 65
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) - 64

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 366
2. Red Bull – 192
3. McLaren – 106
4. Racing Point – 104 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 99

Valtteri Bottas continued his momentum from winning in Russia last time out by claiming an impressive pole position for the Eifel Grand Prix.

A supreme lap of one minute and 25.269 seconds on Saturday saw Bottas finish 0.256 seconds clear of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who had claimed the previous five Formula One pole positions.

It was a thrilling qualifying battle between the two Mercedes cars and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who led after the first runs of Q3 but ultimately had to settle for a close third.

Charles Leclerc was outstanding to take fourth for Ferrari ahead of Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo.

In the first grand prix to be held at the Nurburgring since 2013, Sebastian Vettel will start 11th on home soil after being eliminated at the end of Q2 by a charging Leclerc.

Kimi Raikkonen will this weekend set a new Formula One record that his legion of fans are sure to find as cool as The Iceman's legendary laid-back persona.

The Alfa Romeo driver is set to start for the 324th time in the series, beating the previous benchmark set by Rubens Barrichello that Raikkonen equalled last time out.

Raikkonen won the F1 world title for Ferrari in 2007 before departing a couple of years later to try his hand at rallying and NASCAR.

But the flying Finn returned in 2012 for another crack in F1 and here we take a trip down Raikkonen's memory lane ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. 


HOW THE GRID LOOKED ON DEBUT

Raikkonen made his F1 bow almost 20 years ago at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, qualifying 13th for Sauber.

The legendary Michael Schumacher led a Ferrari one-two on the grid from, fittingly, Barrichello on that occasion, with two-time world champions Mika Hakkinen beginning third for McLaren.

To really put into perspective the longevity of Raikkonen's excellent career, both David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine were still racing as was Jos Verstappen, the father of Red Bull's current F1 superstar Max Verstappen.

Schumacher went on to dominate the race, with Coulthard working through the pack to take second ahead of Barrichello, while Hakkinen retired due to suspension failure. 

Raikkonen impressively secured a sixth-place finish, with his performance earning plenty of praise from F1 pundits.


THE OPTA FACTS

- This weekend will see Raikkonen take part in his 324th grand prix, surpassing the record he levelled with Barrichello last time out.

- The Finn has raced in 30 different Grands Prix in those 323 previous races. The Eifel GP will be his 31st. Spain, United Kingdom, Hungary and Italy are the Grands Prix where he has raced the most (18 each).

- With 21 F1 wins in his career, Raikkonen has won the most at the Belgium Grand Prix. He has taken the chequered flag at the race four times.

- Raikkonen of course started his F1 career in Australia in 2001 for Sauber. His 100th race was in Turkey for McLaren in 2006 (DNF). The 200th race came in Canada six years ago for Ferrari (10th), and the 300th for his current team Alfa Romeo in Monaco 2019 (7th).

- His only F1 World Championship came in 2007, in no other season did he reach more podiums than that one (12, alongside 2005 and 2018).

- However, the year where Raikkonen won the most races in a single season was in 2005 (seven wins).

- With 103 podiums to his name, Raikkonen is fifth on F1's all-time list. Lewis Hamilton leads the way with an astonishing 159.


WHERE WAS LEWIS?

Back on Raikkonen's first F1 start, Schumacher was the dominant driver on the grid and he went on to win the fourth of his seven world titles in 2001.

Nowadays, of course, it is Hamilton breaking most of the German's long-standing records but his bow in F1 was still six years away when Raikkonen first entered the grid.

In 2001, Hamilton was racing in the British Formula Renault Winter Series and also went head-to-head against Schumacher in kart racing at the German's home track at Kerpen.

A lot has changed since then…

Sebastian Vettel has no regrets about his time at Ferrari but acknowledges that behind the scenes he picked some fights he should not have.

Four-time Formula One world champion Vettel will leave Ferrari at the end of the season and race for Aston Martin – who currently compete as Racing Point – in 2021.

