Hamilton wins Styrian Grand Prix as Ferrari implodes

12/07/2020
NEWS STORY

Were this the excellent Internet Movie Database website this report might well have the message "Warning: Spoilers" at the top of the page in bolded red letters.

After all, didn't we have a race here in similar conditions just seven days ago?

Thankfully however, the only spoilers around the Red Bull Ring this weekend were those naughty weather gods who chose to have some fun and games yesterday.

While the rest of us are thankful for conditions that turned qualifying - and hopefully the race - on its head, the likes of Racing Point and Ferrari are likely to feel that their hopes were pretty much spoiled on Saturday.

Determined to make the most of it, the weather gods teased us with changeable conditions, and having eased up slightly towards the end decided to turn on the hose again, and in the process Lewis Hamilton delivered one of the finest laps in living memory.

Toto Wolff rightly described it as being "out of this world", while Lewis, who is not given to self-praise, admitted that it was close to perfection.

While it would be nice to think he might follow it up with Donington '93 today, despite the much improved conditions we could still be in for a classic.

Despite that magnificent lap, Hamilton goes into today's race knowing he will be up against it. Alongside he has Verstappen, the Dutchman still smarting from his retirement last week.

While the Austrian Grand Prix highlighted an electrics issue on the Honda power units, which the Japanese manufacturer is confident it has fixed, Verstappen will be aware of the fragility of the gearboxes on the Mercedes and will therefore push as hard as he can in order to force the Black Arrows to push also... hopefully over those unforgiving kerbs.

Last week's winner, Valtteri Bottas starts behind the Dutchman, while Carlos Sainz splits the pair in the McLaren

Though Norris took a three-place hit for his yellow flag misdemeanour, we can expect the mother of all battles today as the McLarens square up to Renault and Alpha Tauri.

Then there are the Ferraris and the Points, which looked incredibly strong on Friday.

As if that isn't enough we have George Russell starting from eleventh, behind Vettel and ahead of Stroll, while - courtesy of a penalty for impeding Kvyat - Leclerc starts from 14th.

Last week's race witnessed unusually high attrition, and while some of this can be put down to the fact that it was the first race of the year and followed a lengthy shutdown, it is clear that some cars are more fragile than others. Hopefully lessons have been learned over the last seven days.

One team that clearly hasn't learned its lesson is Ferrari. Having brought its upgrades forward it appears that they aren't enough. Of course it was impossible to judge them in yesterday's conditions, but on Friday's evidence alone the team is clearly hurting.

Despite the continued insistence that it's all about the aero, it is clear that the Italian team has never fully recovered from the controversial investigation of its engine last year, and if further proof were needed just look at the pace of Haas and Alfa Romeo.

Verstappen's qualifying strategy last week saw the Red Bull star start the race on mediums, which gave the event some added spice. Thanks to those pesky weather gods this week the drivers have a free choice of tyre so strategy is going to be the name of the game.

The fastest strategy is still expected to be a one-stopper, but with a slightly different look to last Sunday: where the soft tyre in particular proved to be very competitive.

Theoretically, the quickest way is to start on the softs for 28 to 33 laps and then complete the race on the hards.

The second-quickest strategy is to start on the mediums for 30 to 35 laps, then switch to the softs until the end. This strategy could be reversed as well, starting instead on the softs and finishing on the mediums for the final stint.

Almost as quick is a one-stopper with a start on the mediums for 24 to 30 laps, then hards to the finish.

Finally, a two-stopper is definitely slower: two stints on the softs for 24 to 26 laps each, then mediums to the end.

The pitlane opens, and after yesterday's fun and games the drivers are going to want to run a few exploratory laps before taking their place on the grid.

Raikkonen is first out, the Finn, the oldest man on the grid, heading out for his 314th Grand Prix. As expected all the drivers are keen to get out and try their set-ups.

One of the last to arrive on the grid is pole-man Hamilton.

