Less than 10 degrees, with wind and rain: that’s what the Nürburgring had to offer the Formula 1 world as it prepared to tackle the first ever Eifel Grand Prix in a setting it last visited seven years ago. For Charles Leclerc this will be his first encounter with the track in a Formula 1 car and he and Sebastian Vettel braved the cold to do the track walk to get a close look at its features.
Skiing weather. In the afternoon, before the usual engineering meetings, Charles and Seb dealt with questions from the media in the regular Thursday press conference followed by the demands of the TV crews. “As I arrived this morning, it almost felt like being the start of a day’s skiing, given the rain was coming down sideways, with an icy wind and winter temperatures,” commented Leclerc. “I like the track a lot and I think that these extreme conditions that are due to be pretty similar for tomorrow’s free practice, could mix up the hierarchy among the teams, which might provide some opportunities. However, we already know it won’t be easy for us and that we will have to work hard to get the tyres in the right operating window.”
Unexpected home race. The pre-pandemic calendar didn’t feature a home race for Seb, as the German round did not exist, while of course Charles was planning to give it his best shot in Monaco. But Covid-19 changed all that, with the Monaco GP cancelled and an unexpected return to the Nürburgring. “It was a wonderful surprise, all the more so as there will be a few thousand fans in the grandstands,” said Seb. “Yes, I’m not so happy that we’re here in mid-October, because the first challenge facing those who have bought tickets will be the cold. I love this track and have great memories of 2013 when I won. This weekend’s scenario will be different in just about every way, but I think the conditions are there to have a good race.” Seb was also asked for a word about the Nordschleiffe. “I drove it for the first time immediately after passing my test in my own car and I only just avoided finishing up in the wall as I had asked too much of the brakes in the first part. It would be wonderful to race on this track again, which is the most difficult in the world, in Formula 1 cars, but I think it would need to be adapted quite a lot to meet our demands.”
Young drivers. In tomorrow’s first free practice session, two FDA (Ferrari Driver Academy) students will make their debut at a Formula 1 weekend. Callum Ilott will be at the wheel of a Haas and Mick Schumacher will take to the track with Alfa Romeo Racing. Because the race is in Germany, the main focus is on the German driver. “I think Mick deserves this opportunity, because he is having an impressive season in Formula 2,” said Charles. “He is a really effective driver and I believe we will hear a lot more about him in the future. Making your debut in the rain is never ideal but he was telling me not long ago that his debuts in new categories have always been in the wet. Probably it will be the same this time.” Sebastian was also very happy to see the great Michael’s son make his debut. This weekend, Vettel’s helmet pays tribute to Michael, who secured his first title with the Scuderia on this date 20 years ago at Suzuka in 2000. “I care a lot about him and really believe he can do well. I reckon we will see him tackle some more Friday sessions before the end of the season and I think he will be in the paddock on a regular basis next year. I wish him the very best of luck for this rite of passage.”
Programme. Mick, Callum and 18 of the regular race drivers will hit the track tomorrow at 11 CET for the first 90 minutes of free practice. 14 of the 20 will be making their Nurburgring debut, at least in a Formula 1 car, and it will also be the first race of the hybrid era at this famous track. The second session starts at 15, while the final one takes place at noon on Saturday, with qualifying next up at 15. The first Eifel Grand Prix starts on Sunday 11 October at 14.10.