Formula 1 Steiermark/Styrian Grand Prix
Circuit: Red Bull Ring
Duncraig Dan 2020, Chapter 2: Styria, it’s just Syria with more Austrians
Leg Two of the action from the Red Bull Ring, the first time in F1 history that a track has hosted a double-header, this time for one-off inaugural running of the Styrian Grand Prix, with Spielberg obviously being in the Austrian state of Steiermark, which English speakers refer to by the Latin name Styria.
The big news in the wake of last Sunday:
Ferrari-owned Mugello, traditionally known for it’s two-wheeled action, will make it’s Formula 1 debut, timed after Monza so it can be Ferrari’s 1000th World Championship race, with Sochi joining the revised calendar, while in driver news…
FERNANDO ALONSO WILL RETURN TO RENAULT in 2021.
I absolutely cannot wait to hear the radio message, “GP2 CHASSIS, GP2 CHASSIS, AGH!”
The weekend began swimmingly for ‘us’, as Dan The Man lost the rear of his R.S.20 at Turn 9 during Free Practice 2, slamming rear-first into the barrier (Load of good that gravel trap did), and hobbling away after hitting his knee on the steering wheel during the crash.
Dan was cleared to race after a visit to the medical centre, and Renault somehow got the car fixed before curfew.
In other news, Lando Norris, fresh off his 3rd placing, was given a 3 place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in Practice 1, which was the only penalty from Friday.
The once-scenic Styrian Mountains were hammered with storms for what seemed like all of Saturday morning and afternoon, wiping out Practice 3, red flagging the Formula 3 race after 60% distance, and delaying the start of qualifying for 46 minutes.
There was a chance that if Qualifying couldn’t be held on Saturday, and it was still raining on Sunday morning, that the gird would be decided by the times from practice 2- In which case, Daniel Ricciardo would’ve started last because of his crash.
While the world turned, Red Bull held a light show, using the LED lights on the Turn 10 Grandstand seats to good effect.
Eventually, the session did begin, albeit in heavy rain, and Q1 saw two major surprises – George Russell finally made it into Q2, becoming the first Williams driver to get into Q2 since Sergei Sirotkin in Brazil 2018, while Sergio Perez was a rather shock exit, qualifying 17th, the apparent result of just not being used to water, or Racing Point going with dry car setup for Sunday.
After last week’s mild shitshow, Ferrari brought a couple of upgrades from Maranello, among them a new front wing and rear diffuser, but once again, the Prancing Horse had a car knocked out in Q2, as Charles LeClerc was caught out by the ever-increasing rain at the end of the session and could only qualify 11th, and to make matters worse, he was investigated for blocking Daniil Kvyat, and dropped 3 positions to start 14th.
But, good news for ‘us’, because Ricciardo was able to make another appearance in the Top 10, recovering well from Friday’s shunt, as Q3 saw the rain continue, and the standing water on the track made it a true test of skill for the drivers, which I’d think is exactly what fans want to see in Formula 1, being the premier motorsport category on the globe.
Max Verstappen was looking half a chance of claiming pole for Red Bull, but in a superb display of power, Lewis Hamilton just kept lowering the benchmark, and set a 1.19.702, almost 8-tenths faster than Verstappen, and the 6-time champion lowered it again for good measure on his last lap with a 1.19.273, claiming another pole position by 1.2 seconds.
1.2 seconds…. He wasn’t driving through water, he was walking on it.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff described Hamilton’s performance as being “Like seeing a unicorn,” although this particular unicorn wasn’t blinding anyone with a stray hit with it’s horn.
It was the third time in as many visits that Verstappen started 2nd at the Red Bull Ring, Carlos Sainz was the latest McLaren to start in the Top 3, Bottas was 4th, Esteban Ocon qualified 5th, Renault’s best starting position since Monza last year, Norris was demoted to 9th, Pierre Gasly was a nice 7th, Ricciardo started 8th, and more Ferrari qualifying misery saw Vettel start 10th.
A good Saturday for Dan and Renault, which would hopefully be converted into something on Sunday.
For all the shows of support and the song and dance about taking a united stand against racism and discrimination, F1 seem to love shooting themselves in the foot.
It was nothing to do with the decisions to kneel or stand among the drivers, but on Sunday, FOM cut away from the drivers’ pre-race show of support before all of the drivers had reached the grid.
In fact, the Red Bull Air Show got more screen time pre-race, and that was as enjoyable as a piece of gum you’ve already chewed.
As Andrew Gaze would say, TURN IT UP.
Race (71 laps)
Thanks to the wet qualifying, the drivers were free to start on whatever tyre they wanted, and the Top 7 cars started on Soft tyres, while Ricciardo was only driver in the Top 10 on Mediums, aiming for a long opening stint before ending the race with an apparent Soft tyre advantage.
