Styrian Grand Prix 2020: Race Review
After a brilliant opening race of the season, a lot of fans, myself included, had high hopes for another exciting 71 laps at the Red Bull Ring.
However, the second race in Spielberg turned out to be the race that last week’s affair was shaping up to be. Had it not been for several mechanical failures resulting in safety cars, it could have very well been.
When Lewis Hamilton got to the first corner in the lead, I feared the race would turn into one of those Hamilton masterclasses. One of those where the six-time world champion would check-out and control the race upfront without a challenge.
Unfortunately, from a spectators perspective, my fears came to fruition as the Brit cruised effortlessly to his 85th victory and cut the championship lead to 6 points.
The only man who really could have challenged Hamilton on Sunday was his teammate, Valtteri Bottas. But after qualifying 4th, Bottas found himself a decent margin behind the race leader despite clearing Carlos Sainz in 3rd fairly quickly.
Unlike Round 1, Mercedes weren’t having issues with their gearbox and were able to demonstrate their quick pace for the entirety of the race.
Despite Max Verstappen’s best attempts to win the race, he simply didn’t have the car performance to keep up with Hamilton. He was also in a perilous 2 vs 1 situation, sandwiched between the Mercedes who hand the upper hand from both a pace and strategic perspective.
He did well to keep 2nd place as long as he did, and I absolutely loved his move to re-overtake Bottas after the Finn got past him on 10 lap fresher tyres. I’m by no means an admirer of Max, far from it in fact, but its telling to think how many races have been improved by simply him being in them.
I was expecting Red Bull to try something different with their strategy as they so often do, when they know they don’t have the outright pace to beat the Merc’s. For example, starting on the Medium tyres, or pitting Verstappen onto fresh soft tyres 15 laps from the end to mount a late charge.
You could argue that Verstappen would have come off third best whatever they tried, and it’s a fair argument. But considering the size of the gap between the top 3 and the rest, what really did they have to lose?
Onto the midfield, and I don’t think there’s anywhere better to start than Lando Norris, arguably driver of the race for the second week running. McLaren were quick to give the call to Sainz to let Norris past to chase down Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo ahead and it was the right decision.
The Brit pumped in some great laps to chase down to the two infront, pass them both and then also overtake a limping Sergio Perez just before the final corner of the last lap.
Sainz’s race was hampered with a very slow 7 second pit stop, which dropped him down the field. Its a shame for the Spaniard, as he would have surely been fighting further up the grid for more valuable points.
Racing Point were very quick once again, as Perez climbed all the way from 17th to 5th, and then managed to catch up to Albon in 4th. He drove brilliantly right up until his tangle with the Red Bull driver, which proved costly in the end as he suffered quite signicant front wing damage.
Somewhat surprisingly, Renault also showed strong race pace, especially with Ricciardo. This bodes well in terms of the midfield battle for the rest of the season, which you would think will be a close scrap between McLaren and Racing Point, and Renault with an outside shot of getting in the mix.
And finally, Ferrari. Where do I even start? After another tough qualifying for the Scuderia, this time in wet conditions, Ferrari would have been eager to learn their pace in dry conditions, especially after they brought their upgrades forward one week.
However, Charles Leclerc’s clumsy manoeuvre meant that both cars were forced to retire early on as the young Monagasque driver collided with his teammate, Sebastian Vettel. It was genuinely the worst possible race for Ferrari, and they will now have to wait until Budapest to see how much, or if at all, their upgrades have improved their performance.
Mercedes proved this week that they are still well and truly the head of the field, and the team to beat in 2020. I know its early days still, but you’d think that if Verstappen wants to realistically win the championship, he needs to score maximum points at the Hungaroring this weekend, considering the 4 races after Budapest will more suit the Mercedes car.
I just hope that Red Bull can find some extra pace from somewhere and take the fight to the Silver Arrows. Or else, I feel like we’re in for another season of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominance.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more race reaction? George Howson, Louis Edwards, Mikael Kataja and Alex Booth stared in Grid Talk’s Styria 2020 review. Video and audio version of the show are linked below: