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2021 Austrian GP Race Recap : Max-imum Attack & No Second Chances

The Austrian GP served as the season opener for the 2020 F1 Season. The high-speed circuit, nestled in the town of Spielberg, and surrounded by the hills of Styria, produced a race of attrition that saw only 11 drivers complete the race in 2020. In 2021, the Austrian GP completed the first of the triple-headers of the season and the second of the two back-to-back weekends at the Red Bull Ring.



The week leading up to the Austrian GP weekend saw Andrew Alessi jump ship from Red Bull to Aston Martin to become the "Head of Technical Operations". Callum Ilott, reserve driver and part of the Sauber Junior Team ( Alfa Romeo ) and Guanyu Zhou, a member of the Alpine Driver Program, got the chance to drive for their respective teams in Free Practice 1. 


Hamilton renewed his contract at Mercedes, the reigning World Champion staying with the team till the 2023 season.


Pirelli opted for a more aggressive tyre choice that hinted at a two-stop race on Sunday. Pirelli also provided teams with a new version of rear tyres to try on Friday, which, if successful, would become a standard-issue from Silverstone. The prototype featured a "greater level of robustness and integrity".



Verstappen and Red Bull had extended their lead in the Championships, while Mercedes, for the first time, failed to win for four consecutive race weekends in the Turbo Era. They needed a quick turnaround of fortunes to reduce the deficit.



How did the teams fare in the second bout at the Red Bull Ring? Time for a recap!



Practice :


Williams Reserve Driver Roy Nissany, like Ilott and Zhou, got the chance to participate in FP1 instead of Russell.


FP1 got underway and cooler track temperatures made turn three a challenge as Ricciardo ran wide, and Mazepin inadvertently ended in Hamilton's path. While Tsunoda had a trip through the gravel at turn four, Stroll put a wheel wide at six, which sent him through the grass. The latter then suffered a spin at the final corner and narrowly avoided hitting the barriers. Turn one saw the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers and Norris have offtrack moments while the Alpha Tauris complained about traffic on their flying laps. 


Verstappen topped the timesheets from Leclerc and Sainz, followed by Bottas, Tsunoda and Raikkonen, who completed the top 6. 7th was the best that Hamilton could manage, with Perez, Norris and Gasly completing the top half of the field.


Ocon and Ricciardo were 11th and 12th, followed by Stroll and Zhou, who set their best times on medium tyres. Vettel was 15th in the other Aston Martin, with Ilott 16th for Alfa Romeo. The Williams of Nissany and Latifi split the Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin at the back of the field.



Traffic became the bone of contention during Free Practice 2. While Verstappen got held up at turn one, Alonso avoided rear-ending Schumacher at the pit entry. There was a train of cars forming up at the penultimate corner, which created a safety issue. Alonso suffered again, this time, due to Raikkonen and made his displeasure known over team radio. Meanwhile, Stroll had communication issues with his engineer while Norris suffered from a spin at T1 and flat-spotted his tyres. The Mercedes drivers and Leclerc had offtrack moments on their race simulation runs.


Nevertheless, Hamilton and Bottas were the quickest at the end of FP2, with Verstappen two tenths adrift. The Aston Martin duo of Stroll and Vettel was 4th and 5th, followed by Tsunoda and Gasly for Alpha Tauri. Alonso, Norris and Giovinazzi completed the top 10. 


Perez was P11 in the other Red Bull, with Ocon and Sainz a second slower than Hamilton's time. Raikkonen suffered from lap time deletions and had his best time set on medium tyres in P14. Ricciardo was 15th for McLaren, followed by Leclerc and Russell, while Latifi split the Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin at the back.




Less than a second separated the top 12 drivers in both the practice sessions. Mercedes seemed to have made progress with their setups, but Red Bull still looked the better car in race trim. Ferrari had a mixed showing on Friday while Alpha Tauri looked strong again. The threat of rain remained as seen in the drizzle during FP2. 




The Final Practice Session ( FP3 ) saw teams continue to sample the prototype tyres provided by Pirelli. Tsunoda suffered from a spin at turn nine while the Ferrari drivers had offtrack moments at five and ten. Mazepin, on the other hand, had a trip through the gravel trap at turn four.


It was Verstappen who went the quickest, from Bottas and Hamilton. Gasly and Giovinazzi were 4th and 5th, while Sainz went 6th fastest for the works Ferrari. Perez was P7 in the other Red Bull, followed by Alonso, Leclerc and Vettel, who completed the top 10. 


Stroll was P11 ahead of Tsunoda, Ocon and Russell. The McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo were P15 and P16, followed by Raikkonen, while Latifi split the Haas cars at the back.



Once again, less than a second separated the top 12 drivers in FP3 and with the track temperature rising, Qualifying promised to be an even closer affair.




Qualifying :


The stands had a sea of fans in orange cheering on Verstappen for Qualifying. 


The FIA had communicated to all the drivers that they could get investigated if they went too slow on their out-laps at turns nine and ten.



The Haas cars were the first to set representative laps in Q1. The Alpines and the Williams stayed put until later in the session. Meanwhile, Gasly suffered a lap time deletion for exceeding track limits at turn nine. Everyone, bar the Aston Martins and the Alpha Tauris, chose the softs for their first runs. 


Verstappen, Norris, Alonso, Hamilton, Bottas and Sainz were the top 6, with Latifi, Ocon, Gasly, Schumacher and Mazepin in the drop zone with 6 minutes remaining. 1.1 seconds separated the top 17 drivers as Leclerc was the next driver to suffer from a lap time deletion for exceeding track limits. 


The top 5 drivers chose to stay put while the rest of the field exited the pits with soft tyres. Q1 ended with Verstappen, Norris, Alonso, Hamilton, Bottas and Sainz as the top 6 and Raikkonen, Ocon, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin getting eliminated. A lap time deletion for Ricciardo resulted in the Australian scraping through to Q2 by three-hundredths of a second.




Q2 got underway, and Perez was the first driver out on the track with medium tyres. The Mexican set a competitive banker lap but had fuel for another run. Meanwhile, his teammate Verstappen, the Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren drivers also opted for the mediums for their first runs of Q2. Verstappen, Norris, Perez, Vettel, Hamilton and Stroll were the top 6, with Bottas managing only the 8th quickest time at the end of the first runs. Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Ricciardo and Giovinazzi were facing elimination. 


The final minutes of Q2 saw Verstappen, Russell, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc and Sainz, choose a fresh set of medium tyres. Giovinazzi suffered a lap time deletion on his final attempt in Q2.  


Alonso ( on the soft tyres ) set personal best sector times when he got massively impeded by Vettel on the penultimate turn. Vettel, on the other hand, failed to cross the finish line before the end of Q2. 


Alonso was livid since his lap would have gotten him a place in Q3. The incident got flagged for investigation post-session, and Vettel got a three-place grid penalty for his infringement. Bottas and Sainz also got summoned to the stewards for allegedly going slowly between turns nine and ten. The duo, however, escaped penalties. 



Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Norris, Perez, Vettel, Tsunoda, Stroll and Russell were through to Q3, while Sainz, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Alonso and Giovinazzi bowed out of Qualifying.


Less than a second separated the top 14 drivers at the end of Q2. Russell and Williams were into Q3 for the first time in 2021!




Softs were the tyre of choice for the ten drivers competing for pole position in Q3. Russell opted to limit his Q3 participation to a single lap, while Verstappen went the quickest, three-tenths clear of Norris and Hamilton on his first attempt. 


The final minutes of Qualifying saw everyone on a fresh set of softs in the quest for pole position for the Austrian GP. Norris went the quickest in sector one, while Verstappen went purple in three. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Bottas failed to improve on their final runs. 


Verstappen took pole position from Norris by four-hundredths of a second! Perez, in the other Red Bull, improved to P3, finishing two-tenths adrift. The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas were P4 and P5, followed by Gasly. Row four got taken up by Tsunoda and Vettel, but the latter's penalty dropped him out of the top 10 to P11. Russell got promoted to P8 with Sainz accompanying Stroll on row 5, albeit with a free tyre choice.



The orange brigade was overjoyed, and celebrations broke out in the stands after Verstappen bagged pole position for Sunday. The Dutchman had scored a hattrick in 2021! Red Bull had both its cars in the top 3 and could use Perez as a rear guard ( if needed ) in the race. It was "advantage Red Bull" on Sunday. Verstappen, however, felt that he could have gone faster had he had a tow like the others behind him. McLaren's front row start with Norris was the team's first since the Brazilian GP in 2012. Ricciardo, however, continued to struggle with balance issues, qualifying a second slower than Norris. Norris lost time to Verstappen at the final turn and could have bagged P1. Nevertheless, McLaren was in a better position than immediate rivals Ferrari for Sunday.



Hamilton admitted that it was damage limitation day on Sunday and didn't have an answer for Red Bull's newfound pace. Bottas had fallen away in the title fight, but Mercedes still needed him to bring home results for the Constructors'. The Mercedes were slower than Red Bull in straight-line speed and needed an aggressive strategy to make inroads. It was a great day for Honda power, with Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's sister team, having both its cars in the top 7. Gasly and Tsunoda needed to outscore the Aston Martins to extend their lead in the battle for P5. The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel weren't far behind, and considering their superior race pace and better tyre management, it promised to be a close affair on Sunday. 



Russell continued to impress in his Williams, and his first Q3 appearance ensured that he had a great chance to score points on Sunday. Teammate Latifi's performance was mediocre, but the Canadian had the opportunity to turn it around on race day. Ferrari was going through a resurgence of sorts, but the choice of using medium tyres in Q2 was a questionable decision. Sainz and Leclerc had a free tyre choice for Sunday but needed a superior strategy to ensure a double-points finish in a tightly contested midfield. 



Alpine and Alonso got denied a Q3 appearance due to the impeding by Vettel. Alonso believed he had the pace to break into the top 6. The Spaniard remained the stronger of the two drivers at Alpine, with Ocon going through a lean phase and facing a long afternoon from P17. Alfa Romeo failed to replicate the form shown in Free Practice and seemed better than only the Haas cars. However, the car was better in race trim, as seen during the Styrian GP, and Alfa hoped to make it back into the top 10. The learning curve was steep for the Haas rookies, and the team seemed destined to remain at the back of the pack.




