Austrian Grand Prix
Welcome to Race Watch, a supplementary feature running alongside my blog designed for me to project any opinions that may have arisen from the motorsport events I viewed over the previous weekend.
Considering the sheer number of changes that were necessary in order to bring the spectacle of Formula One to life in the current world we live in, and despite a chaotic race that will certainly be remembered for a long time, very little actually changed when it came to on-track performance. Considering this is being published many hours after the race has finished, this won’t be a traditional ‘review’ of what happened during the Austrian Grand Prix. No, instead this is about my own observational analysis of what happened. This is the return of my #RaceWatch series…
So, after an 8 month lay-off, the F1 season finally kicked off in Austral-, sorry, no, it was Austria. Despite such a long break, however, many of Formula One’s idiosyncrasies remained. In fact, it almost felt as if someone was playing bingo with F1’s running jokes. Not entirely sure what I’m talking about? Here’s the bingo card:
Daniel Ricciardo breaking down:
Since his run to third in the Driver’s Championship in 2016, the sheer number of retirements that the ever-smiling Aussie has had is remarkable. Six non-finishes in 2017, eight in 2018 and a further four (five if you count the Japanese DQ) last year ranks as the most unclassified finishes by any driver on the grid over the last three years, and this weekend was no different. Overheating issues on this occasion meant a premature end after 17 laps for Ricciardo, who must be wishing away the days before he gets to jump into next year’s McLaren.
Romain Grosjean crashing on his own:
Fresh from his midweek comments claiming Lewis Hamilton’s reported $40m wages are ‘unacceptable’ and calling for a wage cap, the Swiss-born Frenchman once again subjected himself to an unforced error, after seemingly driving into the gravel after the exit of turn 4, sending his Haas into a pirouette. A driver who has proven in the past to be extremely quick, having 10 podium finishes to his name, it seems that as each season progresses more and more mistakes creep into his driving. Speaking of which…
Sebastian Vettel spins:
A four-time world champion, the third most successful Ferrari driver of all time (in terms of race wins), and yet a man without a contract for 2021. Based on this weekend, you’d have a hard time explaining why Ferrari have made the wrong choice. Outpaced by both his teammate and the man replacing him all weekend, failed to make Q3 for the first time in his Ferrari career (when no external circumstances have been at play), and another unforced error that resulted in a spin. Unfortunately, it’s all going wrong for the German. At least he finished in the points, mind.
Haas having a shocker:
In all fairness, this weekend wasn’t totally horrendous for Guenther Steiner’s team. They weren’t both knocked out in Q1, after Grosjean managed to qualify 15th, and the drivers didn’t take each other out. Unfortunately, that’s about where the positives end. Comfortably the eighth fastest team, and a double DNF due to AWOL brakes meant another sub-par weekend for the American outfit.
Hamilton refusing to let Albon past:
Admittedly, whilst I personally am ecstatic about Norris’ podium, which came as a direct result of Hamilton’s penalty for spinning Albon into the turn 4 gravel, the penalty does seem a little harsh on the reigning World Champion. After all, looking back at the incident, Hamilton had full lock on his wheel and neither was he pressing the fast pedal, meaning that he physically couldn’t turn any more than he did. That being said, you can’t blame the Red Bull driver for the incident either. Alex was in front of Lewis, and was right on the edge of the circuit. In all honesty, this was pretty much the definition of a racing incident. Considering how much his pace seemed to have improved this weekend, Albon will certainly get his maiden podium soon. That wait will just have to continue for at least another week, though.
Right then, what other talking points were there? Too many for me to go into depth, so to round up, here’s my ‘Single Sentence Summaries:’
Ferrari Engines: Not an ideal scenario when all three Ferrari-powered teams are more than half a second slower than their qualifying times at the same track last year.
Williams (I’m splitting this one into three parts): Big steps forward from last year are promising.
George Russell: Nearly making Q2 was very impressive, would almost certainly have scored his first points had he not broken down.
Rookie Of The Year: Nicholas Latifi in the box seat for this award, with the qualifying deficit to his teammate suggesting he’s already showing equal pace to Robert Kubica, and an eleventh place finish.
Pink Mercs: Considering all of the pre-season hype, being outqualified by McLaren and just a sixth place out of eleven finishers is a poor weekend for Racing Point.
Lando Norris: After qualifying fourth on genuine pace and finishing with a maiden podium, the youngest driver on the grid could very easily finish the season as best of the rest in the Championship, assuming he’s able to perform consistently. Easily the best weekend he’s had in his albeit short F1 career to date.
Well, after that race I’m actually a little worried the Formula One season may have peaked too soon. There’s only one way to find out, though. The Austrian Grand Prix Pt 2 is the same time next week, and my stupid remarks will follow!
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