Hamilton wins Styrian Grand Prix as Ferrari implode again

An excellent drive from Lewis Hamilton saw him take a dominant victory at the Styrian Grand Prix, while Ferrari scored no points after Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided on the first lap.

Hamilton grabbed a superb pole position in a treacherous wet qualifying on Saturday and got off to a good start, getting clear of second-placed Max Verstappen, who battled hard in the first sector with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz.

Into Turn 3, Leclerc dived down the inside of multiple drivers in the midfield, but the space into the apex tightened up and Leclerc mounted his team mate’s rear wing, having bounced up off the sausage kerb on the inside. Vettel retired from the race after losing his rear wing while Leclerc’s race was ultimately ended by the subsequent excessive floor damage.

George Russell’s great work in qualifying for Williams was undone when he ventured into the gravel following a battle with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Valtteri Bottas managed to get past Sainz in the opening stint of the Grand Prix, before Alex Albon followed suit with a routine move into Turn 4. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton’s consistent lap times were seeing him slowly pull away from Verstappen.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

A slow stop for Sainz would then push him further down the midfield pack, compounding what had been a challenging start for McLaren, with Lando Norris battling away with the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

The Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon also battled hard in the opening exchanges, with Ocon eventually having to relinquish the position to his McLaren-bound team mate after a tense battle as they were chasing Ricciardo’s future team-mate Carlos Sainz for fifth.

Ocon would then retire with a terminal issue, while Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen gave us a couple of really good battles, with the Finn eventually coming out on top in the Alfa Romeo.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen pitted almost in tandem with each other, both re-joining in front of Verstappen’s team mate Alex Albon, demoralisingly for the Thai-British driver.

Perez and Norris then went long in the first stint, along with Valtteri Bottas, all hoping their strategies would win them their respective battles. As Perez re-joined, he pulled off an absolutely exceptional move on Carlos Sainz round the outside of Turn 6, and set off in pursuit of his team mate Lance Stroll. After a close encounter with the Canadian, he squeezed past him and breezed past the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, who continued to frustrate Stroll.

After an intense battle into Turn 4 with Verstappen, Bottas eventually got past a steely Verstappen, with the Dutchman scoring his first points of the season in third following an early non-finish last week.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Perez, during all this, had caught up to Albon in the other Red Bull but very nearly recreated the incident between Hamilton and Albon last week, making contact with the Red Bull, but not spinning him. Unfortunately for Perez however, the contact cost him his front wing.

This would prove disastrous for the Mexican. Lando Norris had been allowed past his team mate Sainz and set the fastest lap of the race, and set after the squabbling Stroll and Ricciardo.

After Hamilton had crossed the line to claim an imperious win, a frustrated Stroll dived down the inside of Ricciardo and that sent both of them off the track, allowing the resurgent Norris, who started ninth, to pass them both into turn four, jinking between the Renault and the Racing Point.

Perez, meanwhile, was crawling to the chequered flag after his front wing had all but fallen off following his contact with Albon, and Norris brilliantly snuck past him into the final corner. It was then a photo-finish between Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo to the line. Perez just held onto seventh place, while Ricciardo had to settle for eighth behind Stroll having once been running in fifth.

After making another stop, Sainz smashed the fastest lap record set by Raikkonen in 2018 with a 1:05.6, and he would take the fastest lap point in ninth.

It was a resurgent Hamilton after a tough weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix last time out, but his 85th career win at the Styrian Grand Prix puts him right back into championship contention, and six wins behind the all-time 91 race win record set by Michael Schumacher.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Bottas wins chaotic Austrian Grand Prix as Norris claims debut podium

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory at a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix that saw just eleven cars reach the chequered flag, with Charles Leclerc in P2 and Lando Norris claiming his first ever podium in P3. Lewis Hamilton finished second on the road but dropped to fourth due to a five-second penalty he received for a collision with Alex Albon.

The race was sedate enough for the first ten laps. Bottas built up a 3.2-second gap to Verstappen, while Norris slipped back to P5 behind Albon and Hamilton. On lap 11, though, Verstappen lost power on the approach to Turn 3 and told his engineer that his car kept going into anti-stall. He limped back to the pits and retired on lap 13.

LAT Images

The next casualties were Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Ricciardo pulled into his garage with a cooling issue while Stroll, who had been struggling with a lack of power for several laps, retired due to a sensor issue.

Bottas had built up a six-second gap to Hamilton by lap 17, but on lap 21 Hamilton set a new fastest lap and began to reel his team-mate in. Four laps later, the gap was down to 3.8 seconds.

Lap 26 saw the first safety car of the race, brought out due to Kevin Magnussen suffering a brake failure at Turn 3. A flurry of pitstops ensued with every driver opting for the hard tyres except for Perez, who went with the mediums.

When the safety car period ended, Vettel lunged down the inside of Carlos Sainz going into Turn 3. He misjudged the attempt and span, dropping down the order to P15. While the incident was noted, no investigation was deemed necessary by the stewards.