Race :


132,000 was the attendance on Sunday as the stands got packed to capacity for the race.


The track temperature was much lower than that on Saturday afternoon, with a slim chance of rain. C3, C4 and C5 were the tyres available for the race, with Pirelli going one step softer than those used for the Styrian GP weekend. 


Sainz and Raikkonen opted for the hard tyres, while the rest chose the mediums outside the top 10.


The five red lights went out, and Norris had a slightly better start than Verstappen. However, the Dutchman led into turn one. Meanwhile, Hamilton pressured Perez for P3, but the Mexican fended off the challenge. Further down the field, Ocon got sandwiched between Schumacher and Giovinazzi, and the latter clipped the right front tyre of his Alpine. The tie rod broke, and Ocon retired due to suspension damage. The Safety Car got deployed at the end of the opening lap. As a precaution, Alfa Romeo pitted Giovinazzi, switching him to the hard tyres.


Raikkonen and Schumacher had made up places into P14 and P16, respectively, while Russell fell back to P12, Alonso to P15 and Sainz to P13.



The Safety Car peeled into the pits on lap 4, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen. Bottas got past teammate Hamilton only for him to reclaim the position a couple of corners later. The battle for P2 hotted up with Norris initially fending off Perez. The duo continued the squabble into turn four, and Perez tried an overtake on the outside. The Mexican ran out of space with Norris not yielding, ended up in the gravel trap and lost places in the process. Perez was down to 10th and complained over team radio about being pushed off track. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Norris got a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver off the track ( verdict on lap 20 ). Ricciardo got past Leclerc for P9, and further down the field, Alonso and Raikkonen were sparring over P14, only for the latter to retake the place after losing it on the restart. Meanwhile, Latifi got past Schumacher for P16.



Giovinazzi incurred a five-second time penalty for overtaking before the Safety Car line at the restart. Nevertheless, the Italian got past Mazepin and Schumacher and was up to P17. DRS got enabled on lap 7, and Verstappen went about setting blistering lap times as he extended his lead at the front.



Sainz got past Russell for P12 on lap 12, while Tsunoda was the first driver to pit for hard tyres on lap 14. His teammate Gasly followed suit a lap later, rejoining in P18. Stroll also pitted for the hard tyres on lap 15 while on the track, Leclerc went wheel-to-wheel with Perez and took P8 from the Mexican. In the battle for P2, Norris managed to rebuff Hamilton, and the latter asked the team for more engine power. While Gasly got past Mazepin for P16, Tsunoda got flagged for investigation for cutting the white line at pit entry on his way to the pit stop earlier. The Japanese rookie incurred a five-second time penalty for the infringement.



Ricciardo got past Vettel for P5, and the latter immediately pitted for hard tyres on lap 19. Gasly continued his charge up the field with an overtake on Schumacher for P14, while the Aston Martin cars of Stroll and Vettel got past Mazepin for P17 and P18, respectively. Tsunoda relegated Schumacher to P16, while Vettel got past Stroll for P17 on lap 20. 



Hamilton finally got past Norris for P2 on lap 20, but Verstappen had built a 9.5 seconds lead by then. Hamilton was appreciative of Norris' talent and his defensive skills up until the overtake. Further down the field, Vettel got past Schumacher for P16.



Verstappen, Hamilton, Norris, Bottas, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Russell and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 21.



Stroll got past Schumacher for P17, while Gasly overtook Giovinazzi and Latifi to move up to P12. Verstappen was the fastest man on track on lap 26. It was time for those on the medium tyres to go through with their pit stops, and Ricciardo switched to the hard tyres on lap 30. The Australian rejoined in P12, behind Gasly. Giovinazzi also pitted, albeit for the 2nd time, for a fresh set of hard tyres.



Mercedes instructed Bottas to mirror Norris' strategy and pit at the same time as him. The duo pitted on lap 31, and Bottas jumped Norris for P3 after the latter served his time penalty in the pitstop. Russell also pitted for hard tyres, rejoining in 16th.



Hamilton and Verstappen pitted on laps 32 and 33, respectively, and Verstappen maintained his lead in the race. Perez and Alonso were the next to switch to hard tyres on lap 33, rejoining in P10 and P16. Meanwhile, on the track, Tsunoda got past Latifi for P11. Verstappen had built a lead of 14 seconds to Hamilton, and Mercedes discovered that Hamilton's car lost aero performance on the rear after going heavily over the kerbs and suffering damage. Leclerc pitted on lap 35 for hard tyres, but Perez managed to undercut him. Russell relegated Stroll to P14 on lap 38, while Raikkonen switched to the mediums and rejoined in P15. 



The battle for P6 was hotting up as a train of cars formed up behind Gasly. Ricciardo, Perez and Leclerc had closed in on the Frenchman for fresher tyres. Leclerc, who had lost track position to Perez, pressured him for P8, and Perez sent him through the gravel at turn four, much like the earlier incident with Norris. The clash got flagged for investigation, and Perez got a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver off the track. 



Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Sainz, Gasly, Ricciardo, Perez, Leclerc and Tsunoda were the top 10 at the end of lap 45.



Bottas was honing in on Hamilton in the battle for 2nd. Hamilton was losing lap time due to the loss of aero performance, and it soon became evident that the reigning World Champion wouldn't be able to hold onto the podium places. Gasly made his 2nd stop, switching to a fresh set of hard tyres and rejoining in P12 ( lap 47 ). Leclerc closed up on Perez in the battle for P7, getting pushed again onto the gravel, this time at turn six. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Perez was the driver at fault again. The Mexican got a 2nd five-second time penalty in the race. 



Alonso got past Stroll for P13 before the latter pitted for hard tyres again on lap 48. Bottas was within striking distance of P2, but Mercedes asked him to hold stations and not pressure Hamilton. Meanwhile, Hamilton didn't feel confident about the tyres making it to the end of the race. While Mercedes kept debating about allowing Bottas to race HamiltonNorris closed in and was a second adrift of the Mercedes duo.



Sainz, the only driver who was yet to stop, switched to a used set of medium tyres on lap 50 and rejoined in P9. The Spaniard quickly relegated Tsunoda to P9 on his out-lap and began his charge up the field. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi got past Gasly for P15, while Mazepin got a Black and White Flag for exceeding track limits multiple times. Vettel made his 2nd stop on lap 51, switching to a fresh set of hard tyres for his final stint.



Mercedes finally allowed Bottas to race Hamilton, and the Finn bagged P2 on lap 52. Verstappen and Bottas exchanged the fastest laps of the race as Tsunoda pitted for the second time, switching to the hards and rejoining in P14. The Alpha Tauri driver repeated his mistake of cutting across the white line at pit entry and incurred another five-second time penalty. Stroll was another driver to receive a similar punishment for speeding in the pit lane during his stop a few laps earlier!



Hamilton was unable to stay in touch with Bottas and fell into the clutches of Norris. The McLaren was past Hamilton for P3 on lap 54. Mercedes immediately pitted Hamilton, switching him to a fresh set of hard tyres to bag the point for the fastest lap. The plan seemed to have worked before Verstappen reclaimed the crown by setting blistering times on laps 57 and 58. 



Leclerc was pressuring Ricciardo for P6, and Alonso was closing in on Russell in the battle for P10. Raikkonen got a Black and White Flag for exceeding track limits at turn ten, and the Finn was livid with his team for not informing about the infringement sooner. Verstappen pitted again on lap 61 for a fresh set of hard tyres. Red Bull notified him that they had discovered a cut on his previous set and allowed him one chance to push for the fastest lap of the race. Meanwhile, his teammate Perez drove hard to extend the gap to Ricciardo to more than 10 seconds to cover off his time penalties. 



On lap 65, Alonso began to exert more pressure, but Russell rebuffed the challenge to hold onto P10. The battle for P6 saw Sainz close up on the duo of Ricciardo and Leclerc. Ferrari allowed Sainz to swap positions with Leclerc, and the Spaniard was P7 on lap 66, free to chase Ricciardo for P5. Despite his stoic defence, Russell failed to hold onto P10 as Alonso got past with the assistance of DRS. Perez extended the gap to Ricciardo to more than 9 seconds on the penultimate lap.



Sainz, with DRS assistance, got past Ricciardo for P6 on the final lap and was within 10 seconds of Perez. Meanwhile, Raikkonen had closed in on Russell in the battle for P11 but unable to overtake despite a few attempts. The Finn complained about Russell moving under braking, which got reported to the stewards. On the final lap, Vettel joined the fray. Raikkonen locked up at turn four, which opened the door for Vettel to make an overtake. The German got ahead, but Raikkonen failed to see him and cut across, which led to a collision and sent them both into the gravel. Raikkonen limped across the line, but Vettel returned to the pits and retired.



Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and Victory at the end of 71 laps. Bottas came home in 2nd for Mercedes, with Norris completing the podium places.



4th was the best that Hamilton could manage with the challenges he faced. Perez crossed the line in 5th but failed to build a gap of 10 seconds to Sainz, which relegated him to P6. Ricciardo was P7 in the other McLaren, followed by Leclerc, Gasly and Alonso, who completed the top 10.



Russell and Williams missed out on another points-scoring finish in 11th. Tsunoda was 12th, followed by Stroll and Giovinazzi. Latifi was 15th in the other Williams, followed by Raikkonen, who limped home in 16th. Vettel, despite the collision, got classified 17th, followed by Schumacher and Mazepin.



The results stayed provisional as Raikkonen and Vettel got summoned to the stewards for the collision. Shortly after, Russell got the call for allegedly moving under braking. The stewards then discovered that Sainz, Perez, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Mazepin had failed to adhere to double-waved yellows on the final lap.



Post investigations, Raikkonen got 20 seconds added to his race time besides getting two penalty points on his license. Russell got a let-off for his movement under braking. Latifi and Mazepin got 30 seconds added to their race time ( equating to a 10 seconds stop-go penalty ) and three penalty points each on their license for failing to obey double-yellow flag conditions. The other drivers in question got the "all clear". As a result of the penalty, Raikkonen and Latifi's positions got swapped in the final classification. Norris got two penalty points on his license, which took his tally to 10 in 12 months ( for the incident with Perez ). He was now two points away from a race ban. Meanwhile, Perez's tally went up to 8 after incurring two points each for his two incidents with Leclerc. 