At the start, Hamilton was off and gone from pole, Ricciardo made light contact with Gasly but got away with it, jumping up to 7th, and completing Ferrari’s horror weekend, Vettel and LeClerc collided at Turn 3, with LeClerc completing his dumb move by braking too deep, bumping the kerb and destroying Vettel’s rear wing, and the German was gone instantly, bringing out a Lap 1 Safety Car because of debris, while LeClerc needed a new front wing and dropped to dead last, but with floor damage, he retired on Lap 5.
What an utter disaster of a major sporting team… For 12 years running.
As the race restarted on Lap 4, George Russell was also enjoying life in the midfield, but he went wide at Turn 5 after a fight with Magnussen, dropping him from 11th down to the familiar confines of 18th.
Obviously poor old George got altitude sickness.
With green conditions, the race would settle into a period of normalcy – Hamilton pulled away from Verstappen, with Bottas and Albon passing Sainz to put both Mercedes and Red Bulls in the Top 4, and in the meantime, Ricciardo was being held up by Ocon, which was starting to waste the medium tyre strategy, and Renault should’ve just called for intervention to get him ahead, because the Racing Points were starting to close up, although eventually, Ricciardo got past into Turn 4 on Lap 19.
Bloody Ocon – If there’s one thing that still hasn’t changed from his days slamming into walls with Perez at Force India, it’s that he struggles with the concept of a team player.
Try doing it with Fernando Alonso in the garage next year.
Summing up the gap between the top drivers & cars and everyone else, within 21 laps, effectively 17 because of the Safety Car, Albon in 4th was 24 seconds behind Hamilton.
Albon is a decent young driver, but goodness me, he’s stuck in purgatory between being too good for the midpack, and not being able to hold a candle to his teammate – A Formula 1.25 driver, if you will.
Speaking of his teammate, Verstappen was the first key driver in on Lap 25, putting on a set of mediums, and with the gap back to Albon, he was able to rejoin in 3rd, in what was described as block off a potential Merc undercut with Bottas, almost an acknowledgement that they couldn’t defeat them in a straight fight.
Out of the blue, Ocon retired the very next lap, with what Renault described as a suspected cooling issue, the exact same cause for Ricciardo’s retirement last week, which is a serious worry already for the French team.
It might have been caution from the pit wall to avoid a double DNF, but it felt like Ricciardo’s Renault wasn’t as fast as the Racing Points or the McLarens after the retirement.
Hamilton was brought in on Lap 28 to avoid being stuck behind Gasly, and he resumed with a 5 second lead to Verstappen, who realised the brutal truth – He simply didn’t have the pace to fight Hamilton.
Sainz pitted on Lap 33, and McLaren had a horrible time with the left rear wheelnut, costing him about 3 seconds, which was a key moment, because Sainz was just on a second ahead of Ricciardo when he pitted.
Bottas pitted from the lead on Lap 34, giving him 10 laps younger tyres to attack Verstappen and make it a Mercedes 1-2.
Ricciardo pitted on Lap 38 for a set of Softs, and he emerged ahead of Lance Stroll, Perez and Sainz, putting him in a promising 5th place, but summing up Renault’s averageness, Ricciardo was being mown down by the Racing Points, who, on the mediums, had the pace to nearly run each other off the road fighting for 6th and 7th and still carve into the deficit, and Perez went straight into 5th with little resistance, and Stroll was almost certainly going to pass Dan by race end.
Noticeably, neither the Soft or Hard tyre, which was only being run by a struggling Gasly (Who had floor damage) down in 15th, was getting any form of dividend compared to last weekend.
Still, Ricciardo fought as hard as he could from the son of Lawrence Stroll, seemingly always getting a good blast out of Turn 1 & Turn 3 with some smart battery use to keep him stuck behind, as Perez set off after Albon in 4th, and he set multiple fastest laps along the way.
Meantime, Stroll’s inability to pass Ricciardo was leaving the door open for Sainz and Norris to creep up and start a 4-way fight for 6th and a valuable 8 points.
In the fight for 2nd, Verstappen was told he’d picked up slight front wing damage on his endplate, which had a major impact on downforce, and simultaneously, Bottas was told that he’d be right on the Red Bull’s rear end by the last lap, but it was going to end up being a bit sooner than that.
Perez had caught up to Albon with 15 laps remaining, but as Martin Brundle alluded to, it was proving a classic case of it being one thing to catch up, and another to pass, and he found himself suffering the exact same problem as his teammate.
As the race entered the Final 10 laps, Verstappen was looking like a sitting duck with the pace of Bottas behind him, while at McLaren, Norris was much faster than Sainz in their fight for 8th, and Sainz agreed to play the team game and let Norris through, so he could have a shot at catching Ricciardo and Stroll, which proved to be a spot-on decision, and one that Renault should’ve taken during the first stint.
Backing it up, Norris set the fastest lap on Lap 65… only to lose the bonus point back to Hamilton 2 laps later.