On lap 42, Bottas and Hamilton were warned about sensor issues that had been detected in the gearbox of both cars and were told to stay off the kerbs. This warning was repeated several times and the gap between the two widened as Hamilton eased off slightly. Despite this apparent issue, the duo were still over ten seconds ahead of third-placed Alex Albon.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 51 saw the next retirements. George Russell ground to a halt from what had been a promising P12 and brought out the second safety car of the day. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, ran off the track at the final corner and pulled into the pits with seemingly the same brake problem that curtailed team-mate Magnussen’s race.

Red Bull chose to bring in Albon for a change to the soft tyres, losing P3 to Perez in the process, while both Mercedes stayed out on hard tyres that had already completed 25 laps by that point.

The Safety Car came in on lap 54 briefly, after which Albon re-took third place from Perez after Perez locked up going into Turn 3.

At that exact moment, however, the safety car was brought out again, this time because Kimi Raikkonen’s front-left tyre had come clean off the chassis going into the final corner. It was initially unclear whether it was Albon or Perez who had been ahead at the moment the safety car came out, but it was decided a few laps later that Albon had been slightly ahead of Perez and thus the Red Bull driver slotted into P3.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 60 saw the safety car come back in and Albon set about chasing after Hamilton on his newer soft tyres. He saw an opportunity going into Turn 4 and went for it, only for the two to come to blows. Albon span and fell down the order to last place. The incident was duly noted and investigated, with Hamilton being given a five-second penalty.

Albon slowed a couple of laps later, saying over the radio that his engine was stopping. He wound up finishing P13, or last.

Between lap 64 and lap 66, Leclerc got past Norris and then Perez to find himself in P3 behind the Mercedes duo. It looked as if Perez was in with a shout of finishing on the podium due to Hamilton’s penalty, only for his hopes to be dashed when he was awarded a five-second penalty of his own for speeding in the pitlane and then being overtaken by Norris.

Lap 70 saw the last retirement of the race when one of Daniil Kvyat’s tyres disintegrated going into Turn 1. He managed to bring the car to a stop behind the barriers at a marshall post.

Bottas crossed the line to take the chequered flag at the end of lap 71 with Hamilton in P2, Leclerc in P3 and Norris in P4. Hamilton’s penalty, though, dropped him to P4 and promoted Leclerc to second and Norris to the final podium position.

[Featured image – LAT Images]

“Put a Ring On It” – 2019 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

Beyoncé may have said “if you like it, then you should’ve put a ring on it”, but in motorsport we race the rings instead. Yes, it’s race weekend once again, as F1 is welcomed by the circuit previously known as the Österreichring!

It was known as such between 1969 and 1995, and then became known as the A1 Ring from 1996 to 2003. Finally, Dietrich Mateschitz bought the circuit and in 2008 started a reconstruction. From 2014, the newly-branded Red Bull Ring became host once again to a European round of the Formula One Championship.

The Red Bull Ring was originally 5.911km in length, with its weakness being its safety record and high speeds (second only to Silverstone during its Österreichring period). Something had to be done, and as such it was shortened to 4.326km in its guise as the A1 Ring, and again in 2016 to 4.318km.

Red Bull Ring sectors. Image courtesy of Pirelli.This weekend we head back to the Red Bull Rin  after last week’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, which was dominated by Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas finishing 1-2.

Can I mention hot air? No, not the untruths one may hear, but instead air streams from the African continent. Tyres could again play a massive part in the race this weekend, with it predicted to be one of the hottest days in Europe so far, courtesy of very warm air streams. Last weekend in France saw temperatures hit 56°C, but this weekend could hit 60°C. That alone will shift the working windows of the tyres and also will vary between teams . With higher air temps we could also see the 2019 aero regulations cause some teams issues with heat distribution.

Available tyres for the races up to the Russian GP. Image courtesy of Pirelli

The Red Bull Ring, following its 2014 redesign, is one of the shortest tracks on the F1 calendar, with the current configuration’s lap record being a 1:06.957, set by Kimi Raikkonen in 2018. With four sharp turns (T1, T3, T7 and T8) and three DRS zones allowing overtaking, the race is not a foregone conclusion.

Infograpics for the 2019 Red Bull Ring. Image courtesy of Pirelli

2019 has been a year of Mercedes dominance, with them having won all eight races so far – two for Valtteri Bottas and six for Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari has had correlation issues in their fluid dynamics simulation to wind tunnel analysis, hence the testing of new front wing and floor assemblies at Paul Ricard. With that issue presumably sorted, can their car finally show its promise?

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won here in 2018, and he will be hoping for that to happen again this year to finally break the Mercedes strong-hold on the championship.

And if Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc can’t mount a challenge? It will, yet again, be between the Mercedes boys of Hamilton and Bottas.

 

[Featured Image courtesy of Colombo Images/Scuderia Ferrari]