In an incident-packed and penalty-strewn race, Verstappen remained flawless, comfortably taking the win and the maximum haul of points from the weekend. His lead at the front got extended to 32 points, while Red Bull outscored Mercedes for another weekend. The Dutchman could have won five consecutive races had it not been for the tyre delamination in Baku. Red Bull and Verstappen were the favourites for the crown. His teammate Perez got compromised after the incident with Norris, and in his quest to charge back up, got entangled with Leclerc and suffered punishments. Nevertheless, the Mexican finished in P5, which was enough to help Red Bull extend their lead to 44 points in the Constructors.



Hamilton and Mercedes had no answer, and the former struggled to stay in touch, especially after the damage on the rear of his car. Bottas was the stronger of the two teammates and bolstered his chances of retaining his drive for 2022. As for Mercedes, they have never had five race weekends without a victory in the Turbo Era. It was back to the drawing board before they line up for their home race in Silverstone.



Norris produced a stellar drive to take the final podium place, while teammate Ricciardo charged up the field to finish in P7 to ensure that McLaren outscores immediate rivals in Ferrari. Although Ricciardo couldn't hold off Sainz on the final lap, the Australian displayed a strong race pace and recovered well from the disappointments on Saturday. Norris remained the stronger of the two teammates, bagging his 3rd podium of 2021. Consistency was key for McLaren as they extended their lead to 19 points in the Constructors.



Ferrari had a double-points finish, with Sainz and Leclerc finishing in P5 and P8, respectively. Tyre management and an appropriate strategy call allowed Sainz to extract the maximum from the weekend. Leclerc got denied a better finish by Perez, who pushed him onto the gravel on two occasions. The Monegasque wasn't impressed by his tactics and had to settle for P8. Nevertheless, Ferrari stayed in touch with McLaren in the battle for P3.



Gasly ensured that Alpha Tauri outscored rivals Aston Martin and Alpine. Tsunoda made two rookie errors which cost him a shot for P10. The Japanese driver needed to iron out these mistakes if he wanted to justify his appointment and help Alpha Tauri stay P5 in the Championship. As for Aston Martin, Stroll finished in P12 while Vettel retired on the last lap after a clash with Raikkonen. The team didn't look as strong as they were on the previous two weekends but hoped to turn things around in the home race at Silverstone. 



Alonso was the saving grace for Alpine yet again. The Spaniard could have scored more points had it not been for the impeding by Vettel in Qualifying, which cost him a top 10 race start. Ocon, on the other hand, was the victim of an unfortunate accident. The Frenchman was in a lean patch and needed to step up his game. Alpine still trailed Aston Martin by 12 points, and it was yet another weekend of "what could have been". 



Alfa Romeo flattered to deceive again, and a rare mistake by Raikkonen on the final lap ended a disappointing race for the team. Giovinazzi was the stronger of the two on Saturday, but Raikkonen stepped up to the challenge on race day. The strategies adopted by the team were highly questionable, and they cannot afford slip-ups such as these in the face of a resurgent Williams.



Russell came very close to breaking his scoring duck with Williams. The Briton got denied by Alonso, who was appreciative of the talent that Russell possessed. The former F2 World Champion has been schooling his teammate Latifi, be it Qualifying or the Race. Latifi cannot afford mediocrity if he hopes to retain his drive for 2022. As for Haas, the rookies Schumacher and Mazepin remained at the back of the pack. It seems highly unlikely that Haas would manage to score any points in 2021.



The teams and drivers now get a two-week break before the battle resumes at the British GP in Silverstone. The circuit will also feature the new format of a race weekend as proposed by the FOM earlier in the year. The Grand Prix will also be the home race for seven teams, and they would be hoping for a strong showing in front of their supporters. 



Will Hamilton be able to use the home advantage to reduce Verstappen's lead at the front? Time will reveal all! Until then, Verstappen and Red Bull are on Maximum Attack and offering No Second Chances!

2021 Styrian GP Race Recap : No Vers-Stopping the King of the Ring!

The Red Bull Ring was the season opener in the truncated 2020 F1 Season. The circuit in the hills of Styria and the town of Spielberg hosted back-to-back race weekends in the first triple-header of 2020. In 2021, the track returned to become the second and third races of the first triple-header. The first weekend got christened as "The Styrian GP" and the second "The Austrian GP".


The circuit had been a regular feature of the F1 calendar since 2014, and it also had the shortest lap time of the season. The track also has the second-highest elevation change on the F1 calendar. 



The Turkish GP, which got cancelled earlier in the year, made a return, getting hosted on the dates of Singapore GP weekend, bringing back the tally of 23 races in 2021. The FOM announced that the Russian GP would shift to Autodrom Igora Drive from 2023 onwards, a track to the north of St Petersberg. 

The FIA decided to slow down pitstops from the Hungarian GP, citing safety concerns. A "minimum reaction time got imposed, a move that invited mixed reactions from the F1 paddock. 

More details about the changes here : https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/fia-to-slow-down-formula-1-pitstops-from-hungarian-gp/6604158/



Dan Fallows, head of aerodynamics at Red Bull, jumped ship to become the Technical Director at Aston Martin Racing ( at the end of his contract ). 



In Austria, Mercedes enjoyed more success than Red Bull but were running 2nd best this year. The reigning World Champions got outfoxed and outpaced more often than not and needed to reduce the deficit to Red Bull. As for Red Bull, cooler track temperatures helped their car perform better, and in Perez, they had found an equally competitive driver to Verstappen. The weather forecast depicted thunderstorms for the weekend, which promised to add to the excitement and drama. Meanwhile, McLaren had extended their lead in the fight for 3rd, while Ferrari ate humble pie in France.



How did the teams fare in Styria? Did Hamilton reduce the deficit to Verstappen? Did Bottas reenergize his title aspirations? Time to revisit the events from the weekend!



Practice :


Track limits got enforced at turns 9 and 10, and there were a few lap time deletions on Friday.


Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo Reserve Driver, got the nod to take part in Free Practice 1, with Raikkonen sitting out the session.

FP1 got underway, with Sainz reporting throttle issues to his team. The Spaniard then suffered a spin at turn one, blocking the pit exit and holding up Bottas. Giovinazzi complained about Bottas on team radio for pushing him onto the grass, while Gasly expressed his displeasure after being held up by Sainz. Verstappen got held up by traffic on his flying lap, while Perez suffered a spin at turn four, which ruined his soft tyres. 


Verstappen topped the timesheets at the end of FP1 from Gasly and Hamilton. Bottas was 4th in the other Mercedes, followed by the Alpha Tauri of Tsunoda. The Alpines of Alonso and Ocon were 6th and 7th, with Stroll, Giovinazzi and Leclerc completing the top 10. 


Sainz was 11th quickest in the other Ferrari, followed by Ricciardo and Perez, who could only manage 13th. Vettel was 14th in the other Aston Martin, with Norris splitting the Williams of Russell and Latifi in 16th. Schumacher, Kubica and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.




A sensor issue on the Power unit denied Gasly participation in FP2. 

Rain clouds gathered over the circuit at the start of FP2, and there was an 80% chance of rain. The drivers quickly commenced their Qualifying and Race simulations. While Sainz and Mazepin suffered from spins at turn five after putting a wheel in the gravel, Hamilton managed to keep his Mercedes facing the right direction. Turn three saw Hamilton and Verstappen run wide, while Leclerc had to take correcting action after taking too much of the inside kerb. 


Latifi was yet another driver to suffer from a spin at turn 6, but the most shocking incident was in the pit lane. Bottas pitted for the hard tyres, and as he exited his box, he lost the rear of his car, resulting in a spin and going sideways through the pit lane. The McLaren mechanics helped the Finn in getting him turned around. Although Bottas laughed it off, McLaren reported it to the FIA, and consequently, post-session, Bottas suffered a three-place grid penalty for the race along with two penalty points. Hamilton went to the top of the timesheets, only to have his lap deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 10.


Verstappen was the fastest at the end of FP2 from Ricciardo. Hamilton split the Alpines of Ocon and Alonso in 4th, while Norris was in an Aston Martin sandwich of Vettel and Stroll in 7th. Perez was 9th in the other Red Bull, followed by Giovinazzi, who completed the top 10.  


Sainz was 11th for Ferrari, followed by Bottas and teammate Leclerc. Raikkonen was 14th in the other Alfa Romeo, with Tsunoda and Russell slotting in in P15 and P16, respectively. The Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin were 17th and 18th, with Latifi 19th and Gasly failing to set a time in FP2. 



Red Bull and Honda power seemed to have an edge at the end of Friday running, but Hamilton and Mercedes' lap time deletion due to track limits masked their actual pace. The penalty meted to Bottas didn't help matters, and the Finn continued to struggle with balance in both sessions. Alpine had a strong showing, and it seemed that they could bridge the gap to those ahead in the midfield battle. Less than a second separated the top 17 drivers in FP1 and 15 in FP2; this meant that Qualifying would be a close affair come Saturday afternoon. 



Alpha Tauri fitted a new MGU-K on Gasly's car after discovering a data anomaly that forced him to sit out FP2. 


FP3 got underway under clear skies, and the teams took their time before sending the drivers on track. Bottas exited the garage and had to take avoiding action from hitting Gasly, who got released into his path. Mazepin suffered a spin at turn one, while Russell was the fastest man on track early in the session, with Verstappen and Bottas taking over the reins after their low fuel runs. However, it was Hamilton who ended FP3 the fastest, two tenths clear of Verstappen and Bottas. Perez was 4th in the other Red Bull, followed by the Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly. Leclerc was 7th for Ferrari, with Alonso, Stroll and Vettel completing the top 10. 


The Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi was P11. Ocon and Sainz slotted in in 12th and 13th, respectively. Russell was 14th, followed by Raikkonen and Schumacher. P17 was the best that Ricciardo could manage, with Latifi, Norris and Mazepin completing the back of the field. There were many lap time deletions in FP3 due to drivers exceeding track limits.




Qualifying :


The start of Q1 saw the Williams and Haas cars out on track. The rest of the field ( barring the Alpine drivers ) followed a few minutes after, everyone opting for the soft tyres. Some drivers opted for multiple runs with two cool-down laps instead of one. Mazepin and Gasly got their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 9. 


