Tech-know-crat

Your Dose of obsession from Formula 1, Flying, Travel, Football, Watches, Collectibles and everything inspirational everywhere in daily life

Posts for Tag: Spielberg

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!