2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix report: Hamilton in command ahead of midfield drama

F1

Lewis Hamilton notched up his first win of the 2020 season in a comfortable 2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix for the Mercedes driver - as drama unfolded behind

Lewis Hamilton raises his hand in the air after winning the 2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring

Mark Thompson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Not every race can be a classic, but there was a sense of déjà vu in the final lap of the second race in Austria, helping bookend a Styrian Grand Prix that saw a dramatic opening.

Ferrari needed all the track time they could get after fast-tracking new parts originally scheduled for Hungary, because they then had the opportunity to carry out back-to-back comparisons on the same Red Bull Ring circuit. Given FP3 was cancelled and qualifying wet, the disappointing starting positions of 10th for Sebastian Vettel and 14th for Charles Leclerc – after a grid penalty – were less important than gaining data over a race distance in the dry.

So Turn Three on the first lap was an absolute disaster for the team.

“I put all the efforts of the team in the bin, so I’m very sorry. But it is not enough again.”

Bunched in the midfield, Leclerc dived to the inside to try and overtake a number of cars, but the man at the apex was his team-mate. Leclerc cut the corner, was launched off the inside kerb and climbed up over the sister Ferrari. Vettel’s rear wing was broken and his race was done, while Leclerc limped on for one more lap before the pack-up began.

“I was very surprised because I had the inside, and I was not expecting Charles to try something,” Vettel calmly said. “I don’t think there was any space, so obviously a big pity, something that we should avoid. But not much that I could have done differently. I was just taking it easy and conservative because it was already very busy. It is a hairpin, it is very tight, and just trying to place my car for the next straight, but by then I realised that I had quite some damage on the car.

“It is a shame. It was a bonus to come back here to the same track, and also today is very similar in term of conditions. But we will not get that answer [with the upgrades] I’m afraid. The car felt a lot better on Friday, and back to where it was last week up to the point where it went in the wrong direction. Yes it is a shame because also for the update we would really like to get the race on the line, and some laps to see where the car is. But unfortunately we will not get that answer.”

Charles Leclerc hits Sebastian Vettel in the opening laps of the 2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring

The collision came just three turns into the race

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

Sebastian Vettel pulls i to the oits with rear wing damage after a collision in the 2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix in Austria

Vettel retires. Leclerc would follow a lap later

Florent Gooden / DPPI

As Vettel and Leclerc met in the television pen, the pair spoke privately, and the man regarded as Ferrari’s future admitted the blame was all on him.

“Well, I apologised. Obviously excuses are not enough in times like this, I am just disappointed in myself. I have done a very bad job today. I let the team down.
“I can only be sorry, even though I know it is not enough. I hope I will learn from this and will come back stronger for the next races. But it is a tough time for the team. We don’t need that. The team doesn’t need that. And I put all the efforts of the team in the bin, so I’m very sorry. But it is not enough again.”

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By the time both Ferrari drivers were out of their cars, Lewis Hamilton was leading Max Verstappen away to restart the race after two laps behind the Safety Car to clear debris from the track. It was as close as Verstappen would get to Hamilton all afternoon.

Fresh from a stunning pole position lap, Hamilton had the Red Bull covered from that point onwards, opening up a gap of over two seconds almost instantly to stay out of DRS range, and then pulling a bigger margin on demand ahead of the first round of pit stops. Valtteri Bottas had similarly made swift work of Carlos Sainz after the restart to run third and start to close in on Verstappen, forcing Red Bull to cover off the undercut on lap 24.

Mediums to the end from that point wasn’t ideal, and Mercedes had the luxury of pitting Hamilton three laps later to lessen the concern for him. A lack of pace from Alex Albon in fourth – roughly a second per lap slower than the top three – meant Bottas also wasn’t under threat and could go aggressive with his strategy, extending his stint to lap 34 before pitting for mediums.

“Initially it was good,” Bottas said of his chase of Verstappen. “Why the lap times kind of stabilised, I don’t know if that was shown on TV, but I went through quite a bit of traffic, a group of many backmarkers and it was actually pretty shocking with some of them, because sometimes I spent more than one lap behind with them having blue flags and staying in the way. They were just fighting each other in front of me and not really caring they had blue flags. I hope that will have to be looked into. I think that’s why I was not getting the lap times. Finally, in the end, it was pretty good once I got back into free air, managed to find the rhythm again, was pretty consistent, the car felt really good, so I think that was that.”

Valtteri Bottas follows Max Verstappen in the 2020 f1 Styrian Grand Prix

Bottas vs Verstappen was no battle of equals

Leonhard Foeger/AFP via Getty Images

In the final ten laps, Bottas really started to close in on Verstappen – who had a slightly damaged front wing – and the pair went side-by-side through Turn Four with five laps remaining. On that occasion, Verstappen regained the position brilliantly around the outside, but it was a stay of execution.