Verstappen, Bottas, Norris, Hamilton, Leclerc and Gasly were the top 6, with Giovinazzi, Russell, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin facing elimination with six minutes remaining of Q1. Less than a tenth of a second covered the top three. The final minutes of Q1 saw the top 4 drivers stay put while the rest of the field emerged from the pits with a fresh set of soft tyres. A traffic jam formed up in the final sector, but no impeding got reported, thankfully. 


The lap times came down, and the top 6 changed to Verstappen, Bottas, Norris, Tsunoda, Perez and Hamilton at the end of Q1. Ricciardo scraped through in 15th despite setting the fastest time in sector one. Less than a second separated 18 drivers as Latifi, Ocon, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin got eliminated. 



Tyre choice was paramount in Q2, and Red Bull decided to send Perez out on the soft tyres. Russell was another to do likewise, while the Mercedes drivers, Verstappen and Giovinazzi, opted for the mediums. The other drivers stayed put, waiting for more rubber to get laid on the track. Bottas managed to set a representative lap time, but Mercedes informed him that his time was unsafe. The Finn had to do another flying lap. Hamilton, on the other hand, locked up his tyres at turn three. The off-track moment cost him time and compromised his Qualifying and Race plans. The rest of the field joined the party ( on soft tyres ) with 9 minutes remaining in Q2. 


Gasly, Verstappen, Norris, Perez, Hamilton and Tsunoda were the top 6 with Leclerc, Vettel, Russell, Ricciardo and Giovinazzi in the drop zone with 6 minutes remaining. Bottas emerged from the pits with another set of mediums and went third quickest. Only twenty-four thousandths of a second separated the top 4 drivers. Hamilton was the next to do another run on a fresh set of mediums but could only manage P5. Gasly stayed put while the rest of the field switched to the soft tyres for the final minutes of Q2. Sainz, Stroll and Vettel had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits. 


Perez, Norris, Gasly, Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Alonso, Tsunoda, Leclerc and Stroll went through to Q3, while Russell, Sainz, Ricciardo, Vettel and Giovinazzi got eliminated. It was a matter of close margins again as only half a second separated the top 11 drivers, Russell missing out on a Q3 appearance by eight-thousandths of a second!



Q3 got underway, with Hamilton heading out on track early to put in a banker lap. While Stroll decided to go out of sync with the rest, others emerged with soft tyres for their first runs of Q3. Verstappen went the quickest, two-tenths clear of Hamilton with Norris in 3rd and Bottas in 4th. Replays showed that Bottas got impeded by Tsunoda on his flying lap. The incident got flagged for investigation post Qualifying, and Tsunoda incurred a three-place grid penalty. Hamilton pushed for another lap and reduced the gap to Verstappen by another tenth. 


P8 was the best Stroll could manage on his only run of Q3, and as the Canadian returned to the pits, the others went out for one final push for pole position. Hamilton was concerned with track position and fast-tracked his out-lap, jumping a train of cars for his flying lap. The decision backfired as the Briton failed to improve in sectors one and two and eventually running wide at the penultimate turn. Bottas, however, jumped up to P2, but Verstappen's lap from earlier remained unchallenged.


The Dutchman took pole position from Bottas and Hamilton. Bottas' penalty pushed him down to 5th, promoting Norris to P3. Perez was 4th in the other Red Bull, with Gasly taking up P6 alongside Bottas. Leclerc and Tsunoda were on row 4, with Alonso and Stroll on row 5. However, Tsunoda's penalty bumped him down to P11, with Russell starting P10 with a free tyre choice.



Verstappen had been flawless in Qualifying and deservedly bagged pole position for the Styrian GP. Red Bull split the tyre strategy with Perez starting the race on soft tyres in P4. Having won twice in the past three years, Verstappen had a great opportunity to extend his lead in the Championship. Hamilton's performance was ragged, and the reigning World Champion quipped that he needed to bring his "A-game" to the race. Bottas' error in FP2 cost him dearly, but the Finn had the luxury of starting the race on the cleaner side. The duo, like Verstappen, would start the race on medium tyres. Mercedes lost out to Red Bull in straight-line speed, but Sunday promised fans an intriguing battle between these Turbo Era giants.



Norris produced a stellar lap to inherit 3rd. Meanwhile, his teammate Ricciardo struggled in the other McLaren, qualifying in 13th. Nevertheless, McLaren had the opportunity of extending their lead over Ferrari in the battle for 3rd. Gasly equalled his best starting position again, while Tsunoda, despite his heroics in Qualifying, got penalized for impeding, eventually starting the race in 11th. Alpha Tauri was locked in a heated battle with Aston Martin and needed a good haul of points to ensure that it stayed ahead in the Constructors. Leclerc remained the stronger of the two drivers at Ferrari, doing his best to qualify P7. Sainz, on the other hand, could manage only 12th. Ferrari was going backwards since the past two races and needed to iron out the flaws to stay in contention for P3.



Qualifying was a mixed bag for Alpine, with Alonso starting in P8 but Ocon a lowly 17th. The latter's performance was a disappointment considering that both cars had been in the top 10 on Friday. However, Sunday was the day that mattered, and fortunes could turn. Stroll looked more settled than Vettel at Aston Martin, but a free tyre choice coupled with a strong race pace could help Vettel break into the top 10 on race day. Russell was the star of Qualifying in his Williams. The Briton narrowly missed out on Q3 but got promoted to P10 and had the luxury of a free tyre choice. He hoped to score the first points of the season. His teammate Latifi could only manage 16th but had a comparable race pace. Giovinazzi out-qualified his more experienced teammate in Raikkonen, but Alfa Romeo lacked the pace to challenge those ahead. Haas, like Alfa Romeo, didn't have the speed due to the Ferrari PU faltering in straight-line speed and remained destined at the back of the field.



The Red Bull Ring's three DRS zones offered ample overtaking opportunities, and a lot could change come Sunday.



Race :


C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyre compounds available for the race, and Pirelli predicted a one-stop race. The risk of rain was 40%, and a mammoth 71 laps awaited the 20 drivers fighting for supremacy at Red Bull Ring.


Raikkonen was the only driver to start on the hard tyres, while those outside the top 10 ( including Russell ) opted for the mediums. 


The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen and Hamilton. Perez jumped Norris for P3 only to lose the position a turn later. Further back, Alonso, Gasly and Leclerc went wheel-to-wheel, and Leclerc tried to get into the slipstream behind Gasly. The Monegasque made an error of judgement, his front wing clipping the rear left wheel of Gasly's car. Gasly got a puncture, and Leclerc damaged his front wing. As Gasly tried to tippy-toe his way at turn 3, he hit Giovinazzi, which spun the latter around and clipped Latifi's Williams too. It was race over for the Frenchman as he returned to the pits with suspension damage on the rear. 


Stroll made a bold overtake on Alonso for P7, while Russell was up to 8th. Ricciardo and Raikkonen were two other drivers who made up places on the opening lap, with Ricciardo in 9th and Raikkonen in 14th. 


Leclerc pitted on lap 2, taking on a new front wing and switching to the hard tyres. Latifi suffered a puncture from the contact made with Gasly and switched to the soft tyres after his pit stop on the same lap. 


Verstappen was the fastest man on track and was 1.5 seconds clear at the front. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi started his recovery with a move on Schumacher for P16. 


Verstappen, Hamilton, Norris, Perez, Bottas, Stroll, Alonso, Russell, Ricciardo and Tsunoda were the top 6 at the end of lap 5.


Ricciardo, who made up four places at the start of the race, fell back to 13th after he suffered a power drop off in his McLaren. Thankfully, the team addressed the issue through changes in the settings, but the Australian's race got compromised. Meanwhile, Perez had been pressuring Norris for P3 and finally got past him on lap 10. Norris then lost another position to Bottas a lap later. McLaren informed Norris that they were sticking to plan A and extending his stint on the soft tyres.


At the front, Verstappen had opened up a three seconds lead. Leclerc got past Schumacher and Mazepin and was upto P16 on lap 15. A train of cars was forming up behind Alonso, who was running in 7th. Six drivers were vying for P7, but DRS access for all denied them the chance of making an overtake. Williams discovered a reliability issue on Russell's car and told him that they were shifting to "Plan B".


Verstappen was the fastest man on track when Leclerc got past Giovinazzi for P15 ( lap 23 ). The pit stop window had opened for those who had started the race on soft tyres, but Mazepin ( on the mediums ) was the first driver to switch to the hard tyres, rejoining in 18th.


The battle for P3 was hotting up with Bottas closing in on Perez. Leclerc got past Ocon for P14, while Giovinazzi pitted for hard tyres, rejoining in P17 ( lap 25 ). Hamilton put a wheel in the gravel at turn four while pushing hard but fortunately prevented his Mercedes from spinning. Russell pitted for the hard tyres on lap 27, but it was a slow stop as the Williams mechanics cleared debris from the side-pod and tried to address the pneumatic pressure. The Briton rejoined in 17th but had to pit again, a lap later, for pressure refilling. 


Red Bull called Perez in for a pit stop on lap 27 since the Mexican had started the race on soft tyres. However, the rear left tyre got stuck, leading to a 4.8 seconds stop. The slow pit stop offered Mercedes the opportunity to help Bottas jump Perez, and it was job done on lap 28. Tsunoda, Alonso and Vettel pitted for hard tyres on laps 27 and 28 as well. 


Lap 29 saw Hamilton and Stroll switch to the hard tyres, with Verstappen pitting a lap later and maintaining his lead of 4.5 seconds at the front. Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen exchanged fastest laps while Norris pitted for the hard tyres on lap 32. The Briton rejoined in P7 but quickly relegated Raikkonen at turn three. 


Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Sainz, Norris, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 36.


Raikkonen, who had started the race on hard tyres, switched to the mediums while Ocon did the opposite on lap 38, the duo rejoining in P14 and P15, respectively. Leclerc pitted for mediums a lap later, while Williams couldn't address the PU issues on Russell's car and retired him on lap 39. Sainz and Ricciardo pitted for hard tyres on lap 43, while Leclerc got past Raikkonen for P13. The Ferrari driver cut across Raikkonen, which damaged his front wing, and the Finn made his displeasure known over team radio. Meanwhile, his teammate Sainz relegated Stroll to P7 on lap 45. 


Leclerc continued his charge up the field with a move on Giovinazzi for P11 on lap 46. He then pushed Vettel out of the points on lap 51. At the front, Verstappen extended his lead to 7 seconds. 


Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Norris, Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Tsunoda and Leclerc were in the top 10 at the end of lap 53. 


Ricciardo got past ex-teammate Ocon for P14 on lap 55, while Hamilton reported blistering on his front tyres. Red Bull sprung a surprise on lap 56 as they pitted Perez for medium tyres, giving him the chance of getting the point for the fastest lap. Perez obliged on lap 58. Meanwhile, Leclerc had been pressuring Tsunoda for P9, and it was job done for the Monegasque on lap 55. He then relegated Alonso to 9th a lap later. Raikkonen got past teammate Giovinazzi for P12, while Hamilton received a track-limits warning for abusing the limits at turn 10. 


Perez was setting blistering lap times and closing in on Bottas at a rate of knots. Further down the field, Leclerc got past Stroll for P7, while Ricciardo relegated Giovinazzi to P14. Giovinazzi then lost another position to Ocon on lap 64. Dark clouds were hovering over the circuit, and the risk of rain intensified. Sainz, who was on fresher tyres, got the nod to un-lap himself from Hamilton, while Perez reduced the deficit to Bottas to 6.5 seconds ( lap 66 ). 


Raikkonen overtook Vettel for P11 on lap 69, while Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton for a set of soft tyres on lap 70. Hamilton then pushed for the point for the fastest lap. Perez was within DRS range of Bottas on the final lap of the race in the battle for P3. 


Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and Victory at the Styrian GP. Hamilton crossed the finish line in 2nd and also took the point for the fastest lap. Bottas managed to fend off Perez, and half a second separated them at the end. 


Norris came home in 5th, with the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in 6th and 7th, respectively. Stroll was 8th for Aston Martin, followed by Alonso and Tsunoda, who completed the top 10.


Raikkonen was 11th in his Alfa Romeo, ahead of Vettel and Ricciardo. Ocon could only manage P14, with Giovinazzi and Schumacher coming home in P15 and P16. Latifi and Mazepin completed the classified finishers.



Two new records got set in the sport's history: Car with number 7 completed the most race starts, and Hamilton equalled Schumacher's record of second-place finishes.



Records aside, Mercedes failed to win for four consecutive race weekends. Verstappen extended his lead to 18 points while Red Bull was 40 clear off Mercedes in the Constructors'. Bottas returned to the podium after three races and could have finished higher had it not been for the penalty. Mercedes had a double podium finish, yet Red Bull outscored their rivals by three points. Such had been Verstappen's dominance that he lapped everyone up to Norris in P4. Mercedes couldn't match Red Bull's pace despite extracting the maximum out of their W12. 



McLaren stayed in 3rd but had its lead cut short due to both the Ferraris finishing in 6th and 7th. Ricciardo's engine issue cost them dearly, but Norris was the saving grace for the Woking-based outfit. Stellar drives by Sainz and Leclerc saw Ferrari reduce the deficit in the battle for 3rd to 12 points. Leclerc's race got compromised after his coming together on lap one, and a finish higher up could have been on the cards. He got awarded the "Driver of the Day".



Gasly's retirement dealt a blow to Alpha Tauri's lead over Aston Martin. The Frenchman was unfortunate to be on the receiving end at the start of the race, but thankfully, his teammate Tsunoda ensured that the team didn't end the weekend empty-handed. However, it was a "what could have been" weekend for the Italian outfit. Stroll produced a strong drive for Aston Martin, but Vettel was in no man's land in terms of his strategy. The team managed four points, and only two separated them from Alpha Tauri in the battle for P5 in the Constructors. 



Alonso was slowly getting to grips with his Alpine and was the more successful of the two teammates in 9th. Alpine remained in touch with their immediate rivals but needed Ocon to step up his performances too. The Frenchman had a mercurial weekend, managing only P14. It was a case of "so near yet so far" for Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo as they finished one position shy of the points. The Finn put in a stellar drive to make up seven places, but Qualifying and a questionable race strategy denied him a higher finish. As for teammate Giovinazzi, who got spun on the opening lap, got damage on his car that cost him places and compromised the Italian's race. It was a day of damage limitation for him. 



Russell had done everything possible to finish in the points, but a problem with the PU and the pneumatic pressure denied the Briton a points-finish in 2021. P17 was the best that Latifi could achieve, and the team needed to be careful to not miss out on points scoring opportunities when they come their way. The Haas drivers were in a contest of their own, and Schumacher remained the more successful of the two teammates. 



Verstappen had been flawless all weekend, not giving an inkling of a chance to Hamilton. Mercedes and co. have less than a week to turn it around. Thankfully, they will have data to work with and hope to minimize the deficit to the new leaders of the Turbo Era. There was no stopping Verstappen in the Styrian GP, the King of the Red Bull Ring.



Would he repeat the feat a week later, or would Hamilton, Bottas and Co turn the tables? Bring on the Austrian Grand Prix!

2020 Styrian GP Race Recap : Deutsch Dominance in the Styrian Countryside

The 2020 F1 season got underway at the Red Bull Ring with the Austrian GP! Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes AMG F1 won the opening round. Charles Leclerc produced a stellar drive to finish P2 with Lando Norris bagging the first podium of his F1 career.

These 3 constructors ( Mercedes, Ferrari & McLaren ) shared the podium for the first time in the history of the sport!

The week that followed served up more surprises. Fernando Alonso announced his return to F1 with Renault Sport F1 Team for 2021 and 2022. 

The race calendar now included Mugello and Sochi as the latest entrants. The circuit in Mugello makes a return to the sport and will be the venue for the 1000th GP of the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team.

The contenders returned to the same venue, a weekend later, to take part in round 2, now known as the Styrian GP! The race was named after the region of Styria where the circuit is located. It wasn't the first time a race would be named after a region. Pescara in Italy hosted the Pescara GP in 1957. This would be the first venue, however, to host back-to-back races in the same year!


Ferrari rushed in a couple of aero upgrades for Round 2. Lewis Hamilton hoped for a clean weekend while Honda claimed their engine issues were addressed ( due to an electrical fault ) and Red Bull would have a more reliable car for the weekend.


How did the teams fare on the weekend? Did we have a new winner? Time for a recap!



Practice :

Friday Practice saw Racing Point dominate FP1 with Max Verstappen and the Mercedes duo hot on their heels. Ferrari powered cars continued to struggle with 10th being their highest finish. Nicolas Latifi retired from the session with a broken gearbox. Jack Aitken and Robert Kubica, reserve drivers for Williams and Alfa Romeo respectively, finished P17 and P18. Haas' woes continued - Romain Grosjean suffered braking issues while Kevin Magnussen completed only 3 laps before the team called him to investigate what seemed to be a faulty battery. Lando Norris got penalised with a 3 place grid drop for overtaking under Yellow Flags during FP1.

The weather prediction for Saturday was heavy rains with the threat of both FP3 and Qualifying being called off. If conditions didn't improve by Sunday morning ( alternate timeslot for Qualifying ), the FIA would be forced to refer to the FP2 results for forming the grid for the race. 

FP2 commenced on a disastrous note for Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian lost control of his car into turn 9, careering into the barriers, the car wrecked. He was pretty winded after the impact and seen limping. Thankfully, precautionary checks at the medical centre deemed him fit for the rest of the weekend.

A lot of teams chose to throw caution to the wind, using up more than one fresh set of soft tyres to set banker laps. Some, like Mercedes, went the conservative way and ran their race program after a few flying laps. 

The result? Max Verstappen was top of the pile with Bottas and the Racing Point cars a close 3rd and 4th. Hamilton ended the session in 6th while the Ferraris languished in 9th and 16th, Vettel reporting issues with the front end throughout FP2. McLaren was in the mix with Sainz in 5th and Norris in 8th. Albon finished in P7 but it wasn't a clean session for him ( spin and an off-track excursion ). The Williams got the jump on Haas, an encouraging sign for them!

Saturday arrived and the heavens opened. The Formula 3 Race had to be Red Flagged and after a lot of deliberation, Free Practice 3 stood cancelled

The possibility of a postponement of Qualifying to Sunday Morning seemed real...



Qualifying :

The start of Qualifying was delayed due to the onset of another shower and poor track conditions. 

Q1 finally got underway, 50 minutes later, with everyone making a beeline for the pit exit. The teams didn't want to be caught out if the conditions worsened. Everyone was fueled to till the end of the session. Lap times started improving slowly as the water was displaced off the racing line by the train of cars. Williams rolled the dice by sending Russell on a new set of wet tyres in the final minutes. He improved to P12.  Less than a minute left on the clock and the Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi spun, going backwards into the barriers, bringing out yellow flags and eventually red-flagging the session ( when it ground to a halt ). The runners behind the Alfa Romeo had to slow down and couldn't improve their lap times. Sergio Perez was the big casualty of Q1. Kimi Raikkonen was the other. Both were on personal best laps when the session was red-flagged. Latifi, Giovinazzi & Grosjean were the other eliminations of Q1. Grosjean was unable to set a lap time with an ERS issue. Giovinazzi was handed a 5 place grid penalty for a gearbox change while Haas came under investigation for working on Grosjean's car in parc-ferme conditions.  

Q2 began under slightly better conditions. Hamilton traded fastest laps with Verstappen initially but the conditions soon deteriorated as the rain intensified. Ferrari was once again struggling to stay in touch with the front runners with Charles Leclerc outside the top 10 and Vettel the driver at risk of elimination. The Monegasque driver couldn't better his time and eventually finished the session in P11. Leclerc's woes didn't end there as he was under investigation for impeding Kvyat on his flying lap in Q2. He was awarded a 3 place grid drop for this infringement and would start the race in 14th! Russell, Stroll, Kvyat and Magnussen were the other casualties, mistakes for Stroll and Magnussen costing them dearly. Racing Point hoped to turn things around come race-day.   

