Styrian GP 2020: Talking Points
Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

In this article, key talking points from this weekend's Styrian GP will be discussed, from the uber-competitive midfield cars, to yet more upset within the Ferrari garage.

  • Failing Ferrari

After their average performance last weekend in the first race of the season, the legendary team had a lot to prove as the drivers returned to the Red Bull Ring on Friday. Performances in both FP1 and FP2 were extremely disappointing for team principal Mattia Binotto and the team, with the drivers barely scraping the Top 10.

With FP3 cancelled due to heavy rain, the drivers headed into qualifying with a lot of time to make up. It became very clear, however, that Ferrari simply do not have the pace in their cars this year, compared to not just the top teams, but also plenty of the midfield cars.

53-time race winner Sebastian Vettel qualified in a very average 10th place, and, following a 3-place penalty for obstruction, Charles Leclerc was to line up in 14th position on the grid. 

Coming into the race on Sunday, fans felt that things could not get any worse for the boys in red - sadly this was not the case. A first-lap collision between the two Ferrari drivers resulted in not just one, but both cars retiring from the race before the rest of the cars had completed their fourth lap.

This was the second time in four races that the teammates had collided on track and ended the team's hopes for points. Although 22-year-old Leclerc took responsibility for the incident, this event is sure to yet again increase the tension between drivers within the garage. 

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After the dramatic revelation from Vettel that he was not even involved in talks with Ferrari before they planned the ending of his contract and replacement, things have been going from bad to worse at the Scuderia Ferrari camp.

Although they approached the season with the speculation that their cars would not quite match the pace of Mercedes and Red Bull, these past two weekend's performances have been nothing short of disastrous for the Italian team.

From recent qualifying and race results, it is hard to believe that the team in red are 16-time World Constructors Champions. They certainly have a lot to make up for as we quickly approach this weekend's race in Hungary. Can they turn this season around?

  • Last Lap Lando

20-year-old British driver Lando Norris ended his debut season last year in 11th place in the driver's standings and with some solid racing experience. As this season began, all eyes were on his McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz, following the announcement that he would replace Vettel at Ferrari in 2021.

However, as we round up race two at the Red Bull Ring, the young Brit finds himself in the spotlight, following two impressive races that have placed him in 3rd in the standings, only behind the two Mercedes drivers. 

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Norris' first-ever podium finish last weekend proved a hugely important and emotional landmark in the young driver's career, no doubt boosting his confidence coming into part two of the Austrian double-header. The McLaren driver lined up in a respectable 9th on the grid at the start of this weekend's race, following a three-place penalty for overtaking under the yellow flag.

He demonstrated some clean and solid driving throughout the race, but - just as in the previous week - it was his final lap where the Bristol-born star truly showed his talent.

By passing both the Racing Point cars in just the one lap, Norris finished the second race of the season in P5. Following the race which he labelled his "best in F1", the 20-year-old found himself with 26 points in the driver's standings - already more than half of his total points in the whole of 2019.

Although early days in the season, the media and fans are keeping a close eye on Norris, who, depending on the next few months and years, could be another future British champion. Perhaps spending months as a Twitch gamer and streamer is the key to boosting your F1 results.... somebody tell Ferrari. 

  • The Mighty Midfield 

Despite domination yet again from the lightning-quick Mercedes cars, the real excitement from the Styrian GP came from the midfield, in particular from Racing Point, Renault and McLaren. French driver Esteban Ocon impressed in qualifying, lining up in 5th place on the grid for Sunday's race, whilst his Renault teammate Ricciardo bounced back from a nasty crash in FP2 to secure 8th.

During the race the Aussie pressed hard,  gaining a place even before the post-safety car restart on lap 4, and was soon in battle with his teammate, eventually passing him around lap 20.

Meanwhile, the two Racing Point cars flew up the field, with Perez quickly jumping up to 9th place despite starting in a disappointing 17th. Stroll also was able to take advantage of the Pink Ferrari's epic pace, quickly getting into the points. On lap 38 Sergio Perez had reached 4th, but soon had to dip into the pits for a change of tyres. 

We are already aware of the success of McLaren's younger driver, but his teammate Carlos Sainz also put in a cracking performance, finishing the race in 9th. The papaya cars often found themselves battling with the pink Racing Points, and, after Ocon retired due to cooling issues mid-race, Ricciardo fought hard for Renault within this scrap. 

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All three of these teams have presented extremely competitive cars for this 2020 season, and we can be certain to see the six drivers wheel to wheel throughout the remainder of the race weekends. The final two laps of the Red Bull Ring this weekend were a fine example of exciting clashes between these teams, with Norris, Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo battling to the last second as the chequered flag was waved. 

For more evidence of the extreme rivalries between these midfield teams, look no further than Renault's formal protest to the FIA regarding the legality of the Racing Point car. 

  • Victorious Valtteri?

Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has proved yet again this weekend his raw talent on the track, with a solid 2nd place finish that secured the Mercedes 1-2. Off the success of last weekend's win, Bottas achieved a more than acceptable 4th in qualifying, a position that enabled him to progress through the field as the laps flew by.

His experience and calmness in the car kept him pushing forward, allowing him to inch closer to Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who he eventually passed on lap 67. 

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Although early days, Bottas currently tops the driver's standings with 43 points, whilst Hamilton inches close behind him with 37. Last year's first two races saw the same pattern of wins for Mercedes, with the Finn winning the first and the Brit snatching the second. Multiple world-champ Hamilton later went on to win his 6th title, an event that could certainly play out again this season.

However, there seems to be a new fire in Bottas, as he closely contests his teammate in practice, qualifying and in racing conditions. Is it time we stop thinking of the 30-year-old as simply a second driver?

It will be interesting how the two Silver Arrows drivers split the wins this season, and, perhaps we will see Bottas finally achieve an F1 World Championship title. Only time will tell.

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