For the second round of the FIA Formula One World Championship and the FIA Formula 2 Championship, both return to the Red Bull Ring, the site of last week’s Austrian Grand Prix. We have compiled a list of things to watch out in both categories, as the weekend unfolds ahead.
Formula 1 – Things to Watch Out for:
Last week’s Austrian Grand Prix was a race of attrition, with just 11 cars making it to the flag. This number is the lowest in F1’s Turbo-Hybrid era, tying with the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. Of the 10 teams, only 3 managed to bring both cars to the chequered flag (Mercedes, Ferrari & McLaren). The remaining teams had only 1 car, or no cars reaching the chequered flag.
Mercedes showed it had a dominant car throughout the previous weekend, but the team suffered from issues with its’ gearbox, forcing them to issue team orders instructing drivers to avoid using the trackside kerbs late in the race.
Red Bull found themselves to be the second fastest car over the weekend, but the team found itself without points post-race after both Alexander Albon and Max Verstappen retired from the race due to electrical issues. Had Albon not been hit by Hamilton and not suffered from electrical issues, Red Bull could have easily taken the win at Austria.
Further down the grid, Haas also saw both cars retire from the race, with brake failures in both cars.
The Battle for 3rd (& Points in the top 10)
Last weekend, Mercedes demonstrated the speed of the W11, with Bottas being 5 tenths ahead of the first non-Mercedes car in qualifying. With the close qualifying times in the remaining 8 places in the top 10 (Gap from 3rd to 10th was less than 1 second), alongside the tight turnaround limiting the number of upgrades each team can bring, it is unlikely that we will see any change in the pecking order for the teams.
It should be said, however, that if both Mercedes were to suffer from gearbox issues once more, the battle for 3rd could easily become the battle for the win….
Ferrari (& Ferrari powered teams)
Last week’s race was a painful one for both the Scuderia, and teams using its 065 Power Unit. Ferrari’s customers found themselves qualifying near to the back of the grid, while Ferrari failed to get both cars into the 3rd Qualifying session. In addition, all Ferrari powered teams saw their 2020 cars lap the Red Bull Ring over half a second slower than their predecessors. In contrast, cars powered by other Power Units saw their times tumble relative to their predecessors.
All Ferrari-powered cars, bar the Alfa Romeos also found themselves near the bottom, or at the bottom of the speed trap ahead of the race, according to Racefans.
Autosport reported earlier this week that Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto estimated that the team was losing 0.7 seconds per lap to Mercedes owing to power unit deficiencies on the straights, and a further 0.3 seconds in the corners due to aerodynamic related weaknesses on the SF1000 chassis.
It will be interesting to see how Ferrari-powered teams will fare this weekend, at the second round of the season, held once more at the Red Bull Ring. Qualifying positions are not expected to differ greatly, barring rainfall, with Ferrari likely proceeding into Q3. Should teams sort out their reliability issues, leading to a decreased number of retirements, it is extremely unlikely that Ferrari will be on the podium once more. Ferrari customer teams could also find themselves outside the points altogether.
Formula 2: The Things to Watch Out For
Last weekend’s Feature and Sprint races saw a spate of reliability-related problems with the Dallara F2 2018, with the cars seeing a total of 6 retirements in the races held across the weekend due to mechanical issues. This was in addition to 1 retirement stemming from an engine failure, in the HWA run Dallara of Alesi. One high-profile driver who was affected by the issues, but ultimately did not retire was Guan Yu Zhou, who suffered a loss in power while leading the Feature Race last Saturday.
In response to the widespread reliability problems, the championship held a shakedown session on the Wednesday at the Red Bull Ring to allow teams to check the cars. No lap times were recorded in the session. According to a member of the F2 Paddock who spoke to Formula Scout, some of the issues that struck teams in F2 and the supporting FIA Formula 3 Championship were seen during the pre-season test in Bahrain. Fixes had been expected to be available by the time teams started racing in Austria.
No issues were reported during the shakedown. Despite this, we think that reliability could once more be a factor in the races across this weekend…
The battle of the front running teams
Last weekend saw the emergence of the 3 teams who look set to be front runners this season, alongside a 4th team who could prove to be a wildcard. Across the previous weekend, 3 teams stood out among the others in the paddock: UNI-Virtuosi, ART Grand Prix, and Prema Racing. UNI-Virtuosi and ART Grand Prix were fast from the start of the weekend, with both teams placing drivers in the top 4 during the practice session. Prema, on the other hand, had a slower start, before shining alongside the 2 other teams in Qualifying and during the Feature Race. All 3 teams did not make it to the podium for the Sprint race, but their drivers were still able to perform well.
Last season’s Teams’ title squad, DAMS were also a team which performed solidly across the weekend, with Dan Ticktum finishing 5th in the Feature Race, before coming 3rd in the Sprint Race.
Felipe Drugovich was a stand-out of the previous weekend, starting on the front row for the Feature Race on his debut for the MP Motorsport team, and dominating the Sprint Race on Sunday.
He starts Saturday’s feature race in 10th, but all eyes will be on him, to see if he could charge up the grid to deliver a surprise for the drivers signed to the top teams.
The Driver Academy Wars
The 2020 Formula 2 season sees a total of 12 drivers representing the driver academies of 4 teams. Ferrari is represented by Callum Ilott, Mick Schumacher, Giuliano Alesi, Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong. Renault is represented by Christian Lundgaard and Guan Yu Zhou, while Red Bull is represented by Yuki Tsunoda and Jehan Daruvala. Williams is represented by Jack Aitken and Dan Ticktum.
Last weekend’s Sprint and Feature Races saw epic battles between the academy drivers for positions. The Feature Race saw Ferrari’s juniors lockout the podium, with Renault junior Lundgaard in P4, and Williams junior Ticktum in 5th. The Sprint race only saw Ticktum make it to the podium in third, with Shwartzman in 4th and Lundgaard in 5th. Red Bull juniors Daruvala and Tsunoda scored no points across the weekend.