Track conditions were similar to that of Q1 ( at the start of Q3 ) and the cars tiptoed around the track for the first couple of minutes. Lap times were set and the Mercedes duo seemed to have an upper hand in the fight for the front row. The lap times started dropping in the final three minutes of the session. Verstappen jumped to Provisional Pole while Gasly improved to P4. Lewis Hamilton had different plans. The 6 times World Champion set purple sectors and snatched back provisional pole, this time with a margin of seven-tenths of a second. Ocon demoted Bottas to P4 before Sainz claimed P3 from OconMax Verstappen pushed hard on his final attempt displaying razor-sharp reflexes whenever the car tried to misbehave. It was neck and neck into the last couple of corners when a distraction caused by the Ferrari of Vettel pulling into the pits upset his focus. He lost the rear end of his car into the final turn and the challenge was over. It wasn't over for the Mercedes duo...yet... Bottas pushed hard but could only manage P4. Lewis flexed his muscles and went even faster. He would eventually finish on pole with a buffer of 1.2 seconds to Max Verstappen and 1.6 to his team-mate ( who was in 4th ). It was a driving masterclass in atrocious conditions! 

Carlos Sainz Jr qualified P3. Bottas, Ocon, Norris, Albon, Gasly, Ricciardo & Vettel completed the top 10.

Come rain, come sunshine, Mercedes was still the team to beat. Red Bull and McLaren had a great base to fight them on Sunday. Once again there was only one Ferrari powered car in the top 10 and the works team needed to produce a foolproof strategy ( with a fair bit of luck ) if they were to replicate their performance from the previous week. The Racing Points weren't able to display their true pace either. The race on Sunday promised to be an exciting affair!



Race :

The Regional Anthem of Styria was played before the drivers took a stand ( or knee ) against racism. 19 cars lined up on the grid as Grosjean opted to start from the pit lane. The sun was shining in all its glory and the track was bone dry! It was time to go racing!

Everyone had a free choice of tyres ( due to a wet qualifying ). Ricciardo, Vettel, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Latifi and Giovinazzi opted to start on the medium set of tyres while the rest of the field chose the softs.  

The 5 red lights went out and Hamilton was quick off the blocks. Sainz tried to scrap it out with Verstappen but the latter held firm. The train of cars reached turn 3 and Leclerc tried to make a move on Vettel, went over the kerb, the rear of his car lifted into the air and tangled with the rear wing of Vettel's Ferrari. The latter limped to the pits with a dangling rear wing. His race was over and the Safety Car was deployed. Kimi Raikkonen had a front-row seat of the incident and had to slam his brakes to avoid contact with the sparring Ferraris in front. His car went into anti-stall relegating him to the back of the pack. Vettel retired from the race. Leclerc pitted as well for a front wing change and a switch to an alternate strategy (a new set of hard tyres ). Stewards investigated the incident and deemed it as "No Action Necessary".

Racing resumed on lap 4 and once again Hamilton had a clean getaway. Leclerc's car was undrivable due to massive underside damage and he retired from the race on lap 5. Perez had a mega start and was already in P11 by the end of lap 7. Bottas overtook Sainz for P3 while Albon closed in on the McLaren. An off-track excursion for Russell demoted him to 18th and last. Albon overtook Sainz for P4 ( lap 8 ). Raikkonen passed Latifi for P17 while Stroll bickered with Norris over P9 on lap 10. The Canadian was on the move having started 13th on the grid. He was able to make the overtake a lap later. His team-mate Perez then made his entry into the points scoring position on lap 14 with Norris going backwards in a tough phase of the race. 

Daniel Ricciardo was closing in on his team-mate Ocon for P6. Renault had opted for different strategies and it seemed that Ocon was losing performance on his soft tyres. Things got quite nervy on lap 17 when Ricciardo tried to make a move on the outside at turn 4. Ocon held forte. Ricciardo didn't mince his words over the team radio and wanted to chase down Sainz ( in P5 ) if the team instructed Ocon to let him by. Stroll made it past Gasly on the same lap and was closing in on this duo rapidly. A lap later the Renault team-mates went wheel-to-wheel again while Gasly lost another spot, this time to Sergio Perez
Ricciardo finally made it past Ocon ( lap 19 ).

Mercedes instructed both their drivers to push and Hamilton responded with the fastest laps of the race on laps 20 & 21. It went from bad to worse for Gasly who lost another place to Norris ( on lap 22 ). The Alpha Tauri was rapidly losing performance on the soft tyres. Meanwhile, Leclerc and Vettel exchanged words in the paddock and the former apologised for his mistake at the start of the race. 

Bottas was now closing in on Verstappen. There was a lot of action at the back of the field as well. Raikkonen was now in P14, having passed Magnussen. Giovinazzi, his team-mate, was the next car up ahead.  

Red Bull decided to undercut the Mercedes and pitted Verstappen for a fresh set of medium tyres on lap 25. Game on! Ocon retired from the race on lap 26 with a suspected cooling issue. Hamilton was now 25 seconds clear of Verstappen.


Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Albon, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Perez, Norris and Kvyat were the top 10 on lap 27. Hamilton dived into the pits at the end of lap 27, switched to a fresh set of medium tyres and exited the pits with a comfortable lead over a charging Verstappen. The Dutchman was unhappy and questioned the team's attempt of an undercut.

Bottas took over the lead of the race and decided to go longer on his first stint. Gasly pitted on lap 29 for a set of hard tyres, the Frenchman rejoining in 17th and last. Lewis Hamilton wasted no time in setting the fastest lap time ( of the race ) on his fresh set of medium tyres, pulling away from Max Verstappen and reducing the deficit to his team-mate in front. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez put immense pressure on his team-mate for P7. Racing Point had a decision to make. 

Carlos Sainz pitted from P5 on lap 33 but a sticky left-rear wheel delayed the Spaniard. A stationary stop of 7.2 seconds caused him to get stuck behind a train of cars that were yet to pit. Bottas finally pitted on lap 34 for a fresh set of medium tyres and rejoined in 3rd behind Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen. The Finn would now have to make an overtake on-track to claim P2. 
Racing Point also pitted Lance Stroll on the same lap ( lap 34 ). This cleared the road for Sergio Perez in his quest to reduce the gap to Ricciardo. The Alfa Romeo cars were now into points-scoring positions. 

Albon pitted from P4 on lap 36 and rejoined in 7th behind Lando Norris. Stroll and Sainz were now hunting down the cars yet to make a stop. Stroll overtook Raikkonen on lap 36 and did the same with Giovinazzi a lap later. Sainz followed suit with overtakes on laps 38 and 39. Perez pitted on lap 39 ( from P5 ) and rejoined the track just in front of Sainz. The Spaniard was unwilling to yield and went wheel to wheel with Perez. He had track-position out of turn 4 but Perez got a great slipstream and went around the outside of turn 5 to retake P8! What an outstanding manoeuvre!

Norris and Giovinazzi pitted on lap 40 for a fresh set of tyres while Bottas set the fastest lap of the race, reducing the deficit to Verstappen. Haas F1 drivers were having a torrid time and still suffering from braking issues. Raikkonen pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres on lap 45 while Perez closed in on his team-mate ( again ) for P6. He was side by side with DRS Assistance out of turn 4 and had the inside line into turn 5. Another brilliant move and great wheel-to-wheel racing! 

Perez had Daniel Ricciardo in his sights, the latter struggling on the soft tyres. The front-runners were now lapping the backmarkers and the gap between Verstappen and Bottas was hovering around the 8-second mark. Raikkonen and Magnussen had quite an aggressive duel with the former rebuffing the challenge ( lap 48 ). Raikkonen then passed Gasly to move up to P12 on lap 49. Gasly ditched his hard tyres for a fresh set of mediums and rejoined last... a forgettable Sunday for the Frenchman.

Perez was in DRS range and overtook Ricciardo before turn 4. It seemed like the latter was nursing an issue or running conservatively to protect the reliability of his car. Ricciardo soon fell into the clutches of the other Racing Point and Stroll was unrelenting in his pressure to claim P6. Ricciardo held on, using his battery power at the right places to maintain the status quo. The crown for the Fastest Lap shifted to Perez who was flying with the clear track in front of him. The Mexican put in a series of blistering laps! Suddenly P4 seemed a possibility... an incredible feat from P17 ( if he could accomplish it ). The gap was reducing rapidly and Albon ( in P4 ) was apprised about the situation. 

Mercedes informed Bottas ( lap 54 ) that he would catch Verstappen on the last lap with the current pace and Verstappen had picked up some front wing damage on the right-hand side. Thankfully it wasn't critical. Alfa Romeo was on the cusp of scoring points again with Giovinazzi and Raikkonen hot on the heels of 10th placed man Kvyat. The team deliberated on a position swap between their 2 drivers. Raikkonen was on fresher tyres and was stuck behind Giovinazzi, losing performance in the dirty air. 

Perez was within striking distance of P4 and in the DRS range ( lap 57 ). Albon and Perez then ran into a couple of backmarkers with the latter getting held up just a bit. Down the field, Raikkonen finally got the nod to pass Giovinazzi and hunt down Kvyat to grab the solitary point ( on lap 60 ). It would prove to be too little too late. 

Stroll was still stuck behind Ricciardo when Norris and Sainz started tussling for 8th. McLaren swapped positions with minimal time loss to either, giving Norris the license to go after the Renault and Racing Point in full earnest ( lap 62 ). Perez continued to pump in a series of fastest laps in the DRS range of Albon while Bottas was 2 seconds behind Verstappen! Verstappen complained about driveability issues and worn-out tyres and Bottas was in DRS range by lap 65. The fastest lap of the race changed hands again! It was Norris who claimed it ( lap 65 ) as he closed in on Stroll in P7. 

The battle for P2 intensified on lap 66. "Not much left on my rear tyres" quipped Max Verstappen as he led Bottas into the triple DRS zones. Bottas got close into the run at turn 3, was made to take the outside line, got better traction out of the corner and with DRS assistance the pass seemed to be complete before turn 4. However, Verstappen had other ideas and drove around the outside. Bottas was forced to yield ( at turn 5 ) and Verstappen kept his place for another lap! 
The battle resumed on the next lap with Bottas forced to take the outside line out of turn 3 again. This time he got the job done with DRS into turn 4. It was a Mercedes 1-2 ( lap 66 ). 

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, decided to turn up the wick and reclaimed the fastest lap point from Norris ( lap 66 ). Carlos Sainz pitted on the same lap for a fresh set of soft tyres, his goal the same. It was a free stop for the Spaniard. 

The race had come alive in the closing stages! 

Verstappen would then pit at the end of lap 68, a free stop for him as well. Kudos to the FOM for adding an extra point for the fastest lap of the race since last year. Carlos Sainz now topped the fastest laps chart but would he hold onto it until the end?

