Lewis Hamilton took the top spot in the Styrian Grand Prix, the second major Grand Prix since lockdown restrictions were eased.
In the same week, Alfa Romeo were given a €5,000 fine as a consequence of Räikkönen’s tyre falling off, caused by a cross-tethered wheel nut, and Fernando Alonso signed with Renault for the 2021 season. Here’s a breakdown of how the weekend went:
There were some driver changes in FP1 on Friday, with test drivers Jack Aitkin driving Russell’s Williams and Robert Kubica driving Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo. These changes are so that the test drivers get to put their simulator findings onto the track for real and I think the F1 drivers can spare this 90 minutes, given they were here last week too.
After Russell’s retirement from last week’s GP, he had a new power unit installed—meaning he is already onto the second of three allowed in a season.
The only major incident in FP1 was Latifi’s loss of power which brought out a yellow flag, then a red flag as marshals struggled to remove his car from the track. Norris was later given a 3-place grid penalty for overtaking under the yellow flag during this period. Magnussen was the only driver to not set a time in FP1 due to a battery issue.
In FP2, Ricciardo crashed at turn 9 and emerged from his car limping. This brought out a red flag. He was fully recovered by Saturday.
FP3 was cancelled as the medical helicopter could not fly in the thunderstorm.
Q1 was delayed by almost two hours due to the continued thunderstorm. Wet tyres were used during qualifying, meaning all drivers had free choice of starting tyres for the race.
The track was slippery but surprisingly the only incident in Q1 was Giovinazzi’s crash near the end of the session, bringing out the red flag and ruining the final laps for Latifi, Räikkönen and Perez. Grosjean had a minor trip into the gravel in Q1 and did not set a time, meaning he would start 20th. Russell got into Q2 with a great lap in Q1, the first for Williams since Brazil 2018.
Leclerc in the Ferrari did not make it out of Q2 while his teammate, Vettel, only scraped through in 10th. Leclerc was later found to have impeded Kvyat so was handed a 3-place grid penalty demoting him to 14th. This, once again, is not great form for the Ferrari cars. They had even fast-tracked some front wing and floor upgrades to be used this weekend, but these clearly weren’t fine-tuned enough to bring the Ferrari back into championship contention.
Hamilton set a flying lap in Q3 to stick it on pole 1.2 seconds ahead of Verstappen in second. Sainz outcompeted the Mercedes of Bottas to start 3rd on the grid.
Grosjean started the race from the pit lane, as his car was worked on in parc fermé conditions.
Contrary to last week’s race, the main action occurred on lap 1 when the two Ferraris clashed. Räikkönen’s on-board camera showed a great view of the collision with Leclerc diving up the inside of the corner and hopping onto Vettel’s right rear tyre. Vettel was forced to retire as his rear wing was hanging off. Leclerc retires on lap 5 with considerable floor damage, being deemed unsafe to drive. Leclerc later posted on his Instagram story:
“I am disappointed in myself. I’m sorry but being sorry is not enough. Seb [Vettel] hasn’t got any faults today. I’ve let the team down after them working a whole week to bring the upgrades early. Too eager to gain those places in the first lap. I will learn from it.”
A lap 5 battle sees Russell run wide into the gravel and drop like a stone to 18th; such a disappointment after his amazing qualifying session on Saturday.
Verstappen pits on lap 25 to stop the Mercedes car gaining an advantage with an undercut, but the Red Bull driver felt like it was the wrong call.
Esteban Ocon retires on lap 26 with smoking brakes after a great ten lap battle with his teammate, Ricciardo.
At this point, Gasly is dropping down the running order, later disclosed to be due to a floor issue, while the Racing Points are climbing up the order fast. Mid-race there is a great battle between Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll and Perez for 5th – 8th place.
On lap 66, Bottas closes on Verstappen and they battle for second position for many corners. Eventually, Bottas comes out on top after a pass at turn 3. Verstappen pits after this to go for the extra fastest lap point, as the gap to Albon in fourth is large enough for a free pit stop.
On the final lap, Perez tries to get past Albon for 4th place but they touch wheels, causing front wing damage to the Racing Point. Just behind, Stroll, Ricciardo and Norris are battling three abreast for 6th place. Stroll pushes Ricciardo wide to take his place but Norris also slips past, dropping Ricciardo from 6th to 8th.
Hamilton crosses the line to take his first victory of the 2020 season, followed by Bottas and Verstappen—but the race isn’t over just yet. Norris passes Stroll at turn 4 and Perez’s front wing damage slows him, allowing Norris to overtake on the final corner, going from 8th to 5th in the final two laps! Sainz finished in 9th and gets an extra point for fastest lap. McLaren stay in second in the constructor standings due to Red Bull’s double DNF last week and Ferrari’s this week.
Hamilton’s class drive promoted him to second in the championship with 37 points, behind Bottas on 43.
Holly’s driver of the day… and loser
Perez has got to be driver of the day, starting 17th on the grid after a poor qualifying in the rain to finish 6th. It was just a shame that his bold move on Albon did not pay off and resulted in him being pipped at the post by Norris.
The losers of the day are Ferrari. They failed to qualify well, which I don’t think can be blamed on the weather as it was also seen last week. Leclerc’s eagerness to gain track position early brought about a premature end to the race for both cars. They currently sit only 5th in the constructor standings. Let’s hope a change of circuit next week will bring with it a change of performance.
All timing information is from formula1.com and was correct at the time of publication.