The German failed to top the drivers' standings in any of his previous five campaigns with the Scuderia and looks set to depart on the back of one of his worst years in F1.

Vettel thinks the absence of a world title means his time at Ferrari has been a failure and admits he could have gone about things differently, though he would not change any of it.

"I don't think I will go on having any regrets looking back," Vettel said on the Beyond the Grid podcast.

"It is true that I have failed because I set myself the mission of the target to win the world championship with Ferrari. I have failed; I didn't manage to do that.

"There are things that I should have done better, things that maybe I should have seen earlier, fights that maybe I shouldn't have picked.

"But then again, I think everything that happened brought me to where I am now, you see what I mean?

"I'm generally not talking about stuff that happens on the track now, losing the car in Hockenheim in sort of half-wet, half-dry conditions [in 2018]. Many people point that one out as a low point, but not talking about things like that.

"I think that looking back they [the fights] weren't worth fighting. You see what I mean? But again part of it was probably in my nature and it was natural to do so, and I think I had a point as well in some of these little fights and battles, whatever, but yeah I think ultimately that's how you mature and how you learn.

"If I'm fair and harsh, then I have failed. Were there reasons? Probably yes but I don't accept them as excuses. Whatever happened also I guess put me on the next step forward and the next level to focus on the next thing.

"Again, I think the important bit is I don't have the sense of regret. I'm happy to move on."

Vettel has scored points in just five of the 10 races in 2020 and is 13th in the standings ahead of this weekend's Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Mick Schumacher is one of three Ferrari prospects who will get the opportunity to drive in practice sessions during the rest of the 2020 season, the Formula One team have announced.

Schumacher - son of the legendary Michael, who won seven world titles in his career - sits on top of this season's Formula 2 standings with one round to go.

The 21-year-old is to take part in a Friday practice in F1 for the first time, as he will drive the Alfa Romeo on October 9 ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, the next race on the calendar.

Callum Ilott gets the chance impress in the same session too, with the British driver - who is Schumacher's nearest rival in F2 this year - taking a seat in the Ferrari-powered Haas at the Nurburgring.

Both have driven Formula One cars before, however, having taken part in testing in 2019.

Robert Shwartzman, meanwhile, will be on duty on the Friday before the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which takes place on Sunday, December 13. 

"We wanted to organise this test session so that our three best youngsters would be as well prepared as possible to tackle an event that will always be a special moment for them," Laurent Mekies, Ferrari's sporting director, said.

"It will be a chance to get to grips with a Formula 1 car, which is much more complicated than the car they are currently used to driving.

"I would like to thank Haas and Alfa Romeo Racing for offering Callum, Mick and Robert this opportunity. We believe strongly in our academy, which has already proved its value, with Charles Leclerc, a driver on which the Scuderia can build its long-term future.

"Callum, Mick and Robert have already proved their worth in the current Formula 2 season and this test is a further step in their education."

Ferrari already have their line-up confirmed for the 2021 F1 season, when Carlos Sainz will arrive to team up with Leclerc.

However, both Alfa Romeo and Haas - who use Ferrari engines - could have openings for young drivers to get onto the grid.

Lewis Hamilton stands on the precipice of matching another of Michael Schumacher's great records in Formula One after snatching pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.

Should the British driver convert his performance in qualifying to another victory, it would mean Hamilton matching Schumacher's 91 race wins.

That is the narrative that could play out in Sochi after Hamilton dramatically took pole, having been in danger at one stage of missing out on the third stage of qualifying.

The prospect of a locked-out Mercedes front row was disrupted by Max Verstappen, with the Red Bull driver outpacing Valtteri Bottas.

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING

There was almost the shock to end all shocks: Hamilton being absent from Q3.

Sebastian Vettel's spin in the Ferrari triggered a red flag in the closing minutes of Q2 and that gave Hamilton a problem.