Perez knew it was now or never and tried a pass on Albon into Turn 4 ( on the penultimate lap ). The two made contact, Perez's front wing suffering damage after contact with the rear of Albon's car. The latter was lucky to come out unscathed out of the same turn where he suffered much grief a week earlier. The front wing of the Mexican's car was hanging on precariously but he kept racing. Meanwhile, Norris had joined the Ricciardo-Stroll battle for P6.

There was more drama on the penultimate lap. Lance Stroll went for a last-ditch, late-braking lunge, down the inside of Ricciardo at Turn 3, out-braked himself, ran wide, pushed Ricciardo further wide and offered Norris the chance of a double overtake. The trio raced wheel-to-wheel into turn 4 with Norris getting the jump on Ricciardo and even challenging Stroll only to relent a turn later. 

The McLaren protegee got a second shot at it on the final lap and got the job done into turn 4! 

Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag and the win, well clear of his team-mate Bottas and Verstappen. Albon took P4.

Perez had a 6.5 seconds cushion to Norris. The gap reduced massively and Norris overtook Perez on the penultimate turn! Norris finished in P5 with Perez holding off Stroll and Ricciardo in a photo finish! Sainz and Kvyat completed the top 10 with Sainz bagging the point for the fastest lap! 

Raikkonen came across the line in P11, the Finn having to back off due to fuel saving towards the end. Magnussen and Grosjean jumped Giovinazzi for P12 and P13 respectively. Gasly was P15 followed by Russell and Latifi.



Hamilton had lapped everyone up until P9. Such was the dominance of the Mercedes! Red Bull, the best of the rest. McLaren and Racing Point had another strong weekend. Renault still had reliability issues to address. Scuderia Alpha Tauri had a mediocre weekend. Alfa Romeo Racing had a better outing while Haas F1 was relieved to finish after their double retirement the previous weekend. Williams would rue a missed opportunity with Russell.

Ferrari had a forgettable weekend and need to bring all their resources to bear to turn things around quickly. They have numerous issues to address. P11 was the best finish for a Ferrari powered car ( Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen ) this weekend. Challenging times for the most successful team on the grid.


Offtrack, Renault lodged a complaint with the FIA over the legality of the Racing Point RP20. FIA confirmed Renault's protest was admissible. There will be a full hearing.


The F1 brigade now makes its way to Hungary. The circuit, close to the city of Budapest, is a high downforce track and the chasing pack can reduce the deficit to the Mercedes here. Track position will play an important role though.

Mercedes will be glad to start the season with a win for both their drivers. Their quest for a 7th Constructors' Championship has begun on the right note. The three-pointed star landed a knockout punch in both the bouts.

Mercedes reigned supreme in the Sytrian countryside! Bring on Hungary!!

2020 Austrian GP Race Recap : Season Opener serves up a Race of Attrition!

2020 has been a challenging year. The Pandemic Covid-19 brought the entire world to a standstill with nations having to enforce lockdowns, instructing their populace to exercise social distancing and employ extensive sanitization measures. Sporting events had to be postponed or cancelled throughout the year and F1 was no exception. The sport attempted to kick-start the season in Australia in March but the event was called off on Friday morning after a couple of personnel in the paddock tested positive. Consequently, more racing events were cancelled or postponed and there was a possibility of a heavily truncated 2020 F1 season.

Thankfully the "curve flattened" in Europe ( from June ) and various sporting events announced dates for resumption in 2020. Formula One Management also drew up plans and the season would kick off at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria on the first weekend of July, with a calendar featuring 15 to 16 races. 

Unfortunately the first 8 races viz. Austrian & Styrian GPs, Hungarian GP, British GP, 70th Anniversary GP, Spanish GP, Belgian GP and the Italian GP would be closed-door events with a set of protocols in place to protect the well-being of the travelling F1 Fraternity.


Let us have a quick recap of the opening race weekend!


Practice :

Friday and Saturday Free Practices saw the dominance of Mercedes powered cars with the Honda-powered Red Bulls trying their best to keep the Mercedes' works team honest. Ferrari suffered from a lack of straight-line speed while their customers - Haas and Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen had balance issues. Racing Point was a revelation, so was McLaren; Renault featured in the top 10 as well. Less than half a second separated P3 from P16, qualifying would be a closely contested affair!



Qualifying :

Q1 saw almost all drivers set lap times on soft tyres ( bar Albon who used a Medium set ). Magnussen, Russell, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Latifi were the casualties. Raikkonen complained about traffic on his final run. Ricciardo ran wide just ahead of him throwing up a lot of gravel onto the racing line compromising his times even further. Nevertheless, it was a day to forget for Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.. a team which was 1.1 seconds quicker and in Q3 last year; back to the drawing board for them. 

Max Verstappen set a banker lap with a set of Medium tyres while his team-mate made a mistake on his first run but had the luxury of an extra set of soft tyres to set things right on the second. The Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Vettel struggled to keep up with their lap times; the former just scraping through in 10th while the latter ending up as the first big casualty of Q2. Gasly, Kvyat, Ocon, Grosjean were the others eliminated. Ocon had a lacklustre Saturday and was hoping to things around 24 hours later. Everyone barring Verstappen had set their fastest lap on the soft tyres. Red Bull's decision to have Max start the race on a medium set of tyres could prove pivotal in terms of strategy.

Mercedes AMG Petronas turned up their engines and went all out in Q3. They opened up a considerable gap to their immediate challengers ( Red Bull ) with Bottas getting provisional pole against Hamilton. Verstappen & Albon were P3 and P4, followed by Perez, Leclerc and Sainz. Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo opted for only one run in Q3. 

Bottas was on a flyer in his final run but ran wide and onto the gravel, bringing out yellow flags and compromising the times of the cars behind him. Lewis ( who was behind him ) set personal best sector times but couldn't beat his team-mate and had to settle for a front-row start. Verstappen qualified 3rd while Norris catapulted himself to 4th to split the Red Bulls. A great qualifying session for McLaren! Albon was 5th followed by Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Stroll and Ricciardo.


Hamilton had ignored Yellow Flags on his final run in Q3 ( due to Bottas' offtrack excursion ) and got docked 3 places after Red Bull protested against the Stewards' decision to not penalize him earlier for the infringement. The penalty was dished out just an hour before the start of the race and the 6 times World Champion would have to start the race in 5th.



Race :

Red Bull had enjoyed a fair share of success at their home race with Max Verstappen winning the previous 2 editions and many experts believed the performance deficit would reduce with Verstappen starting on the more lasting set of medium tyres. Mercedes too had an ace up their sleeve, their much talked about DAS - Dual-Axis Steering System. They opted to use it only for the race. DAS is a device that appears to change the alignment (toe) of the front wheels. It is controlled by the driver by pulling and pushing on the steering column. 

More on that here: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.das-explained-what-we-know-so-far-about-mercedes-trick-new-steering-system.4vgDQ6cc20xUfhdZGT0ejB.html

Red Bull Racing lodged an official protest over the legality of the system but their claims were rejected by the FIA.

Tyre choices were the same for everyone outside the top 10 ( Medium set ). The lap times around the circuit are pretty short so the timing of the pit stops had to be perfect for the front runners.

The 5 red lights went out and the 2020 season got underway with Bottas leading into the first turn from Verstappen and Norris. Norris tried to challenge Max but the Dutchman held firm. Hamilton too put extensive pressure on Albon but status quo was maintained. It was a clean getaway and a clean opening lap for all 20 drivers.

Bottas slowly pulled away from Verstappen while Albon breezed past Norris with DRS Assistance on lap 3. Norris was then passed by Hamilton a lap later and relegated to 5th. 

Sebastian Vettel finally made it past Ricciardo to get into points-scoring position on lap 7. Hamilton, on the other hand, overtook Albon on lap 9 and started eating into the lead that the duo at the front had built. 

Disaster struck Max Verstappen on Lap 12. The Dutchman slowed down and rapidly lost places while trying to run through a series of settings on his dash to restore power to his Honda unit. He complained about the car going into anti-stall after every mode change. He limped back into the pits, the team put on a set of hard tyres, even performed a Steering Wheel change at the stop but the problem seemed terminal. He climbed out of the car and into retirement on lap 14, visibly frustrated. 

The Mercedes duo now had a free run at the front and it seemed that they were destined for a 1-2; the order though was debatable as Lewis continued to chip away at Bottas' lead. Lap 18 saw more drama with Lance Stroll who was running in 8th started suffering from sensor issues on his engine and lost positions to Vettel and Gasly in the space of 2 laps. He would eventually drive back to his garage at the end of lap 21, a sad end after a promising Saturday. Bottas and Hamilton were notified about the sensor failure and instructed to take utmost care of the car. Daniel Ricciardo too suffered a retirement, cooling issues on his power unit to blame. ( Lap 18 ). Grosjean had a quick trip across the gravel at turn 5 while Kimi Raikkonen passed his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi to take over 13th in his pursuit of Magnussen and Ocon. The Finn pitted for a set of Hard Tyres on Lap 25 to undercut both.

Magnussen suffered a front brake failure while defending from Ocon on lap 26 ( Turn 1 ) bringing out the Safety Car. A slew of pit stops followed a lap later with everyone opting for the Hard Compound tyres. Perez and Norris were neck and neck out of their respective pit boxes but the Racing Point driver avoided the fast lane thus escaping from an unsafe release investigation. 

Racing resumed on Lap 31 with Sainz challenging Leclerc for P6 going into Turn 3. The Spaniard was on the outside and had to give up on the move to make the corner but Sebastian Vettel who was behind him went for a late and unrealistic lunge, locked up, got spun around and suffered damage besides being relegated to 15th place! The stewards deemed the incident as "no action necessary".

Perez went past Norris on lap 34 while the Mercedes started building up a gap again. Grosjean was served a black and white flag for exceeding track limits on multiple occasions, the warning adding insult to injury to an already under-performing Haas driver.

The fight at the front was pretty tense with Hamilton staying within DRS Range but not getting too close to avoid the dirty air from the Mercedes in front. He was also very vocal about the strategy employed by the team and wanted the right of passage since he believed he could go quicker. Both drivers were once again warned about their sensor issues - engine and gearbox and instructed to avoid using the kerbs as much as possible. These instructions didn't stop being issued and eventually, the Chief Strategist James Vowles came on the radio to warn them that the levels were "critical" ( Lap 47 ). Meanwhile, Vettel was stuck behind Raikkonen in 14th who eventually went past Russell on lap 45, the Finn losing positions due to the timing of the Safety car earlier. 

Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Kvyat and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of Lap 48. 

2 Laps later, Grosjean suffered a brake failure like his team-mate and was forced to retire while the Williams of George Russell suffered a sensor issue and ground to a halt on Lap 51. This caused another safety car to be deployed and barring the Mercedes duo and Perez, everyone else pitted for a set of fresh tyres for the final stint of the race. The Renault of Ocon and Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi jumped Kvyat after the round of pit stops, both moving up into points-scoring positions. Perez also gained track position on Albon.

The battle at the front was now an intriguing one with the Mercedes' drivers on a used set of Hard Tyres, Perez on a used set of Mediums and the rest of the pack on brand new sets of tyres ( some on softs, some on mediums ).

The safety car pulled into the pits on lap 54 and Albon went about reclaiming 3rd place from Perez in full earnest. 2 corners into the restart and the safety car had to be redeployed! This time it was Kimi Raikkonen who had stalled on the start-finish straight minus the right front wheel! Replays showed that the wheel had gotten undone when the Finn went over the penultimate turn at the restart! He would be the 7th retirement of the Race, a cross-threaded wheel nut to blame! His team-mate Giovinazzi ran wide on Turn 1 ( at the restart ) and was relegated to P13.

The cars then had to pass through the pits while the stricken Alfa Romeo was cleared off the start-finish straight. Albon who had earlier challenged Perez for P3 was allowed to take up that position after replays showed that he was already ahead of Perez ( under racing conditions on Lap 54 ) before the Safety Car was deployed for the third time. He now at a great chance of a podium, possibly a win!

The safety car pulled into the pits on Lap 61 and Bottas had a great restart but Lewis came under intense pressure from Albon at turn 3. The battle continued on the run into turn 4 and Albon was forced to take the outside line. There was contact between the duo and Albon was sent into a spin! Albon didn't mince his words over the radio! Perez, Norris and Leclerc now completed the top 5 while the remaining Red Bull rejoined in 13th and last! 

The Stewards initiated an investigation into the incident ( on Lap 64 ). A rejuvenated Leclerc made an amazing move on Norris to take P4 on the same lap and also set the fastest lap of the race. 2 Laps later, on lap 66, he performed an amazing late braking manoeuvre into turn 3 to take P3 from Perez. The Ferrari had come alive! 

Lewis Hamilton was handed a 5 second time penalty for his collision with Albon which would effectively mean that Leclerc and possibly Perez could end up on the podium! ( More on that later )

Perez's hopes of a podium were dashed on Lap 68 after he was handed a time penalty of 5 seconds for speeding in the pit lane; to make matters worse, Lando Norris made a lunge down the inside at turn 3 a lap later, banging wheels and relegating him to P5. Lando now had the chance to reduce the deficit to Hamilton and possibly get a maiden podium finish! There was action at the back of the pack as well. Antonio Giovinazzi made up for the places he lost with overtakes that promoted him to P9, even fending off a charge by Vettel! Kvyat was the one going backwards in this tussle.

Bottas and Hamilton were given "full beans" to help the latter build a five-second buffer to the 4th placed man Norris. Hamilton set a couple of fastest laps and the team even pondered on a position switch to better his chances. 

There was more drama on Lap 69 with Albon pulling over to the side of the track after what seemed to be a power unit failure. One lap later, Daniil Kvyat suffered a Rear Right Suspension Failure to become the 9th and the final retirement of the race! 

It seemed that Lewis would still end up on the podium with Lando Norris being just outside the 5-second window on the penultimate lap. 

The young British driver had other plans! He punched in the fastest lap of the race on the final lap pipping his countryman to a well deserved maiden podium finish!!!

Bottas had driven a flawless race to win the first race of the 2020 F1 Season! Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris produced stunning drives to finish P2 and P3 respectively. Lewis Hamilton had to settle for P4 while Sainz, Perez, Gasly, Ocon, Giovinazzi and Vettel completed the top 10. Rookie Nicolas Latifi would take 11th, the final finisher of a retirement laden race!



Analysis of the Albon-Hamilton Incident :

Albon was on a brand new set of soft tyres while Lewis was on a set of old hard tyres. Albon got great traction out of Turn 2 and carried that momentum into Turn 3 and Turn 4. Lewis placed his car pretty well and the only way to pass was on the outside. The power deficit on the Honda meant that Albon couldn't pass Lewis on the 2 DRS straights and would have to make a move under braking. He was able to execute this and was ahead of Lewis at the exit of Turn 4. Lewis held his line but didn't go full lock on his steering ( personal opinion ); eventually, this angle would lead him to tangle with Albon, the rear of the Red Bull taking the hit and going into a spin.   

There is no place for niceties in the world of racing and Lewis is one tough customer. However, he was fighting a losing battle here and should have displayed better spacial awareness. Albon had run out of road.

In Lewis' defence, he was on a set of worn-out hard tyres so was lacking grip and traction coming out of the turn. Possibly, he couldn't have turned anymore and this caused the eventual contact. The universal rule in racing is that the car with track position should always have the right of way and Lewis was penalized for this breach. Thankfully the severity of the penalties have been reduced from this year and Lewis got a time penalty of only 5 seconds. Albon came off worse losing the chance of his maiden podium or even win, eventually retiring on lap 69. 


 Post-race investigation of  Kimi Raikkonen's retirement revealed that a wheel nut was cross-threaded in his pit stop and  Alfa Romeo were fined 5000 Euros for this. Tough day at the office for the most experienced man on the grid.


The season opener was a thriller!  Bottas began the season on the right note with Mercedes still being the fastest car on the grid but with chinks in their armour. Ferrari had a poor Saturday but Leclerc stepped up to the challenge and produced a stellar drive on the day that mattered. Vettel could have done likewise but for the incident; he will have another shot at it later this week. McLaren's resurgence was the talk of the paddock and Lando Norris deserved special praise for pushing right till the end and bagging his maiden podium. Sainz Jr. put in yet another consistent drive. The days of old were back for the Woking-based outfit.  Racing Point wasn't far behind and will have a say sooner rather than later.  Red Bull Racing would be hoping to have better reliability with their Honda units for Round 2 next week as they have the pace to challenge for a win. Renault's struggles seem to be far from over and they need to improve. Haas & Alfa Romeo are in a similar situation with their pace considerably slower to the times last year. Giovinazzi was the saving grace for Alfa. The Italian Stallion drove a great race to finish P9 and bring home a couple of points. Williams is improving and I believe that they shall be in the points soon.


The second race of the season will be on the same track the following weekend. Addressing reliability will be the main concern for all teams. We might be served another masterpiece in the hills of Styria!  


The F1 Season is truly underway!

The Flying Diaries : BOM - VIE - BOM ( Emirates Business )

I had made a short trip to Dubai at the start of 2015. Plans were already in place for the races to attend in 2015. Austria would be the First Destination.

The Track was situated in Spielberg, a considerable distance from Vienna but closer to a city called Graz. Graz was an hour's drive from Vienna and plans were drawn to fly into Vienna for the race.

The Outbound Flight was on 18th June 2015 and the inbound on 25th June 2015.


Mumbai - Vienna ( 18th June 2015 ) :

Business Class lounge at Mumbai Terminal 2.


My Maiden journey in A380 Business Class. Shots of Business Class :


The Menu for the Mumbai - Dubai leg :


Enjoying ICE ( Information, Communication, Entertainment ) :


Quick Selfies in seat :


Video Link to the Emirates A380 taking off from Mumbai International Airport :


Breakfast time :


Shots of the Business Class Lounge :


A quick nap before landing into Dubai International Airport :


Nearing Touchdown at Dubai :


Video Link to the Emirates Airbus A380 landing at Dubai International Airport :


Dubai International Airport :


A Brisk Security check during transit and I was standing in the Business Class Lounge. I have lost count of the total number of lounges at Dubai!


The spread :


Loads of departures in the morning.


A good rest in the lounge and it was time to board the flight to Vienna. This was a Boeing 777-300ER.


Well Settled in the seat :


Planes, planes and more planes, all around! Codeshare Qantas A380 in the mix as well.


The Menu enroute :


Video Link to Emirates 777-300ER Takeoff from Dubai bound for Vienna :


Gaining Altitude :


Ginger Ale, Nuts, Soup, Seafood Biryani, Ice Cream, what a wholesome meal :


The flight also featured Live TV :


Nearing touchdown in Vienna :


Video Link for the landing at Vienna International Airport :


Vienna International Airport :


A Mercedes E Class to drive me down to Graz, more than an hour away.


Beauty of Austria :


Vienna - Mumbai ( 25th June 2015 ) :

The return pickup was from Le Meridien Vienna. I had a Mercedes Minivan for pickup.


Photos from outside the Airport :


A brisk check-in, security check and it was time to relax in the Lounge :

The view from the Lounge :


Waiting to board :

Business Class, again in a 777-300ER to Dubai :


The Menu onboard :

Taxiing to the Runway :


Video Link for the Emirates 777-300ER leaving for Dubai :




Emirates engines getting us up in the air :


Emirates replicate the night sky in their cabins. Nice touch!


Time to fill the tummy :


Bed time :

Nearing touchdown at Dubai International Airport :

Dubai International Airport :

I got some more time to spend in the Business Class Lounge on my return journey and I was awed by the Service Offered.


The Spread at the Lounge :

My Seat on the Final Leg of the Flight :


Taxiing to the Runway :


Menu onboard :

Video Link for the Takeoff from Dubai International Airport :




The Burj Khalifa towering above everything else in the sky :


The Elaborate Wine-list onboard, irrelevant for a teetotaller

The Final meal before landing :

Nearing Touchdown :


Mumbai! Home!

The Mercedes taking me home :


I really enjoyed the trip to Austria and Emirates ensured that the journey was as good as the destination.

There is nothing that is found wanting in Emirates' Hospitality.

I continue to be a patron.




Paddock Club Diaries - Austrian GP 2015 - Day 3

Sunday had arrived and it was the day of the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix! I was really looking forward to being at the First European Race this year!


As Always the day started early.


Enroute to the circuit :