“In the end of course with Valtteri, I could see him coming,” Verstappen said. “My tyres were pretty dead. Up until then for me it was a really boring race, just seeing Lewis pulling away. I just tried to do my own pace. One lap of fighting with Valtteri was cool but of course I knew then the lap afterwards he was going to pass me anyway. But a bit of excitement is good.”

Albon might not have factored into the front three battle – as Verstappen even took a late stop for soft tyres in search of a fastest lap he ultimately didn’t get – but he was at the epicentre of more drama at Turn Four.

Sergio Perez produced a beautiful drive from 17th on the grid, easing into the top ten in the early laps on soft tyres and then picking off Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly, before running long in clear air and switching to mediums as late as lap 38.
As he rejoined, Perez was in a battle with Carlos Sainz who had been struggling despite holding fifth place in the first stint, and then had dropped back due to a slow left rear at his pit stop. Sainz breezed past using DRS into Turn Four as Perez had to get his tyres up to temperature, but the Mexican pulled a beautiful move around the outside of Turn Six to regain the position.

Sergio Perez with a damaged front wing ahad of Lance Stroll in the 2020 f1 Styrian Grand Prix in Austria

Damaged front wing cost Perez on the final lap

Leonhard Foeger/AFP via Getty Images

The next ten laps were impressive as Perez worked his way past team-mate Lance Stroll in some hard but fair racing, and then easily cleared Daniel Ricciardo to take fifth and set off after Albon. After a number of fastest laps, Perez’s progress stalled until he made a move down the inside into Turn Four on the penultimate lap. Light contact saw front wing damage and Albon pulled clear, while Perez started limping home.

And that’s where the déjà vu kicked in.

Lando Norris had appeared to be struggling on high fuel after suffering from pain throughout the weekend, but the McLaren comes alive on lower fuel and the star of last weekend’s race was all over his team-mate in the second half of the race, with Sainz graciously accepting a team order to let him go.

From there, Norris reeled in Ricciardo and Stroll fighting ahead of him, with Stroll having struggled to find a way past the Renault in the same way his team-mate did. Finally, frustration got the better of the Canadian and he went for a lunge into Turn Three on the penultimate lap, forcing both wide. Norris took advantage to ensure Ricciardo fell behind both cars, and then on the final lap dispatched Stroll into Turn Four.

Lando Norris battles with Lance Stroll during the 2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring

Norris and Stroll in one of several tussles

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

That wasn’t the end of the excitement though, as Perez’s front wing was hanging off and in the remaining four corners Norris closed in and swept by into the final corner to take a fifth place in perhaps more dramatic fashion than last week’s podium.

“It was really fun, I got the last three positions in the last three laps,” Norris said. “It shows keep fighting until the very last lap, especially with Sergio I overtook him into the last corner. It was a fun race, probably the best race I’ve done in Formula 1.”

Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo finished three-wide in that order, covered by just 0.2sec, while Sainz took ninth and beat Verstappen to the fastest lap after a late pit stop for softs. Daniil Kvyat was tenth as AlphaTauri ended up in a bit of a race of their own, unable to match the leading midfield teams but not under major threat from the likes of Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams.

But the action didn’t finish there, as Renault protested the legality of the Racing Point – and whether they designed all of their listed parts themselves – after the flag. Watch this space.

Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line to win the 2020 F1 Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring

2020 Styrian Grand Prix results

Position Driver Team Time Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1hr 22min 50.683sec 25
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +13.719sec 18
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull +33.698 15
4 Alex Albon Red Bull +44.400 12
5 Lando Norris McLaren +1min 01.470sec 10
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point +1min 02.387sec 8
7 Lance Stroll Racing Point +1min 02.453sec 6
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +1min 02.591sec 4
9 Carlos Sainz McLaren +1 lap 3*
10 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri +1 lap 1
11 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo +1 lap
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
13 Romain Grosjean Haas +1 lap
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +1 lap
15 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1 lap
16 George Russell Williams +2 laps
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams +2 laps
Esteban Ocon Renault DNF
Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari DNF

 

*Additional point for fastest lap

 

F1 Drivers’ Championship standings after Round Two (Styrian GP)

Position Driver Team Points
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 43
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 37
3 Lando Norris McLaren 26
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 18
5 Sergio Perez Racing Point 16
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 15
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren 13
8 Alex Albon Red Bull 12
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 6
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point 6
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 4
12 Esteban Ocon Renault 4
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 2
14 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 1
15 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 0
17 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo 0
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 0
19 Romain Grosjean Haas 0
20 George Russell Williams 0

 

F1 Constructors’ Championship standings after Round Two (Styrian GP)

Position Team Points
1 Mercedes 80
2 McLaren 39
3 Red Bull 27
4 Racing Point 22
5 Ferrari 19
6 Renault 8
7 AlphaTauri 7
8 Alfa Romeo 2
9 Williams 0
10 Haas 0