Styrian Grand Prix preview: Déjà vu at the Red Bull Ring

F1

Formula 1 stays in Austria for race two of the 2020 season after a thrilling opener, but who can carry on their form from last weekend?

2020 Austrian GP

Round two in Austria. Will it live up to expectations?

Antonin Vincent / DPPI

The Austrian Grand Prix provided Formula 1 with the unforgettable restart it needed, with excitement and action up and down the field for almost every one of the 71 laps.

For the first time in the history of F1, the same circuit will host more than one race in the same season.

The Red Bull Ring may be the perfect place to host back-to-back races, with overtaking opportunities throughout a lap and with killer kerbs making reliability a factor once more.

Last weekend played host to a bizarre season-opener in which just 11 drivers saw the chequered flag, and for the first time in F1 history, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren all shared the podium.

In the days following the chaos, have teams managed to get on top of unreliability woes or are we set for a repeat and action from start to finish once again?

Here is the team-by-team guide ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix.

 

Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas, 2020 Austrian GP

It was the perfect start to 2020 for Valtteri Bottas but Mercedes might have a concern going into round two

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Valtteri Bottas made the perfect start to his 2020 season with victory in Austria  as team-mate Lewis Hamilton struggled despite showing decent pace in the build up to Sunday.

It wasn’t a totally smooth round one for the reigning champions though, even if their pace advantage looks to have grown over the winter. Fragility in the gearbox caused concerns all weekend, resulting in the team repeatedly telling both drivers to avoid using the brutal kerbs at the Red Bull Ring.

Problems stemming from electrical interference was the culprit and the team insists it will be no quick fix either. Team prinicipal Toto Wolff says team will have new parts to hopefully fix the issues it had in round one.

“The result of the first race looks good on paper, but the reality is that we were fortunate to finish the race,” he said.

“Reliability caused us real concern and it is something we are working on as our highest priority. In a shorter season with a yet to be determined number of races, every point counts, so we need to improve quickly on that front.

“Our main problems were with the electrical components of the gearbox, caused by the aggressive kerbs in Spielberg.

“We first noticed the issue on Friday and immediately started working on mitigations for the next races, both at the factory and at the track. We will run new components this weekend to improve the situation.”

 

Red Bull

Alex Albon, Lewis Hamilton, 2020 Austrian GP

Alex Albon and Lewis Hamilton came together for the second time in three races

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The only way is up for Red Bull after a double DNF to open its 2020 account. Max Verstappen‘s gamble for medium tyres looked to be playing out nicely until his power unit hit trouble while Alex Albon appeared to be on course for a podium and possible win until contact with Hamilton ended those aspirations.

Albon’s clash with Hamilton cost him a deserved maiden spot on the altered rostrum but the RB16 certainly is the closest competitor to Mercedes this season.

Those power unit issues that led to the retirement of both cars are not a big worry for the team heading into the second weekend on home soil, with Honda confident the seperate issues have been addressed in the build-up.

“The problems on the two Aston Martin Red Bull Racing cars in the last race were both electrical, but caused by different issues,” Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanaba said.

“We have been analysing both these matters together with the teams and we have put countermeasures in place for this weekend.

“As our power units do not have any damage caused by those issues, Max and Alex will use their same PU’s this weekend. This weekend, we must aim to finish the race with all four cars and achieve a good result with them.”

 

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, 2020 Austrian GP

Ferrari will be hoping new updates prove successful after a miserable opening weekend

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Ferrari’s opening 2020 weekend looked set to be a miserable one as Friday and Saturday revealed the Scuderia was lacking serious speed, particularly on the straights.

Charles Leclerc‘s podium was a great result and case of excellent damage limitation to go from ninth to second, but make no mistake the SF1000 is in trouble and threatened by the midfield.

Fast-tracked parts to second race to hopefully aid aerodynamic issues drivers suffered in round one then will be a welcome gift should they prove effective.

“The race team has stayed in Spielberg in between the first two races and back in Maranello, the factory is in full swing to try and come up with answers to the questions raised in the first Grand Prix,” team principal Mattia Binotto said.

“We knew we would have a tough start to the season and it was even more so than we had expected. That’s why we’re working flat out to try and already bring some of the updates due for Hungary to this next race. It’s a race against time but we’re doing our utmost.”

Of course, racing at the same location just a week later is the perfect opportunity to adjust from data gathered in weekend one and trial the new parts. Whether it will recover the 1sec deficit the 2020 Ferrari has versus its predecessor is highly unlikely.

“The fact we are racing again at the same track is a further reason to bring the updates here, so that we can confirm if they work and that our development direction is the right one.

“Our aim in the Styrian Grand Prix is to get all the potential out of our package and make the most of any opportunity to bring home as many points as possible.”

 

McLaren

Lando Norris, 2020 Austrian GP

The first taste of champagne for Lando Norris in F1

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

A second podium in three races for McLaren which is certainly a team on the up. Both Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz looked competitive in the race after struggling in the first stint and the former went on to achieve his first F1 podium in the process with a brilliant phase in the closing laps.

His rude but crucial overtake on Sergio Perez and fastest lap on the final tour gave the team a well-deserved reward as the Woking outfit continues to take strides to restoring itself at the head of the field.

The opening laps though might be the weak point the team focuses in on this weekend. Norris slipped from third on the grid and struggled to keep pace with the top three from that point on until the first safety car.

From that point on though, the team effected its strategy perfectly, to keep both drivers in the mix for major points, and an eventual podium finish.

More of the same will be the message, but will Racing Point have a say in the fight for best of the rest?

