The sunny skies in the Styrian mountains led to a very warm track and a very unpredictable Austrian Grand Prix. There was no doubt that Mercedes looked to have this race by the scruff of the neck. A new Power Unit last week in France and a serious chassis upgrade package this weekend manifest itself in a lockout of the front row on Saturday.
The Austrian Grand Prix stage was set on Sunday with Valtteri Bottas on pole and his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, behind him. As the race started, Hamilton’s Sunday looked to be off to great start when he jumped his teammate and took the lead. This was made all the better when his rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel starting from 6th due to a penalty, lost a few positions. Things couldn’t be looking better for Mercedes.
All of that unraveled with the first victim in the form of Bottas who stopped on track with a hydraulic issue forcing a DNF. A Virtual Safety Car session offered the chance for a strategy miscue from Mercedes and Hamilton was left on track while his rival boxed for fresh tires. When Hamilton eventually boxed, he was in front of Vettel in 4th but behind two Red Bulls and a Ferrari.
The increased track temp did not flatter the soft compound Pirelli tires and blistering became the talk of the paddock strategist with serious right-rear tire troubles for Lewis and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Both drivers would pit late, lose positions and eventually retire with mechanical problems. In Lewis’s case it was a loss of fuel pressure. For Daniel, it was a suspected gearbox issue.
Mercedes turned a one-two qualifying effort into a dual DNF and lost not only the driver’s championship lead by a point but the constructor’s championship lead by 10 points.
A big win for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who was cheered on every single lap by a throng some 20,000 strong of orange-shirted Dutch fans on his team’s home circuit. You couldn’t script it any better and it’s reminiscent of the Hamilton/Silverstone and Schumacher/Germany days. Max drove a great race and managed to avoid the serious blistering issues his teammate suffered by guarding his aggression on the tires and avoiding a second stop. Max’s re-pass of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was the move of the race for the Dutchman and It secured his firs twin since Mexico last year.
It was a win for Ferrari but only just as it took a dual DNF from Mercedes to feel good about their race. They are slower than the Mercs and were reined in by the pace of Bottas and Hamilton. They also found it difficult to have enough pace to quickly dispatch of both Red Bulls. It’s racing and DNF’s happen and to be fair, this season is going to be won by small margins in performance differentials, small details and team errors in strategy so attrition by their rivals is part of what this season has to factor in to Ferrari or Mercedes success.
A big win for Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who gave the team their best result ever with a 4th and 5th place finish. The team were clearly the best of the rest all weekend long but could Grosjean get out of his funk and convert a terrific qualifying effort into a great race result? Yes, he could and his teammate did as well. In fact, Kevin leads the best of the rest driver’s championship.
A seemingly tough season and circuit for Force India did make today’s 6th and 7th a win for the team. It isn’t where they should be running based on last year’s results but it is better than they have been in recent races.
A huge win for both Sauber’s bringing home a dual-points finish with Charles Leclerc leading Marcus Ericsson in 9th and 10th. Results the team needed and even if it was attrition-gained, you have to be there to take advantage of it and Sauber were.
A big fail for Mercedes who looked set to choke the life out of the Austrian Grand Prix but a dual DNF and a serious strategy flaw by Lewis Hamilton’s crew sent what was to be glory down the drain of disappointment. The weekend that promised dominance in turn lost them the lead in both championships.
A fail for Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo’s weekend. The towgate saga on Saturday left some thinking Daniel was being a bit cheeky knowing the team has a process for equanimity between drivers. Then on Sunday the tire blisters and eventual DNF made this Australian’s birthday one to forget.
A fail for Toro Rosso with a serious lack of pace on its home track and hopefully not a precursor of what Red Bull can expect with Honda power next season. Brendon Hartley suffered a DNF and Pierre Gasly was DRS fodder for anyone in the same postal/zip code as he was.
A fail for Nico Hulkenberg and Renault who suffered a dramatic engine failure for Nico and couldn’t manage to get Carlos Sainz in the points. The team, who should be best of the rest, was barely best of the also-rans in Austria.
Lance Stroll did a decent job of qualifying his Williams F1 car but the team proved that perhaps no circuit type will flatter their Mercedes-powered pig of a chassis and they languished at the back all day.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne suffered front win damage on the first lap, had to pit for a new wing and trundled around at the back all day. His teammate, Fernando Alonso, was not happy hobbling around at the rear of the race but his qualifying put him there and as he knows, anything can change in Formula 1. As it was, attrition handed him some points that he may not have had if he would have boxed and hung it up.
Was it just me or did there seem to be a lot of armed police in the paddock after the race. It seemed like a lot to me. I’ve been to races here in the US and maybe it’s a European thing but there was a phalanx of police stand shoulder to shoulder down the entire pit lane as Sky Sports walked down it speaking with Romain Grosjean.
A WTH with the new F1 theme song being played over and over while interviews are being done and the race is over. I know they’re proud of the song they paid big money for but give it a rest, we’re trying to hear Kevin Magnussen talk about Haas F1’s best-ever result.
Austrian GP Results
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||71||1h21m56.024s|
|4||Romain Grosjean||Haas/Ferrari||70||1 Lap|
|5||Kevin Magnussen||Haas/Ferrari||70||1 Lap|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||70||1 Lap|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||70||1 Lap|
|8||Fernando Alonso||McLaren/Renault||70||1 Lap|
|9||Charles Leclerc||Sauber/Ferrari||70||1 Lap|
|10||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber/Ferrari||70||1 Lap|
|11||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||70||1 Lap|
|12||Carlos Sainz||Renault||70||1 Lap|
|13||Lance Stroll||Williams/Mercedes||69||2 Laps|
|14||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams/Mercedes||69||2 Laps|
|15||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren/Renault||65||Not running|
|–||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||54||Retirement|
|–||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||53||Retirement|
|–||Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||11||Power Unit|