Albon reports that something fell into his cockpit from around his harness.

Other than Leclerc and Norris' penalties, Giovinazzi was handed a 5-place drop for taking on a new gearbox while Grosjean starts from the pitlane after his team worked on his car under parc ferme conditions.

Ahead of the warm-up lap the air temperature is 19.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 39.6 degrees.

All start on softs bar Ricciardo, Vettel, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Latifi and Giovinazzi who start on mediums.

They head off on the parade lap. All get away with no issues.

While behind him everyone waves in a bid to generate heat into their tyres, Hamilton appears positively relaxed.

They're away.

Hamilton and Verstappen both get away well, and while the Briton is first into Turn 1, Sainz is alongside the Red Bull. Verstappen holds position forcing the McLaren driver to run wide.

Heading into Turn 3, Sainz is on the outside of Verstappen again, while Bottas is just ahead of Ocon and Albon who are side-by-side.

Further back the Ferraris clash, Leclerc, on the inside, momentarily airborne as he clout the side of his teammate's car. Both continue, but Vettel's rear wing has come adrift.

Meanwhile, Russell is all over the rear of Stroll as the Canadian battles Norris.

The safety car is deployed as Vettel has now lost his rear wing.

At the end of lap 1, Hamilton leads from Verstappen, Sainz, Bottas, Albon, Ocon, Ricciardo, Gasly, Norris and Stroll.

Both Ferraris pit, Vettel's car is pushed into its garage his race over, while Leclerc switches to hards.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 3, as Leclerc asks if the rear of his car is OK.

At the re-start Stroll runs wide as he battles Norris, with Russell also enjoying the scrap as he fends of Magnussen.

A mistake sees Russell runs wide and lose a heap of places in the process.

At the end of lap 4 Leclerc drives into the pits and retires, to compound a dreadful weekend for Ferrari.

Bottas finally gets past Sainz to take third, though he is now 5.7s behind his teammate. Hamilton has a 1.5s lead over Verstappen.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Spielberg, here.

Perez goes quickest in S2 as he hunts down tenth-placed Norris. Indeed the McLaren driver is the meat in a Racing Point sandwich as Stroll is up ahead of him.

Albon closes on Sainz, making short work of the McLaren in T4 courtesy of DRS. The Spaniard has the Renault pair in hot pursuit.

Lap 8 sees a new fastest lap from Hamilton (8.845) as he builds a 2.676s lead.

Hamilton is told that he's losing out to Verstappen in Turns 3 and 9.

5th placed Sainz to 12th placed Kvyat are covered by just 6 seconds.

"Start reeling him in little by little, rather than in one go," Bottas is told of the 3.7s gap to Verstappen.

Asking about his tyres, Stroll is told that they're fine, but it is the brakes that are hot.

"I wasn't expecting Charles to try something," Says Vettel, "there wasn't any space."

Lap 13 sees another fastest lap for Hamilton (8.484), as Ocon heads a train of three cars.

Perez passes Norris for tenth, as the Points are now running together.

Fourth-placed Albon is now 12.3s down on Bottas and 19s down on the race leader.

With Ocon struggling, Renault should really allow Ricciardo, who is on mediums, to pass. Then again, we know that the Frenchman isn't much of a team player.

Ricciardo makes a move on his teammate but Ocon is having none of it, which allows the Points to close in. That said, Gasly has passed Perez.

At which point Perez retakes the position.

Ricciardo, king of the late-brakers, finally gets by his teammate in T4.

Verstappen complains that his car has a little too much grip at the front. Meanwhile the Mercedes pair are told to push. The Dutchman is warned that Bottas could be looking for the undercut.

Norris passes Gasly in T4 to take 10th.

Leclerc apologises for his mistake, taking full responsibility for letting down his teammate and the team.

"Excuses are not enough in times like this," he says, "I'm disappointed in myself, I let the team down and I can only be sorry."

Fair enough.