Looking to cross the start-finish line in time to allow himself another lap, Hamilton managed that and found a big lap to avert the prospect of him starting the race in midfield.

He avoided a stewards' punishment over a minor infraction when leaving the track briefly, and later described the session as "horrible".

An eighth pole of the season was a reminder of Hamilton's supremacy in this sport, and nobody would be surprised were he to win this race for a fifth time in seven seasons on Sunday.

The 1-2-3 in qualifying was no great surprise and reflected the drivers' season standings prior to Verstappen failing to finish twice at Mugello. The gap between the fastest laps of Hamilton and Verstappen was substantial - in F1 terms - at 0.563 seconds.

Neither Ferrari made it to Q3, Vettel licking his wounds after his crash and finishing 15th in the session, with Charles Leclerc 11th.

THE STARTING GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 4. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) 6. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
7. Esteban Ocon (Renault) 8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 10. Alex Albon (Red Bull) 
11. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 12. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)
13. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) 14. George Russell (Williams)
15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 16. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
17. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) 18. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams). 20. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)

RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX TALKING POINTS

Hamilton is at that satisfying stage of his career where records keep falling to him, yet to match Schumacher's haul of 91 race wins would have seemed pie-in-the-sky talk to the young man who made his F1 entrance in the 2007 season.

That is the figure he can sensationally draw up alongside, with what would be a seventh race win of this strangest of seasons, Hamilton having already surpassed Schumacher's record haul of podium finishes this year.

A record-equalling seventh world title is also surely Hamilton's for the taking in the coming months, and there was a touch of Schumacher's resilience about him taking this latest pole after being backed up into a position of adversity.

Aside from the likelihood of a close battle in the opening few corners, one potential strategy issue for Hamilton is that he will start on the less durable soft tyres after his narrow Q2 escape, while closest rivals Verstappen and Bottas are on mediums.

As for Ferrari, well god bless the Prancing Horse but this season goes from bad to worse. After the short-lived succour of Vettel and Leclerc both finishing in the points at the team's 1,000th F1 race, last time out in the Tuscan Grand Prix, this was the latest in a long line of qualifying sob stories.

Twelve months ago, Leclerc stormed the qualifying session in Sochi, earning a fourth successive pole. They are wretchedly slow this year, which is a problem Leclerc and Vettel have to tolerate and get on with the job. Sunday's grand prix is again unlikely to bring great joy for the Italian marque.

Meanwhile, if Sergio Perez wanted to make a point on Saturday, he very much succeeded. Set to be cut free at the end of the season by Racing Point, to allow for Vettel's arrival, Perez accused some Racing Point team members of attempting to hide things from him ahead of this weekend.

Clear-the-air talks followed, and Perez qualified on the second row on Saturday, nine places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll.

WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes, pole): "It’s nice to take pole position, but this track is probably the worst place to be on pole, due to the long run to the first braking zone. So, I’m expecting a tough fight down to Turn 2 and a challenging race, especially as I’m starting on the soft tyre, which is a good compound for the race start but is the worst tyre for the opening stint." 

Max Verstappen (Red Bull, 2nd): "P2 was very unexpected and I don’t say this often but I think this was one of my best ever qualifying laps and it felt really good. Of course we want to fight for pole and wins but this year it is not possible all the time, so then to be able to split the two Mercedes cars is very satisfying and I’m happy to be on the front row here. I think the Mercedes does still have more overall pace so they will be hard to beat but I’m happy with [qualifying] and I think we really extracted more than we thought was possible and we can be very happy with that."

Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes, 3rd): "There are some question marks there, which we’ll need to look into in the debrief and figure out why there was such a gap. But P3 is actually a pretty good place to start here and I think I’m on the right tyre as well. I’ve started third here before and look what happened, so I’ll try and do the same. It’s still all to play for."

