EIGHT things we learned from the Styrian Grand Prix

F1 left in a spin over BLM, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes already look untouchable and Lando Norris is Britain’s next star in the making… EIGHT things we learned from the Styrian Grand Prix

  • Mercedes have dominated the first two races of the 2020 Formula One season
  • The world champions already appear to be unbeatable in the championship fight
  • Lando Norris’s stunning start to the campaign has boosted his reputation
  • But Alex Albon needs to improve to keep hold of his Red Bull seat long term 

We are just two races into the delayed Formula One season, yet already patterns are taking shape up and down the field to how the campaign might develop

Mercedes have won both the opening events staged at the Red Bull Ring, with their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas tasting victory within the Styrian mountains of Austria in recent weeks.

But will this dominance last elsewhere? Are some drivers already under pressure, and did F1 miss an open goal with its same circuit double header? Sportsmail looks back at eight things we have learned following the Styrian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton controlled the Styrian Grand Prix from the start to secure a Mercedes one-two

Bottas may have won the opening race in Austria with Hamilton having an error strewn weekend down in fourth, but the Finn knows on pure pace he was a sitting duck to the Brit on race day.

This was proven six days later when at the same circuit, Hamilton blew everyone away by over a second in wet qualifying and then followed it up by strolling to victory on Sunday. If he wanted to – he could have almost certainly pushed the car harder.

The world champion then came out after the race to say this was one of his ‘weaker circuits’. Title No 7 and an equalling of Schumacher’s record is already looking like a sure bet. 

Lewis Hamilton (centre) and Valtteri Bottas (left) secured a Mercedes one-two finish on Sunday

Only Bottas can stop Hamilton

It’s looking ominous if you don’t happen to be driving a Mercedes and you want to battle for a world championship.

For all of Max Verstappen’s talent, not even he could drag his Red Bull into a fair fight against Hamilton and Bottas who cruised to a one-two finish at the Styrian GP.

Granted, Red Bull might enjoy success at other circuits this term but Hamilton’s chief title challenger right now appears to be his own team-mate.

Bottas has rarely shown that he can go toe-to-toe with Hamilton over a season like his predecessor Nico Rosberg could. Few expect that to change in his fourth season with the team but right now it’s all many can hope for looking for a championship challenge.

Bottas finished second at the Styrian GP but needs more to take a title fight to Hamilton

F1 left in no-win situation over BLM

Taking the knee has become a popular stance against racism, with many sports adopting the practice with their participants.

However its links with the Black Lives Matter movement has divided drivers on the grid. Before races all the drivers have worn anti-racism shirts, with the majority taking a knee. However some including Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Charles Leclerc have elected to stand, and it has resulted in awkward images being broadcast globally signalling a mixed message.

F1 now have a huge problem dealing with this. On the one hand they cannot cancel the organised anti-racism gestures before the race, especially having just recently launched a diversity campaign called ‘WeRaceAsOne.’

On the other hand they cannot force drivers, whose views towards standing could be politically motivated and not related to racism, to kneel. It appears F1 have little choice other than continuing with the current status quo.

Formula One drivers have been wearing anti-racism shirts in the lead up to races, with Hamilton (middle) adopting a Black Lives Matter shirt

However, while most drivers have been electing to take a knee other drivers have chosen to stand as part of F1’s anti-racism drive

Ferrari are becoming a paddock punchline

There’s always one team that becomes the butt of the joke. A couple of years ago it was McLaren and the sweepstake game of seeing how long their Honda engine would last before the car would ground to a halt.

But at least McLaren were a one-trick pony in that regard. Ferrari are seemingly in an alarming decline now where everything they touch turns to dust… or a broken rear wing.

It only seemed fitting that the team arguably on the backfoot the most at the start of the season would see their drivers Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel crash on the opening lap.

It does not help that Leclerc is developing a reputation for being overly ambitious with his car’s capabilities – which admittedly is not that high right now. Combine that with Vettel’s poor performances and clumsy spins and it just seems like you can’t go through a single session of F1 right now without Ferrari shooting itself in the foot.

