- Lewis Hamilton bounces to back to win the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg
- Briton romps home as Valtteri Bottas completes Mercedes 1-2 on second weekend in Austria
- Ferrari endure more woe as Charles Leclerc collides with Sebastian Vettel to force double retirement
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – As Lewis Hamilton responds emphatically after opening weekend disappointment, what did we learn from the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix?
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Hamilton’s emphatic response
After the opening weekend of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, lingering doubts had began to creep in as to whether Lewis Hamilton could win a fourth-successive World Drivers’ Championship and in so doing draw level with Michael Schumacher‘s seven F1 titles. Typically however, the Briton was resounding in his riposte at the Styrian Grand Prix.
Coming home fourth in the Austria GP last time out, the 35-year-old enjoyed a dominant weekend in Spielberg – erasing memories of his latest penalty-inducing clash with Alex Albon – and romped home on Sunday, returning Mercedes to their slot of ‘business as usual’.
Taking a hugely impressive pole in a qualifying session of near-apocalyptic weather conditions, Hamilton rose to the top once more as he has done in the past three seasons, and led from start to finish to take his 85th F1 victory.
Followed home by teammate Valtteri Bottas – after keeping at bay the threat of Max Verstappen in third – the German manufacturer once more proved the top dogs in the game, with Mercedes’ every intention to win an eighth constructors crown on the bounce this year.
For Hamilton, on the back of weeks of anxiety and confusion brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, his following vocal support of the Black Lives Matter movement has likely been a great distraction for the Briton, but as the champagne was sprayed gleefully across the paddock to conclude the weekend, the six-time champion was afforded a vital and much-needed outlet.
To any that doubt Hamilton’s still-remaining hunger and desire to make steps in history this season, Styria was the latest page in the Briton’s F1 memoirs that are well on the way to being set in stone. Next stop, Hungary.
Ferrari needle remains
As Mercedes revelled in victory once more, Ferrari endured another difficult F1 weekend in Austria. With Sebastian Vettel often the source of great antagonism for Scuderia last season, it was Charles Leclerc however, who this weekend would’ve been sent to Mattia Binotto‘s naughty step.
With both drivers remarkably off the four two rows of the grid after Saturday’s monsoon conditions – in 10th and 11th respectively – both raced out from the green light but after the Ferrari duo became caught up in mechanical scrum in midfield, Leclerc’s attempts to wade through the chaos ended in catastrophe for the Prancing Horse.
In attempting to overtake Vettel on the inside at turn three, the Monagesque collided with his number two, breaking his rear wing. As Vettel’s rather unsightly car limped around the Red Bull Ring, the German retreated to the pits before being forced to retire.
Leclerc had his front wing and floor partially replaced also but as the safety car returned to the paddock, Ferrari deemed to the damage to be too great to continue, leaving 67 laps of racing without both Scuderia.
Posting on social media shortly after the incident, Leclerc assumed full responsibility for the collision:
I am disappointed in myself. I'm sorry but being sorry is not enough. Seb hasn't got any faults today. I've let the team down after them working a whole week to bring the updates early. Too eager to gain those places in the first lap. I will learn from it.
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 12, 2020
Grovelling in apology perhaps and though the 22-year-old has often been the recipient of misfortune for his team, it serves to highlight the problems Ferrari still have between the Vettel-Leclerc dynamic.
Though said issues may only last for another 16 races – with Vettel set to be replaced by Carlos Sainz from next year – this term could still have further in-house fireworks in store.
Reliability issues linger
The opening three races of the campaign stacked back-to-back over three weekends was always likely to present reliability issues and as we have seen during double time in Austria, that particular narrative could run until December.
With no less than nine retirements last weekend, the Styrian GP threw up further concerns. After a hugely unpredictable grid qualification also, car inconsistency could, however, serve up more intrigue in F1.
Despite another relative coast for Mercedes in Round 2, even Hamilton had expressed his concerns of their car’s power unit earlier this season and as motorsport juggernaut moves around the continent with differing conditions to contend with, said problems could again rear their head.
In the case of Red Bull, the car’s lack of raw speed was unable to compete for the top two spots, and as Verstappen admitted to F1.com honestly after the race, the Dutchman acknowledged their was work ahead of Hungary and then a Silverstone double in the weeks to come.
“We are just too slow. I pushed as hard as I could to try and stay with Lewis [Hamilton] but it’s not possible. We’ve got some work to do.
Norris stock continues to rise
After taking his maiden podium in last weekend’s opening salvo, the past seven days would have been a likely and surreal media circus for Lando Norris. Returning to the track however, Styrian aims would have been to back up his third place with a consistent drive and in finishing fifth, the 20-year-old Glastonbury native’s goal was achieved.
With teammate Sainz qualifying in fourth place from Saturday, the Spaniard came home in a perhaps disappointing ninth but after another top-ten double for McLaren, the British manufacturer’s Austrian adventure was hugely profitable. For Norris, his particular exploits proved his growing calibre.
Entering lap 70 in eighth spot in Styria, Norris overhauled Sergio Perez‘s failing power unit, together with Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo – after a final lap game of cat-and-mouse – to cross the line just two places off successive podiums.
The Briton may have become somewhat of an after thought following the news of Sainz’s promotion to Ferrari, but as he arrives in Hungary this coming weekend, Norris has made all around him very much aware of his rising credentials.
Renault ‘Point’ finger
On the subject of Racing Point, a Perez-Stroll sixth-seventh double was for themselves a excellent result, but after Ricciardo was usurped by both drivers – and with Esteban Ocon‘s latest car failure – Renault having been quick to raise the flag of protest.
Dubbed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ for the unit’s similarity to the dominant constructors champion, the Silverstone-based team come into the new season having the raised the collective eyebrows of many across the paddock.
Though teams are permitted to buy certain parts from competitors, F1 rules state that modifications must be made to ensure teams race with unique components, of which Renault have become the first to raise their doubts.
In a hearing on Monday morning however, the constructors however were adamant that regulations were being adhered to and that as BBC Sport quotes, ‘the team is confident that the protest will be dismissed once it has presented its response.’
Having seen Perez storm through the field from 17th to a top-six finish, Renault’s claims may not lack merit but for the time being, the French’s team sentiments may be borne out of frustration than of an accusative tone. Watch this space.
The Hungarian Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Hungaroring, Budapest.
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