Bottas was all over Verstappen on Lap 66, and he did get past under DRS approaching Turn 4 to make it a Mercedes 1-2, but Verstappen didn’t lie down and stayed level all the way to Turn 5, holding position with a superb piece of driving, in an inferior car on shot tyres.
Bottas made it stick a lap later, and the 1-2 was all set.
With enough of a gap to Kvyat in 10th, on Lap 68, Sainz pitted and went for the Fastest Lap bonus point, and with 3rd secure, Verstappen did the same with 3 laps remaining, only to rejoin in traffic and never get a clear shot.
In a major moment for the midpack battle, for the second weekend running, Albon was hit by a Mercedes-powered car at Turn 4, but this time, it was Perez who came off second best, severely damaging his front wing, leaving him trundling around in a damaged car for the final 3 laps.
Well, if you remember Brazil last year, Albon does have a history of being hit by the 2019 Mercedes.
On the penultimate lap, Stroll saw Norris in his mirrors, crapped bricks and decided to make a desperate pass on Ricciardo, who left himself vulnerable, by running him wide at Turn 3, also putting all 4 wheels off the track, which would usually constitute an illegal pass, but Stroll got ahead, as did, Norris, who was now all over the Canadian, and Ricciardo had lost 2 places by almost being run in to the Styrian Mountains.
Shades of the Verstappen-LeClerc pass at the same spot last year, although that time, Verstappen at least stayed on the track – That was all four wheels off the track, and not to mention Stroll rejoined straight into the path of Norris.
Funnily enough, the trio were the last of the drivers on the lead lap, and as they went around for the last lap, only seconds later, Hamilton crossed for an emphatic 85th victory in Formula 1, with Bottas in 2nd to cap off the first Mercedes 1-2 of the season, Verstappen 3rd and Albon a lonely 4th, once again a mile off Verstappen, while further back, things were about to get WILD.
Norris flew past Stroll, while Perez’ front wing was now destroyed, which somehow didn’t earn him a mechanical black flag in those final laps, and with only corners remaining, he was no hope of finishing 5th, and Last Lap Specialist Norris, getting the order for “Scenario 7”, caught him at the penultimate corner, then out of the final corner, it was a 3 way fight between Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo, which nearly ended in tears, and typical luck for us Aussies, it was Dan who came in last in the 3-horse war and finished 8th.
That final lap kind of summed up the race… there was more action than the other 70!
Hilariously, before the collision, Perez got the vote for Driver Of The Day on F1.com, which is cast shortly before the race finishes, on the assumption that he’d fly past Albon and get a very good 4th after starting 17th.
The end result – He achieved the great coincidence of finishing both races at the Red Bull Ring in 6th.
Hamilton made it 14 consecutive seasons winning at least one race (1 short of Michael Schumacher’s record 15), and he joined our own Sir Jack Brabham as the only drivers to win a races in 3 different decades, and despite finishing a lap down, Sainz set a new lap record for the Red Bull Ring – 1.05.619 – And was able to turn 2 points into 3, while here’s the crazy stat of the day:
No Ferrari-powered cars scored points for the first time since Mexico 2015.
In a different podium ceremony to last week, the drivers and the winning team were presented their trophies via these downright hilarious remote-controlled robot stands, who are now classified as dignitaries under the FIA’s own sporting regulations.
Of course, those robots did more miles than Ferrari on Sunday.
So let’s go through this incident, and yes, I am SHITTY about it.
Stroll made a late lunge with absolutely no hope of making the corner, and if Ricciardo had turned in to the apex, they’d have crashed, and everyone would’ve rightfully blamed Stroll for a desperate move gone wrong.
Then after running Ricciardo off the track, instead of staying on the track and making it a legal move, Stroll put all four wheels off the track and forced Ricciardo even wider, which, last time I checked, was NOT a legal racing move, and should’ve been a simple case of making the drivers swap places.
Based on Ricciardo’s comments post-race, he was expecting a penalty….
But somehow, the four neanderthals on the stewards panel called it a racing incident.
Living up to my angry expectations, Renault did fire in a protest, but it wasn’t about the decision not to penalise Stroll….
Instead of going for second base and getting a decision overturned to get a couple of vital points, the French decided to go for the home run and wipe out their rivals, in some kind of revenge act for what Racing Point did to them in Japan last year (Both Renaults disqualified after RP waited for them to get a good result to fire in a protest about their brake adjustment system).
Still, this is going to go absolutely nowhere, because unless Renault have got absolute proof that RP are using the same parts , the FIA Technical Department are going to laugh them out, because they had apparently inspected both Racing Point and Mercedes and ticked the car off in pre-season testing, despite it being a damn replica of the 2019 Mercedes,which begs the question as to why more of the useless teams in the field even bother designing their own cars and just copy a more successful car.
The 2020 Racing Point is the prime example of the phrase “You can copy my homework, but don’t copy it too much.”
NEXT UP: The Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring…. There could be about 3 overtakes for the race.