Race Watch 9
Styrian 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.
It seems as though Grands Prix (Prixs, Prixes, Pris?) in Austria conform to the old adage of London buses, doesn’t it? You wait for months for one to come along, and then you’re greeted with two back to back! Right, now that cliché’s in the open (someone had to make it, I’m taking one for the team), did the second Formula One race of the season give us any more of a representative idea of this years’ pecking order than last week? What were the main talking points from this weekend, and what did I personally make of them? More importantly, what were your thoughts? Do you agree with me, or do you think something different? Let me know in the comments below!
Now, unlike last week, I’m going to kick off this edition of Race Watch with qualifying. After all, what an experience that was, with the grid well and truly mixed up. Despite being widely regarded as running the third fastest car, the Racing Point drivers clearly hadn’t gotten round to copying the 2019 Mercedes’ wet setup yet. A disappointing qualifying for the soon-to-be Aston Martin team yielded starting positions of just 13th and 17th, with Sergio Perez very nearly being outqualified by both Williams cars!
That being said, George Russell very much proved the underlying pace and talent he possesses, with a remarkable session that culminated with a 12th place grid slot for Sunday. Williams claim that the car had the potential to make it into Q3, but I’m sure that they were just fine having to ‘make do’ with a first Q2 outing since 2018. Unfortunately, his trip into the gravel early on in the race whilst fighting with Kevin Magnussen dropped him back down to the rear of the field, meaning we were unable to see just how long he could’ve stuck with the pack.
The final topic from Qualifying I wish to touch on is the sheer dominance of Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap. Now admittedly the 1.2 second gap to Verstappen wasn’t wholly accurate as the dutchman was due to match Lewis’ provisional pole time before he decided to Tokyo Drift the final corner, but even if the Red Bull had finished that lap, Hamilton showed he had another four tenths in the bag. One twitter user jokingly claimed that the lap was so special the Briton might be Jesus and, to be honest, that connection he had with the water did seem unworldly…
Now then, onto the race proper. Sunday’s action was very much an ‘average’ Formula One race, rather than the absolute thriller of last weekend – although none of us really expected that to be topped so soon, right? Not to say this race was boring, however. Not at all.
To kick off proceedings we had on Ferrari flying over the yellow curb at turn 3 on the first lap, right into the rear wing of the other. A second race-ending collision between the pair in four races (because Brazil last year was somehow just 4 races ago!) certainly won’t help the downbeat morale of the red team, although Charles Leclerc’s immediate apology did at least negate any potential teammate squabbles in the paddock. There’s not really much personal opinion to add here, Vettel had nowhere to go and so you can’t attribute any blame towards him for the collision.
Other than the Russell excursion into the gravel, there wasn’t much more on-track action to be had until the closing stages of the race, really. The running order switched about a bit as the Racing Point’s found their strong underlying pace from Friday, whilst a poor pitstop for Sainz dropped him out of contention for the ‘best of the rest’ win. Once Bottas and Verstappen locked horns for a lap and a half over second place, however, all hell broke loose.
Sergio Perez, having steadily progressed from near enough the back of the grid, had caught Alex Albon, and proceeded to attempt a Hamilton-esque manoeuvre to
punt pass the Thai driver through turn 4. Alas, the Mexican didn’t have enough overlap to succeed, and only managed to break his own front wing. With the incident occurring on the penultimate lap, however, and with such a big gap to the group behind, the team left him out to safely secure fifth place.
Meanwhile, Lance Stroll attempted the divebomb of the decade (considering we’re only two races in) on Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, forcing the Aussie off the track whilst barely keeping himself within the white lines. This enabled Lando Norris, who had spent the last 10 or so laps creeping up on the pair, to pounce. Seizing the opportunity to power past Ricciardo, Stroll’s weaving meant Norris had to delay his attack on the Canadian until the final tour. His DRS-assisted pass on Stroll coming into turn 4 meant the McLaren driver had moved from eighth to sixth in effectively one lap, but he wasn’t done yet.
Perez’s limping vehicle was lapping considerably slower than the chasing McLaren-Racing Point-Renault group, so much so that they caught him in the final two turns. Norris got past the moving chicane just before the final corner in order to secure fifth, whilst Perez, Stroll and Danny Ric had a three-wide drag race to the line.
With just a tenth and a half separating the trio after 71 laps, this provided a fitting culmination to a hugely successful two weeks of racing at the Red Bull Ring, with zero positive COVID-19 results from over 10,000 tests across the two weeks. The next test for F1 now, though, is whether that can be replicated whilst also moving the entire circus to a different country in just a few days.
The last thing I want to write about, is my personal driver of the day. Now this is a left-field choice, however I’ve chosen to give it to the operator of the three trophy boxes. Rumour has it they were operated by remote-control car, and so the driver had a thankless task to complete such a high-pressure role with so little practice, and thoroughly deserves recognition.
With that being said, it’s off to Hungary for next week. A track that, historically at least, doesn’t produce the most enticing racing, but something is still better than nothing, and I’ll still be writing all about it.
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