Charles Leclerc (left) drove into his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel (right) on the opening lap of the Styrian Grand Prix, which would put both of them out of the race

Hungarian GP offers respite for Mercedes rivals…

…but only briefly. 

We may have had two races but they were both at the Red Bull Ring where the high speed nature of the track plays into the strength of Mercedes.

Almost the complete opposite follows next time out in Hungary around the tight and twisty Hungaroring in Budapest.

Granted, it’s another circuit where Mercedes are not shy at winning – Hamilton triumphed there last year. Red Bull especially though will be hoping to sustain a challenge on a track where their engine deficiency to Mercedes is not as exposed.

Sadly even if they do, a double header at Silverstone followed by races in Spain, Belgium and two grands prix in Italy look set to favour the Silver Arrows again.

The tight and twisty Hungaroring could give Red Bull a chance to challenge Mercedes

Norris is emerging as Hamilton’s heir

Britain has enjoyed an incredible run stretching back to the 1950s of having world champion calibre drivers on the grid. Right now Hamilton is leading the way but as the Mercedes star enters the autumn of his career the search is underway for his successor.

As seems to be the way for British fortunes, he appears to already be on the grid in the shape of Lando Norris.

After a promising debut year in 2019, the 20-year-old has enjoyed an excellent start to the season, claiming his first podium at the Austrian Grand Prix and following that up at the weekend with a banzai last couple of laps to go from eighth to fifth.

It isn’t the results that are the stand-out element, it is the nature of their delivery. Both came from aggressive pursuits of a driver who has plenty of confidence, self belief and crucially, talent.

There is still a long way to go for Norris’s development, and he will stumble a few times along the way but he appears to have the package needed to become an elite driver. Even if he doesn’t, keep an eye out on George Russell at Williams where inferior machinery is masking his potential.

Britian’s Lando Norris has enjoyed an excellent start to the 2020 season for McLaren

The 20-year-old has produced late heroics for McLaren which have included a first podium

F1 misses reverse grid opportunity

One regret coming out of the Styrian Grand Prix was how an otherwise bland race book-ended by a Ferrari circus and Norris heroics could have delivered a spectacular grand prix.

Reverse grids were seriously considered to replace qualifying for a select few races this term as a trial, with the double header in Austria being one of those. The idea being the reverse championship order would start a sprint race where its result would form the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

Admittedly it meant we would have never seen Hamilton’s sensational pole lap that demolished the field by over a second, but we would have seen the Brit starting from the back and carving his way through the field in difficult conditions to secure a decent grid spot for Sunday’s race. That’s entertainment too, right?

It may not have changed the result given Hamilton’s dominance and the overtaking opportunities available at the Red Bull Ring, but it would have been just a little more interesting than him leading from the off into a casual Sunday drive for 71 laps.

Hamilton (left) was always in control of the Styrian Grand Prix after leading into turn one

Red Bull will show no mercy for Albon

It was a poor afternoon for Alex Albon on Sunday, finishing over 10 seconds down on his team-mate Verstappen despite making one fewer pit-stop. 

The 24-year-old is in just his second season of Formula One and is not expected to seriously challenge Verstappen who is regarded as one of the sport’s finest drivers.

But Red Bull need someone who can least shadow the Dutchman and while he isn’t doing an awful job, he was well off the pace on Sunday and getting dragged into a mid-field fight from fourth.

That won’t be good enough at Red Bull who have been ruthless with axing drivers mid-season including Pierre Gasly last season (who Albon replaced) and Daniil Kvyat before him in 2016. Both produced similar level drives, with Kvyat even getting the boot two races after securing a podium in China.

Whether the now AlphaTauri drivers, a sister team of Red Bull, could replace him is another question but form will have to improve if he wants to retain his Red Bull place long term. 

Alex Albon has had a mixed start to the 2020 season and was off the pace at the Styrian GP

The British born Thai driver (pictured) struggled to match the performance of his team-mate

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article