F1 launches in Austria with controversy

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Formula 1 is back! On a quiet day in Austria, F1 launched their truncated 2020 season. The first running of the 2020 cars in anger proved to be revelatory in some ways and troublesome in others.

Red Bull Ring facts
• Austria becomes the 11th country ever to host a season opener in Formula 1.
• The Red Bull Ring has the quickest overall lap time on the calendar, though it’s only the fourth shortest track.
• With three victories in the mid-1980s, Alain Prost is the most successful driver in the Austrian Grand Prix.

Friday Summary

  • Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton went fastest in both free practice sessions today using the Red soft tire: faster than the equivalent time last year in both sessions. His team mate Valtteri Bottas was second in both FP1 and FP2.
  • Ferrari decided not to use the soft tires in FP1 and only ran them in FP2 for the first time, with Sebastian Vettel classified fourth overall in the afternoon.
  • The fastest non-Mercedes today was Racing Point, with Sergio Perez third overall in FP2, also on the soft tire.
  • Pirelli’s 18-inch P Zero tyres made a successful competition debut today in free practice and qualifying for Formula 2. Formula 1 will adopt the same rim size in 2022.

MARIO ISOLA – Pirelli head of F1

“As expected, there was a relatively small gap in terms of performance between the three compounds at the Red Bull Ring, with a short lap that’s covered in just over a minute. Despite a very long time since the drivers were last on track, the fastest times in both free practice sessions today were slightly faster than their equivalents last year, confirming the development of the cars with exactly the same tyres as 2019. There was plenty of track evolution following some overnight rain, which led to the intermediate tyres being run briefly in FP1. With more teams challenging for the top 10, it’s more likely that the soft will be needed to guarantee a chance of progressing to Q3, which is probably why we saw a lot of drivers concentrating on long runs with the soft tyre as well as the medium today. At such a finely-balanced circuit such as the Red Bull Ring, the smallest detail will count even more than usual”.

Controversy with DAS:

Mercedes has a penchant for creating some of the paddocks most interesting technology and this year, the team created the Dual Axis Steering system or DAS. Pulling and pushing the steering wheel effectively changes the toe angle of the front wheels. 

No wonder that teams questioning the legality of this system and there were many reports that the Australian Grand Prix would find a official FIA protest and inquiry into the system. With he Australian race canceled, that official protest has now been launched in Austria. 

Red Bull have lodged the protest of the DAS and is seeking clarity on the legality of the system and what its prime function really is. 

The two articles listed for review are:

Article 10.2.3 states that “no adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion”.

Article 3.8 states “any specific part of the car influencing its aerodynamic performance must comply with the rules relating to bodywork” and “must be rigidly secured to the entirely sprung part of the car (rigidly secured means not having any degree of freedom)”

Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’

The Racing Point RP20 was dubbed the “Pink Mercedes” as it appeared to be heavily influenced by the 2019 Mercedes car design. Many in the paddock during winter testing had concerns that this was a complete copy of last year’s Mercedes.

Perhaps Friday’s terrific initial pace from the RP20 is the cementing of that notion with Sergio Perez third quickest in the sessions while Red Bull seemed to prove a handful for Max Versstappen and Alex Albon. 

The midfield may have just been turned on its head with Racing Points Mercedes-influenced car has jumped toward the sharp end of the grid and one could imagine that a midfield team may lodge a complaint if Racing Point does very well on Sunday. 

Free practice 2 results

POS DRIVER CAR GAP
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m04.304s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.197s
3 Sergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 0.641s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.657s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 0.668s
6 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 0.783s
7 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 0.831s
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 0.911s
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.994s
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 1.048s
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 1.111s
12 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1.139s
13 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1.149s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1.304s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1.374s
16 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1.604s
17 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1.712s
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1.821s
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1.974s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 2.820s
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Ian Hudson

I am so, so happy that DAS has been deemed legal by the stewards and the FIA. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport and not allowing technical advances like this would take away from the sport. It is just a shame that it appears that only Mercedes have the brainpower to do constantly push itself and not depend on the FIA to artificially lift you to the top as a certain team did for years.

Ed Llorca

About the two rules mentioned re suspension and aerodynamics alegedly broken, did they pull those out of a hat or just close their eyes and pooint to a rule? Das is neither suspension nor aerodynamics it is a STEERING SYSTEM. Does it really take the fans to point out the obvious. I hope the FIA rejects that protest and continues to do so unitl one is written on merit.