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In our Austrian Grand Prix review, we take a look at the top 5 drivers and teams last weekend
Top 5 Drivers
1. Lando Norris – McLaren
A glimpse into the future ahead. The 2020 Austrian Grand Prix was a wonderful start to the Sophomore season of the 20 year old driver, who eked out a strong qualifying lap to qualify 4th on Saturday. On Sunday, this became third in the wake of Hamilton’s grid penalty. Despite being hit with numerous setbacks in the race, the Englishman took it upon himself to deliver the maximum out of the car. At the third restart, he was passed by both Leclerc and Perez, but he successfully held off his teammate before re-passing Perez for 4th. The final lap of the race saw Norris put in the fastest lap of the race, piping Hamilton to 3rd by less than 2-tenths of a second.
2. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari
From Zero, to Hero. Ferrari were a disappointment throughout the weekend, with the car being down on pace compared to its usual rivals, which led to Sebastian Vettel being unable to make it into Q3. Leclerc took advantage of the carnage on the track, alongside skill and luck to bring his car from 7th on the grid to 3rd at the flag. Leclerc benefited from Hamilton’s penalty to finish 2nd in the official standings. Leclerc’s performance on Sunday brought a much-needed morale booster for the Scuderia in what was one of its worst weekends in recent history.
3. Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes
Is Bottas on the hunt of the title this year? Pole position on Saturday, followed by a victory on Sunday, capped off what could only be described as a great weekend for the Finn. His title hopes have received an unexpected boost, with his teammate, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, suffering from a poor weekend that saw him receive multiple penalties. Team Orders made in the name of reliability also gave Bottas an advantage in the race, which also led to Hamilton being unable to challenge the Finn.
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
A tale of what it could have been… Max Verstappen must have felt gutted when he heard about the reliability issues which were forcing Mercedes to run its cars less aggressively in the late stages of the race. Verstappen was the first retirement of the decade, with only 11 laps logged due to electrical issues, but he had been in contention for a podium from the race-start, and had it not been for the retirement, he could have been standing on the top step of the podium. If Red Bull can improve their reliability, they can give Mercedes plenty of headaches this season.
5. Alexander Albon (Red Bull)
A feeling of Déjà vu…. Sunday’s incident with Hamilton saw the young Anglo-Thai driver taken out by the British Driver, for yet another podium position. As the young Anglo-Thai driver overtook Hamilton on the outside of Turn 3 on Lap 61, Hamilton refused to cede position, forcing Albon wide and into the gravel. While Albon missed out on yet another podium and eventually retired, it was not a wasted race. Albon showed that he and Red Bull had outsmarted Mercedes to the point where he had a realistic chance of winning the race, while demonstrating sheer will, determination and talent to take on Hamilton from the outside of a corner, a very brave move for the young driver.
Top 3 Teams
Overall, the weekend was a solid one for the Brackley-based squad, with both cars proving to be far ahead of the rest of the field. The weekend should have seen an easy 1-2 for the team, but the team had to settle for a 1-4 finish following Hamilton’s penalty which saw him demoted from 2nd on the road to fourth, pipped to the podium by Lando Norris.
While both cars have shown they can be fast in both the race and on Saturday, the team’s achilles heel has shown to be the reliability of the car, caused by a design flaw which impacted the gearbox. The issue was caused by the build-up of electrical interference within the car systems, which ultimately began to impact the gearbox and its sensors. It was recently revealed that the team had been aware of the problem since Friday. Mercedes needs to rectify the problem swiftly, or see its pace advantage put to nought due to reliability.
McLaren had what could be described as a perfect weekend, with the team being free of any reliability issues, being 1 of the 3 teams to bring both cars home with points. Courtesy of Lando Norris’ 3rd placed finish and Carlos Sainz’s 5th placed finish, the Woking-based team now finds itself 2nd in the constructors’ championship, leading Ferrari by 7 points.
A brilliant debut for the former Toro Rosso squad. Despite a slow start to the weekend for the Faenza-based team, the team demonstrated that its chassis, the AT01 would be a contender for points across the qualifying sessions, with both cars narrowly missing out on Q2. On race day, the team made the most out of their package, with Pierre Gasly coming in 7th in the race. The team had originally been set to see both cars in the points, until Kvyat suffered a suspension failure and a puncture late in the race.
4. Racing Point
At the start of the weekend, Racing Point were viewed as podium contenders, courtesy of its “Pink Mercedes” RP20, which performed solidly during pre-season testing. The team did not disappoint in the early part of the weekend, finishing FP2 in 3rd with Sergio Perez and 4th in FP3. Qualifying went smoothly for the team, with Lance Stroll 4th in Q1, Perez 6th in Q2 and 6th in Q3. Both cars made it into Q3. However, on race day, the team’s weekend fell apart. Stroll began suffering power loss on Lap 16, before pulling into the garage just 5 laps later. Sergio Perez on the other hand crossed the line sixth, his 5 second penalty having unaffected his race result.
Overall, the team walks away from round 1 of the championship thinking what it could have been, with the team clearly not having made the most out of the car. Not making the most out of the car isn’t something to celebrate, and one might wonder if this ranking is too high, but things could still be worse…
5. Red Bull
“In order to Finish first, you first have to finish” This line couldn’t be applied any better to Red Bull, and the team leaves Austria empty handed. Red Bull showed pace throughout the weekend and one could have easily expected a Red Bull to land the final podium position, or even the race win, should both Silver Arrows hit issues. Alas, this was not the case.
Ultimately, both Mercedes cars hit trouble, but so did the Red Bulls, and unlike the Silver Arrows, the Red Bulls never made it to the flag. Max Verstappen retired with an anti-stall issue that forced him into the garage on Lap 11, while Alex Albon was on an excellent strategy and looked set to hunt down Bottas until Lap 61, when he was hit by Hamilton and slid into the Gravel. Albon later retired from the race on Lap 67, also due to electrical issues.