 

Racing Point

Sergio Perez, 2020 Austrian GP

Racing Point’s pre-season speed is legitimate

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Racing Point’s pre-season pace appears to be the real deal. The team looks to have made a real step forward since last season with its Mercedes-inspired car, and pace was genuine on race day.

Lance Stroll was denied a proper first race due to unreliability issues and Perez picked up a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane which rather ruined his hard work, but there is serious speed in the RP20.

The team will be keen to right the wrongs of last weekend and maximise its package, which looked to be the third fastest car in the field for parts of Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s frustrating to see a podium slip away in the final few laps,” said Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point team principal following the race.

“But it was difficult to hold off those cars with a tyre advantage. With so many Safety Car interruptions, we had some difficult decisions to make and we chose to preserve track position rather than pit.

“The cars behind us effectively had free pit stops and could react to what we did – pitting when we chose to stay out. That was certainly the case with the McLarens and Leclerc.”

 

Renault

Cyril Abiteboul, 2020 Austrian GP

All smiles at Renault under the masks after the big news that Alonso will return to the team in 2021

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

All the talk in the build up will be about the signing of Fernando Alonso in place of Daniel Ricciardo for 2021, but the team has work to do on track.

With attention back on the race weekend at hand, Renault missed out on the McLaren, Racing Point and Ferrari fight for fastest of the midfield, though that could have been different if Ricciardo got his final Q3 lap in but for yellow flags for Bottas’ spin.

The Australian didn’t make it far into the race last Sunday either and will be chomping at the bit to get a full race under his belt while Esteban Ocon languished on the fringes of the top 10 until Albon’s spin and retirement.

“The car is considerably better than last year,” Abiteboul said ahead of this weekend.

“This circuit was challenging for our car last year, and we have definitely made progress. We need to capitalise on the improvements. Qualifying was disappointing as both cars could have been higher up the grid.

“The order of the teams has moved around since the end of last year, and we are amongst several teams in an upper midfield group.”

 

AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly, 2020 Austrian GP

AlphaTauri’s first race was fairly anonymous

Peter Fox/Getty Images

“I think if someone had told us that we would have been P7 on Sunday we would have signed straight away, so I think we can be very happy with my result today, after a difficult start to the weekend,” was Pierre Gasly‘s assessment following last weekend’s race.

It was a fairly anonymous opening weekend for the AlphaTauri team, knocked-out in Q2 on Saturday but fighting for points on Sunday, it was a low-key opening weekend compared to other midfield rivals further up the order.

Daniil Kvyat‘s defence of eighth place came to an abrupt end as his AT01 suffered a suspension failure heading into Turn One in the closing laps.

Technical director Jody Egginton said afterwards that it had been a positive weekend and that more pace was on the way in the form of updates for round two.

“We have some work to do with our package to move it forwards, but we have good base car and we have developments on the way, so are looking forwards to the next races.”

 

Alfa Romeo

Antonio Giovinazzi, 2020 Austrian GP

A loose wheel was the low point in a disappointing weekend for Alfa Romeo

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Alfa Romeo confirmed earlier in the week that Robert Kubica would get his first outing in the 2020 car during FP1 for the Styrian Grand Prix.

The season got off to a mixed start for the team though as Kimi Räikkönen‘s race ended following his right front tyre flying off his car while team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi opened the team’s account, scoring points in ninth position.

The Italian’s opening lap was very impressive, taking four positions to move himself up into 14th place.

“We put up a big fight for this and in the end P9 is a great way to start the season,” he said after the race.

“I am really happy for the guys and girls in the garage and back at home. There’s still a lot to improve but it’s just the first race of the season: there’s plenty of time and I am already looking forward to being back in the car next week.”

 

Haas

Romain Grosjean, 2020 Austrian GP

Brake failure on both cars brought last year’s misery back to Haas

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Haas‘ woes continued on from 2019 as the team ran its brake configuration far too aggressively which resulted in a double brake failure for its drivers.

According to Romain Grosjean though, the brakes were not the biggest issue for the team.

“One of their main concerns as well is the pace. It seems to be the slowest car out there. Very tricky car to drive, especially in traffic,” Grosjean said following the Austrian GP.

“To me, the biggest problem at the minute is the performance of the car on its own.”

Correlation from the wind tunnel and simulation to race day was a huge issue for the American team last year, and Sunday saw similarities with last season’s problems according to team principal Guenther Steiner.

“Our Friday long-run pace was good. It was in line with some of our competitors who finished in the top 10.

“We need to understand exactly what happened and why we couldn’t repeat that on Sunday. We just need to ensure that a positive Friday translates into Sunday when it counts.”

 

Williams

George Russell, 2020 Austrian GP

George Russell was on the edge of the top 10 when his car hit trouble

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

There were positive signs during the first race of 2020 for Williams in spite of George Russell‘s retirement.

At the time of his power unit failing him and forcing retirement, he was on the fringes of the top 10 and looked to be at a competitive pace with those around him.

After, Nicholas Latifi took the baton and wasn’t far off scoring points himself as others hit trouble in front, ending the race in 11th position. It looked to be a world apart from some of the performances the team endured last year.

The car appears to be markedly faster, and while those reliability issues will worry other Mercedes runners this weekend, Williams will be hoping for more of the same this weekend.

Following Russell’s power unit issues, he will be taking fresh power unit elements for this weekend’s race, with a new ICE, MGU-H and turbo fitted for the race.

Jack Aitkin will also get his first taste behind the wheel of the FW43, taking over driving duties for FP1.