2020 Austrian Grand Prix Blog
Firstly, it was great to have F1 back on our screens this past weekend. You don’t realise how much you miss the little things in life but coverage from the Austrian GP will have cheered people up around the globe.
After such a long break it was difficult to know what to expect. We had seen the cars at F1 Testing but no wheel to wheel racing and there was an element of suspense as to which team would be best equipped to handle the demands of the Red Bull Ring.
Nobody was surprised to see Mercedes fly out of the traps – they finished 1-2 in all three Practice Sessions – so there was an air of inevitability about Qualifying. Sure enough the Silver Arrows came out on top but it was Valtteri Bottas who clinched pole ahead of his teammate. Lewis’ task was then made even harder with a subsequent three-place grid penalty issued just prior to the race start. What was most surprising though was how far Ferrari were behind their rivals. You would expect them to push Mercedes all the way in these sessions and yet Sebastian Vettel was eliminated in Q2. Charles Leclerc didn’t fare much better scraping into Q3 in P10 before taking a disappointing 7th place on the grid. The Scuderia has a lot of work to do.
Race Day! With the sun beating down on Spielberg and track temperatures of c. 55°, it was going to be a tough test for both car and driver. The start was clean and the race quickly developed into an even rhythm. Max Verstappen perhaps struggled most, as the only car in the top 10 to start on medium tyres. He was defending well against Lewis Hamilton when on lap 11 – disaster struck, when the Red Bull lost power. End of race for Max.
Verstappen became the first of many casualties on day which saw only 11 cars finish the race. Of the others – Daniel Ricciardo’s engine overheated; Lance Stroll had a sensor issue; Kevin Magnussen’s brakes failed, causing a safety car; Romain Grosjean’s brakes also failed; George Russell suffered mechanical issues, bringing out another safety car; Kimi Raikkonen’s front right tyre dislodged itself (which could have been very nasty) and caused the safety car’s third outing of the afternoon; Alex Albon clipped Lewis Hamilton during an overtaking move, forcing him into retirement; and Danill Kvyat collided with Estaban Ocon causing a broken front wing and a puncture.
So not exactly an incident free race. It made great viewing for neutral fans though! Nearly all drivers who did make the chequered flag were rewarded with points they may not have been expecting. Congratulations to Valtteri Bottas on the race victory. He has a habit of starting the season strongly and did not disappoint. Charles Leclerc had a relatively quiet afternoon but also did an exceptional job to bring his Ferrari home in second place and spare his teams blushes.
The stars of the day though were McLaren who finished P3 and P5. The team have their troubles off track, and this was exactly the boost they needed. We must also make special mention of Lando Norris in gaining his first podium. The young Brit was elated, saying afterwards: “I’m over the moon, my best Formula One result and my first ever podium… It’s not been easy: we haven’t had the third-fastest car on the grid – but we put it all together pretty much every time.”
To have winners you must have losers though and it was Red Bull who came out of this race worst. Christian Horner commented afterwards: “It was a very frustrating first race and I’m almost lost for words.” Red Bull will have their chance to make amends though, and don’t have too long to wait as we’re back at the Red Bull Ring next week for Round 2 with the Steiermark Grand Prix. Don’t miss it!