5 Thoughts from the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix
Race 2 in Austria gave us entertainment in many different ways from Race 1
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net Lewis Hamilton takes his first victory of the 2020 season
Spielberg, Austria - After an instant classic last week in Austria, fans were more than ready for round 2 at the Red Bull Ring for the Styrian Grand Prix. Albeit a much more quiet race compared to last Sunday, the Stryian Grand Prix still had its moments of sheer brilliance. We've gotten a much better picture of how the grid will shake up this season as most cars actually finished the grand prix this weekend. So, after another 71 laps around the Red Bull Ring, let's take a look at some of the talking points from the 2020 Stryian Grand Prix.
1. Max Verstappen will have to wait another year for a championship contending car
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net Verstappen just didn't have enough to challenge Mercedes in the end
The Red Bull drivers couldn't wait to get back on track again after a double retirement last week in the Austrian Grand Prix. Verstappen was in a good position on harder tyres and many fans wondered whether Max would've had the pace to challenge Bottas had he not had his mechanical problem. Well we got our answer this Sunday at the Styrian Grand Prix. Verstappen navigated a very tricky qualifying session to put himself on the front row of the grid once again alongside a Mercedes. However, it was clear within the first ten laps of the race that Verstappen would be playing catchup and Red Bull had their work cut out for them. They tried an undercut onto the medium tyres but Hamilton's pace was just too much for it to make any difference. In the end, Bottas caught up to Verstappen and passed the Dutchman to take home another Mercedes 1-2 finish. The fight between Bottas and Verstappen was thrilling even though it really only lasted for two laps. Could you have imagined the reaction of the orange army in the grandstands when Verstappen re-passed Bottas in the turn 5 & 6 combo? That was about as much interaction as Verstappen and Red Bull would get with Mercedes all race long. It's only been two races so far but it's pretty clear that Red Bull just don't have the car at the moment to challenge for the championship. In this shortened season, getting off to a fast start is critical and Verstappen being 28 points adrift of the championship lead is not where Red Bull wanted to be. Let's see if their fortunes improve at a track like the Hungaroring. Maybe the RB16 will come alive at high down force tracks and will be able to knock the 'Black Arrows' off of their thrown. For the moment though, it seems like Max Verstappen is going to have to wait another season for a title contending car.
2. Racing Point are quick, but are they legal?
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net Racing Point sit 4th in the Constructors standings after two races
Tracing Point? Pink Mercedes? Whichever nickname you like, the Pink Panthers are mighty quick. It was evident from the Austrian Grand Prix last week that Racing Point's pace in testing was very real. Things didn't go quite their way in the race as Lance Stroll had to retire and a poor strategy call cost Sergio Perez a potential podium. They re-grouped quickly and were on the pace in free practice. Had qualifying been cancelled, Racing Point would've locked out the second row of the grid for the race. Apparently Racing Point wasn't able to copy the 2019 Mercedes wet setup as they found both cars starting outside the top ten but the race was a much different story. Perez stormed from 17th on the grid to come home P6 while his teammate Lance Stroll got his elbows out and managed to come home in 7th. A good haul of points was cause for satisfaction in the Racing Point garage but as they head to Hungary, they might be more occupied with legalities thanks to a protest from Renault. Hours after the race, Renault lodged an official protest to the FIA about the legality of the 2020 Racing Point cars. As of right now, the FIA has announced that this protest is admissible and that they will be seizing parts from both Racing Point and Mercedes for an investigation. These two teams have quite the history when it comes to protests. Remember back to Japan last year when Racing Point protested Renault's automated brake bias system which lead to Renault losing a double points finish in Suzuka. So will Renault be able to win their case against Racing Point this time around? Chances are this will end up like Red Bull's protest of DAS last weekend. It seems hard to believe that Racing Point would go ahead with their car design plan for 2020 without making sure it all fits within the regulations. However, stranger things have happened and this case will definitely be a talking point in the races to come.
3. Don't feel bad for Ferrari
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net
Starting 10th and 14th on the grid, surely Ferrari couldn't get any worse than that right? Well at least they gave their fans a surprise answer come race day because it definitely did. Even after a surprise podium last Sunday, Ferrari knew their car was very poor. That is why Mattia Binotto wanted the Hungary upgrades to come a week earlier for the Styrian Grand Prix. Those updates didn't show much in the way of pace on Saturday as Charles Leclerc missed out on Q3 and Sebastian Vettel almost got out qualified by a Williams. A three place grid penalty for Leclerc just added insult to injury for Ferrari as now they were right in the middle of the mid-field battle. As the grid raced up the hill into turn 3, Leclerc made a clumsy lunge on the inside of his teammate and ended up on the back of Sebastian Vettel's rear wing. Vettel had to retire that lap and his teammate Leclerc followed suite a few laps later with significant floor damage. Ferrari's new upgrades got about three laps worth of race data and now find themselves at their lowest point since the 2014 season. Even if Leclerc hadn't taken out his teammate, it doesn't seem likely that Ferrari would have been able to replicate their result from a week ago. The team has become the subject of many great jokes and memes the last few weeks and deservedly so.
This viral meme was shared by many after Ferrari's double retirement at the Styrian GP
It's hard to feel bad for a team who has so much money, resources, and power within the sport. In a way, Ferrari might need an atrocious season for some big internal changes to happen within the Scuderia. Whether it's personnel, internal politics, or a culture shift, something needs to change at Ferrari. They've had multiple time world champions drive their cars and come up short of achieving the ultimate goal. You would hate to see the great talent of Leclerc and Sainz get wasted at a team that constantly stumbles over themselves year after year.
4. Lando Norris steals the show again
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net
You would think scoring your first F1 podium would be the best race of your career but not if you're Lando Norris. “[It was a] really good race from me,” said Norris. “Probably my best race I’ve done in Formula 1 in [that race pace was] definitely not my strength last year and also something I worked on a lot last year, over the winter and this year. To see those gains and some of those boxes ticked, I’m very happy with it.” Norris has got every right to be happy with another stellar performance in Austria. It looked like things wouldn't go Norris' way the second time around in Austria with a grid penalty and slow race pace early on. But their is something about the last lap around the Red Bull Ring that just sends Lando Norris into another gear. After a long battle between Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo, Norris managed to catch up and was now getting in on the action. A daring lunge from Stroll forced Ricciardo out wide on Turn 3 and Norris took advantage and overtook Ricciardo. Then on the final lap, he breezed past Stroll and eventually overtook Perez in the final corner to claim a remarkable P5 finish.
Norris once again stole the show and set fireworks to a race that was fairly dull up until that point. Passing two Racing Point's in the final lap sees Norris now third in the drivers championship and only eleven points back of fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton. Whatever improvements Lando Norris has made in the off-season, it is clearly paying dividends in 2020.
5. Danke Austria
The final thought from the Styrian Grand Prix has to be an appreciation for Austria and the Red Bull Ring. As much as we all would have loved to start the season in Melbourne, Spielberg in Austria was a perfect place to start the 2020 season. The Red Bull Ring has given us some great races in the past couple of years and the first two of this season did not disappoint. Not to mention the location of the track just provides one of the most stunning settings for a Formula 1 race. Both race weekends went off without any complications and all teams were able to go about their work safely without any complications. The weather in Austria also gave us a thrilling qualifying session in the wet for the Styrian Grand Prix. That session will be talked about for years to come and Lewis Hamilton's pole lap in the rain will be replayed for generations to come. It's the shortest lap on the F1 calendar but boy does it ever produce great drama and racing. The Austrian Grand Prix should be on every F1 fan's bucket list of races to attend and we certainly can't wait for the race next year.
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