At the end of lap 24, Verstappen is the first to pit. Switching to mediums he rejoins in third, 25.7s down on the leader.

Norris is told he's doing an excellent job as the team is looking to extend his first stint. He is currently 10th, 3.4s down on Ocon, who subsequently pits.

Or rather he retires. With smoke billowing from the car he is pushed back into his garage.

Hamilton pits at the end of lap 27, rejoining in second, 11.8s down on Bottas but 4.7s ahead of Verstappen. The Dutchman isn't happy, feeling he is losing out to the world champion having pitted too early.

On fresh mediums, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (7.863) as he sets about closing the 10.9s gap to his teammate.

After 30 laps, it's: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Albon, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Perez, Norris and Kvyat.

Sainz pits at the end of lap 32, rejoining in 13th on mediums. It's a poor stop for the Spaniard. Latifi also pits.

Next time around Stroll pits, the Canadian rejoining in 11th. He is immediately involved in a scrap with Grosjean.

Bottas pits at the end of lap 34, the Finn rejoining in third, 7.8s down on Verstappen and 13.2s down on the race leader.

As Albon pits at the end of lap 35, Hamilton says both sets of tyres feel softer today. Albon rejoins in 7th.

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 37, as Stroll finally gets past the two Alfas.

Ricciardo rejoins in seventh.

Perez pits at the end of lap 39 and on rejoining is immediately involved in a scrap with Sainz. The Mexican cheekily nails the McLaren. "Did you like that," he asks his team.

Norris pits at the end of lap 40, as does Giovinazzi. The Briton rejoins in 10th.

12s down on his teammate, Bottas posts a new fastest lap (7.655).

After 42 laps, Raikkonen is the only driver yet to pit. The Finn is currently ninth.

In his pursuit of his teammate, Norris is posting some of the fastest sector times.

The leaders have already lapped everyone up to Gasly, with Norris next on their hit list.

Raikkonen finally pits at the end of lap 45, rejoining in 14th.

For several corners the Points are side-by-side as Stroll refuses to yield to his Mexican teammate. However, Perez is in no mood to take no for an answer and eventually nails the youngster.

After 46 laps, it's: Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Albon, Ricciardo, Perez, Stroll, Sainz, Norris and Kvyat.

Norris is told that if he does "max pace to the end" he might - might! - catch Ricciardo.

No such concerns for Perez who leaves Ricciardo for dead, even though the Australian is on softs and the Mexican mediums. The Racing Point driver sets about closing the 5.5s gap to Albon.

Gasly makes his second stop of the day at the end of lap 50, the Frenchman switching from hards to softs again.

On a real charge, Perez sets a new fastest lap (7.513) as he closes the gap to Albon to 2.512s.

Bottas is told he has damage to his rear deflector. The Finn is subsequently told that as his current pace he will catch Verstappen on the last lap.

Giovinazzi is shown the black and white flag for ignoring the track limits three times.

Another fastest lap for Perez (7.410).

"You're gaining eight-tenth a lap," Perez is told, "you've got five laps of this engine (mode?) left."

As the Mexican reels in Albon the end result seems inevitable, and poor old Russell is caught up in the middle of it.

Ricciardo's poor pace is causing Stroll to fall into the clutches of the McLaren pair. "I need engine," says the Canadian.

"Max, I know you're pushing, but..." Verstappen gets the call to push.

In his efforts to stay ahead of Perez, Albon posts a PB (7.645).

Verstappen is now told that he's "picked up quite a bit of front wing damage, left-hand side".

Check out our Race Day gallery from Spielberg, here.

And now the McLaren pair are scrapping, Sainz currently eighth, just ahead of his teammate.

Sainz eventually yields to his young teammate.

Another fastest lap from Perez (7.396) as he closes to within 0.640s of Albon. Meanwhile the other Red Bull driver is struggling, as Bottas closes to within 2s.

