Team

Feature: From a Coffee Break to the RP20

October 13, 2020
2020
Feature
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The inside story of Nico's latest return to Formula 1

Nico was drinking coffee at 11am and behind the wheel of the RP20 four hours later for Qualifying for the Eifel Grand Prix in an unexpected Saturday showing.

Not only that, but by the end of Sunday – he was scoring points for the second time this season! No wonder Nico summed the weekend as “expect the unexpected!”

Nico began Saturday in Cologne, 80kms away from the Nürburgring, enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend ahead of a planned trip to the Eifel Grand Prix in a punditry role on Sunday.

But when Otmar called at 11am, Nico hurried to the circuit to undergo required COVID-19 testing. Once approved to enter the paddock, the German had just under an hour of time working with the team before Qualifying.

"Obviously we live in some crazy times at the moment, and I didn't expect it,” said Nico. “I was sitting with a friend this morning when I got the call to get going and to make my way here.

“I was going to come anyway, but then obviously it was all a bit more hectic and it's another one for the history books!"

With FP1 and FP2 washed out on Friday and only an hour’s running in FP3 for Checo, there was limited data for the team to share with Nico.

Nico’s Qualifying programme focused on giving him extensive track time, as well as push laps to attempt to make it into Q2, meaning he lapped 10 times, more than any other driver on track.

“I just had to get in the car and do what I do best,” said Nico. “Read the car, feel the grip, and just try to find the limit as fast as I could.”

His best effort of 1.28.021 was just under half a second off a Q2 place berth, an impressive effort considering his lack of familiarity with the latest spec RP20 and the Nürburgring itself.

Overnight, Nico and the team studied the data to ensure he was in the best possible position for the Grand Prix.

After qualifying in P3 for the Anniversary Grand Prix, Nico had to prepare for the altogether different experience of starting at the rear of the field in Germany.

Even so, Nico still made up three places on the opening laps, moving past Kimi Räikkönen, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell.

There was a nervy moment on Lap 17 of 60 when Nico avoided the loose front wing of Daniil Kvyat after the AlphaTauri driver’s clash with Alex Albon – and the subsequent attrition helped Nico climb the order.

By extending his first stint to 29 laps on a set of new Softs, Nico rose all the way up to P8 before his one and only pitstop.

“I started to get into a good rhythm halfway through the first stint, which was crucial because we were able to extend it and it helped me get up to speed,” said Nico.

He returned to the track in P14 on a set of new Mediums and quickly worked his way up to P12 and onto the rear of a train of cars fighting for the Top 10.

By lap 40, Nico was into the Top 10 after clearing Räikkönen – and he soon dispatched Sebastian Vettel with the help of DRS into Turn 1.

Lando Norris’s retirement lifted Nico into P9 and the subsequent Safety Car restart allowed Nico to launch himself into a final position of P8 by overtaking Romain Grosjean.

“What a race and a story that was,” said Nico. “I really didn’t think we could go from last to eighth – I’m not sure many thought it would be possible before the race!

“I’m feeling it now: it’s a very bumpy track and I’m a bit sore because it was mentally and physically demanding out there!”

The inside story of Nico's latest return to Formula 1

Nico was drinking coffee at 11am and behind the wheel of the RP20 four hours later for Qualifying for the Eifel Grand Prix in an unexpected Saturday showing.

Not only that, but by the end of Sunday – he was scoring points for the second time this season! No wonder Nico summed the weekend as “expect the unexpected!”

Nico began Saturday in Cologne, 80kms away from the Nürburgring, enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend ahead of a planned trip to the Eifel Grand Prix in a punditry role on Sunday.

But when Otmar called at 11am, Nico hurried to the circuit to undergo required COVID-19 testing. Once approved to enter the paddock, the German had just under an hour of time working with the team before Qualifying.

"Obviously we live in some crazy times at the moment, and I didn't expect it,” said Nico. “I was sitting with a friend this morning when I got the call to get going and to make my way here.

“I was going to come anyway, but then obviously it was all a bit more hectic and it's another one for the history books!"

With FP1 and FP2 washed out on Friday and only an hour’s running in FP3 for Checo, there was limited data for the team to share with Nico.

Nico’s Qualifying programme focused on giving him extensive track time, as well as push laps to attempt to make it into Q2, meaning he lapped 10 times, more than any other driver on track.

“I just had to get in the car and do what I do best,” said Nico. “Read the car, feel the grip, and just try to find the limit as fast as I could.”

His best effort of 1.28.021 was just under half a second off a Q2 place berth, an impressive effort considering his lack of familiarity with the latest spec RP20 and the Nürburgring itself.

Overnight, Nico and the team studied the data to ensure he was in the best possible position for the Grand Prix.

After qualifying in P3 for the Anniversary Grand Prix, Nico had to prepare for the altogether different experience of starting at the rear of the field in Germany.

Even so, Nico still made up three places on the opening laps, moving past Kimi Räikkönen, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell.

There was a nervy moment on Lap 17 of 60 when Nico avoided the loose front wing of Daniil Kvyat after the AlphaTauri driver’s clash with Alex Albon – and the subsequent attrition helped Nico climb the order.

By extending his first stint to 29 laps on a set of new Softs, Nico rose all the way up to P8 before his one and only pitstop.

“I started to get into a good rhythm halfway through the first stint, which was crucial because we were able to extend it and it helped me get up to speed,” said Nico.

He returned to the track in P14 on a set of new Mediums and quickly worked his way up to P12 and onto the rear of a train of cars fighting for the Top 10.

By lap 40, Nico was into the Top 10 after clearing Räikkönen – and he soon dispatched Sebastian Vettel with the help of DRS into Turn 1.

Lando Norris’s retirement lifted Nico into P9 and the subsequent Safety Car restart allowed Nico to launch himself into a final position of P8 by overtaking Romain Grosjean.

“What a race and a story that was,” said Nico. “I really didn’t think we could go from last to eighth – I’m not sure many thought it would be possible before the race!

“I’m feeling it now: it’s a very bumpy track and I’m a bit sore because it was mentally and physically demanding out there!”

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