Sergio Perez (Racing Point, 4th): "I’m very happy with our performance today: I think P4 was the maximum I could achieve because Max and the two Mercedes were very strong out there. We were able to qualify ahead of our nearest rivals, which is the main thing. It was a really tough session because the wind kept changing and we had the disruption of the red flag too. It’s a credit to the team that we were able to manage the sessions so well and extract the maximum from the car."

Charles Leclerc (Ferrari, 11th): "We definitely had the pace to do something good, much better than expected. Unfortunately, we missed our chance, so I’m pretty disappointed, but that’s life.
It is frustrating that we didn’t make it to Q3 because I really believe that we had the potential to go through today."

Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari, 15th): "When I crashed I was trying to improve my time. I hadn’t had a good first sector so I was pushing. It seems that I was going too quickly and so I lost the car. It had already happened in turn 2 and then it happened again in turn 4. I tried to avoid the impact, but I couldn’t catch it. I’m sorry to have made extra work for the team, but at least I think the car can be fixed."

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers 

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 190
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - 135
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 110
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 57
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) - 63

Constructors

1. Mercedes – 325
2. Red Bull – 173
3. McLaren – 106
4. Racing Point – 92 (after 15-point deduction)
5. Renault – 82

Lewis Hamilton boosted his chances of claiming a record-equalling race win at the Russian Grand Prix as he secured pole position in Sochi. 

The Mercedes driver triumphed last time out at the Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello to take his career tally of Formula One victories to 90, just one behind the legendary Michael Schumacher's haul.

Championship leader Hamilton appears right on course to match Schumacher on Sunday now after smashing the track record, albeit only after coming through a dramatic session that so nearly saw him miss out on Q3, followed by a nervy trip to see the race stewards.

A spin for Sebastian Vettel led to a red flag in the closing minutes, forcing Hamilton to contend with traffic as he looked to cross the line upon the restart in time to get one more lap in.

The Briton duly managed it, despite a brief trip off the track, then rose from fourth at the end of Q2 to finish comfortably quickest, producing a fastest lap of 1:31.304. 

However, Hamilton's position was put into doubt when he was one of four drivers to be summoned to see the stewards for failing to return to the track in the correct manner.

Valtteri Bottas appeared set to start alongside his team-mate but Max Verstappen denied Mercedes an eighth successive front-row lockout, the Red Bull driver snatching second place.

Sergio Perez produced an impressive Q3 performance to take fourth place, while Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz will start on the third row of the grid.

Daniel Ricciardo has welcomed the news "unique" rival Sebastian Vettel will stay in Formula One with Aston Martin next season.

Vettel has lost his Ferrari seat for next year after six seasons with the Scuderia, the last of which is proving tough in an underperforming car.

But after initially considering retirement, the four-time world champion is replacing Sergio Perez at Racing Point, who will become Aston Martin in 2021.

Renault DP World F1 Team driver Ricciardo is delighted to see Vettel, a former team-mate of his at Red Bull, continue in the sport.

"I really feel for Perez because he's performed well enough to keep the seat, but also the sport is good with Seb," Ricciardo told Stats Perform News ahead of the Russian Grand Prix.

"Seb is one of these guys that is probably the only driver on the grid who doesn't have social media. He's one of the most successful and wealthy drivers of our generation, yet you probably see him on the street and you wouldn't know it.

"He's unique. He lives and breathes the sport, he loves it, probably more than anyone actually and I'm happy that he stays on.

"I think it's time for a change for him and I think this will be really good for his career, maybe the last phase of his career."

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso will also be on the grid next year after two seasons away.

The Spaniard returns to Renault DP World F1 Team - to be renamed Alpine F1 - where he won his titles, replacing Ricciardo.

The Australian, who is joining McLaren, said: "I always wondered if [Alonso] would come back.

"With all the other racing he's been doing, I think he misses it too much. So for him to come back with Renault, it's cool for the sport.

"He's a big name. There are a lot of the big names maybe getting to the end of their careers. We don't know how long they’re going to hang around, so it's nice to have another one back."

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