After four months without F1 we were treated to a spectacular race in Austria, which saw Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas take the first place spot. Behind him, plenty of chaos took place.
Repeat of Brazil
Lewis Hamilton taking out Alexander Albon is something that we have all seen before, however it is something that we did not expect to see again. Coming down the hill towards the end of the DRS zone, Albon made a move around the outside of the hairpin on Hamilton, however contact was made of the outside of the corner.
“Brazil was 50/50, I felt like I did the move already and I was already focused on Bottas in front, it was just so late for contact” is how Albon summed up the incident talking to Sky Sports F1. In the heat of the moment, the RedBull driver referred to Lewis as a “sore loser”, letting his true feelings out. Hamilton took a more laid-back response to it, suggesting that he thought it was a ‘Racing incident’ which could prove to divide fans.
Lando off to a flyer
Arguably one of the best results of the last few years saw Lando Norris take advantage of the numerous penalties given out in the closing stages of the race, coming across the line in 3rd. Throughout the weekend Lando had been fast, qualifying 4th, being bumped up to 3rd after Hamilton was penalized in Qualifying. An almost perfect race from the young Brit as he continues to show promise in his early career.
To make the race even more perfect, he also managed to claim the fastest lap of the race. The highlight of the celebrations was arguably the childlike response over the team radio after the flag had dropped. A large bleep following him panicking that he was celebrating to early, would surely have bought a smile to any F1 fans face.
Nine drivers fail to finish
Last season’s Austrian Grand Prix was the only race on the calendar that saw all cars finish the race. This year’s offering saw nine cars fail to make it to the end, with issues ranging from being taken out, losing wheels and a large number of drivers succumbing to electrical and mechanical issues, ranging from gearbox sensors coming loose to brake failure.
The Kerbs where the main issues for many of the drivers, with the rugged design and reliance on them through many of the corners, it was a struggle to keep a balance between pace and care. Lance Stroll and George Russell had issues with the sensors on their cars due to the kerbs, and it caused the two Mercedes to take it easy in the final few laps, in order to keep the car in check, as the respective engineers referred to the gear box issues being ‘critical’.
Ferrari off the pace
From what we have seen of Ferrari, it looks like it could be a long season for the Maranello based team. Seeing both cars struggle to get out of Q2 on Saturday, with Sebastian Vettel finishing the session 11th and Charles Leclerc just getting through to Q3 in 10th. The woes continued today, with Vettel still struggling to find pace, finishing four seconds behind the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi in 10th, following an ill-timed move on Carlos Sainz earlier in the race. David Coulthard described it as “a rookie mistake, not the move of a four-time world champion”.
Leclerc, like Lando Norris, took advantage of the carnage to produce a second-place finish, proving to be a silver lining to a troublesome weekend. Ferrari will look to improve next weekend, however some big set up changes are likely to be needed.
Same but different
The first weekend back also gave us a taste of what we can expect from Formula One going forward during the current pandemic situation. We got our first glimpse of a socially distanced podium and a change to see how each different team is contributing to help out in the paddock.
The socially distant podium, with only the three drivers on the podium donning face masks, seemed strange, but as soon as the champagne began to flow, everything seemed more normal. Another hint of normality was the post-race interviews, the only dissimilarity being the face masks that many of the drivers wore.
It is something that everyone will get more used to in due time, if the races prove to be as exciting as today's, I don’t think that anyone will have any complaints.