As he's told "boost on", it's clear that Verstappen is frustrated at his lack of pace. "Drivability is shocking," he moans.

Lap 64 sees Norris post a new fastest lap (7.286) as Verstappen complains "there's not much left in my rear tyres". "Understood Max," comes the reply.

Indeed, Bottas is all over his rear. They battle wheel-to-wheel, and while Bottas gets past, the Dutchman immediately retakes the position.

Catching him is one thing however, passing Max quite another.

Next time around, on the long run to T4 there is no chance of the Red Bull holding off the Mercedes, Bottas sweeps by to make it a Black Arrow 1-2. Verstappen doesn't surrender easily however and for a couple of corners they battle, side-by-side, the Dutch youngster eventually retaking the position.

On the run to T3 on lap 67, Bottas tries again, finally nailing the Red Bull on the run to T4. This time around, the Finn pulls away.

A late stop for softs from Sainz, the Spaniard clearly going for the fastest lap, as Perez is hard on the tail of Albon.<p>

Meanwhile Stroll almost nails Ricciardo in T3 but the Australian slams the door and the Point locks-up and runs wide in a bid to avoid the Renault.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 68, the Dutchman taking on fresh softs and rejoining still in third.

Perez goes quickest in S1, while Sainz goes quickest in S2.

Sainz posts 5.619 as Norris also looks set to go quicker as he closes in on Stroll who is in turn hounding Ricciardo.

Perez makes a move on Albon in T3, but the Dutchman slams the door tight, the Mexican clouts the right-rear of the Bull with his left front, but they are able to continue.

On the penultimate lap, running almost as one, Stroll makes a late move on Riccardo in T3 but gets it wrong, runs wide taking Ricciardo with him. As the Australian continues on the run-off, Stroll rejoins the track and almost collects Norris. As the dust settles Stroll leads Ricciardo and Norris who are side-by-side.

Norris passes the Renault and closes on the Point, going around the outside of the Canadian in T4. However, Stroll holds him off as Ricciardo closes in again.

As Hamilton takes the flag, Perez is struggling with front wing damage following his clash with Albon, while Norris refuses to take no for an answer and passes Stroll for sixth.

Poor Perez goes from hero to zero as he is passed by Norris on the final lap, the Briton giving another bravura last lap performance, gaining two positions in almost as many corners.

Stroll and Ricciardo go either side of Perez but the Mexican somehow holds them off.

Again, phew!

Hamilton wins, with Bottas second, ahead of Verstappen, Albon, Norris, Perez, Stroll, Ricciardo, Sainz and Kvyat.

Raikkonen is eleventh, ahead of Magnussen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Gasly, Russell and Latifi.

The stewards have noted the Stroll / Ricciardo incident.

Norris, Stroll, Ricciardo and Sainz are covered by just over a second, hopefully a portent of what we can expect from the midfield battle over the months ahead.

Hamilton made it look so easy, which of course it wasn't, while Bottas was merely the icing on the cake.

Despite Verstappen's pace yesterday, it is clear that Red Bull and Honda have work to do as they are not yet 'up there' with the Black Arrows.

Then there's Ferrari.

As if things weren't going badly enough, Binotto and his team head to Hungary - though thankfully not to Maranello - with a double DNF as the Italian team's season start goes from bad to worse.

Assuming that this is Mercedes year again, it looks as if we're going to have to settle on the midfield to provide the real thrills, and based on today's performance - and last week - the McLaren, Racing Point, Renault and AlphaTauri drivers seems more than capable.

Yesterday's qualifying session probably spoiled us, for while today's race had its moments out front it was business as usual.

Of course, now we head to the Hungaroring, a circuit notorious for its lack of overtaking opportunities... not to mention the country's draconian treatment of COVID-19 protocol transgressors.

That said, a couple of weeks for Hamilton and Bottas in a Budapest jail might be the only way their rivals get a look in.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Spielberg, here.

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Published: 12/07/2020
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