Fragile Mercedes Take 2020 Austrian Grand Spoils
Valtteri Bottas survived pending reliability issues as he piloted his Mercedes to victory in an incident-filled and safety car packed 2020 Austrian Grand Prix. The first race of the season was filled with drama. Only 11 cars managed to last 71 laps. The race revealed that while Mercedes is the superior package it is also fragile. Lewis Hamilton picked up a grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags in qualifying which dropped him down the order to 5th on race day.
Hamilton fought his way back up to 2nd by lap 11, helped by the retirement of Max Verstappen whose Red Bull Honda slowed and eventually pitted out of the race. But Hamilton was by then some 8 seconds away from Bottas. Undeterred, Hamilton closed the gap to within 3 seconds by lap 26. A safety car helped effectively zero the gap.
Meanwhile, at the back, struggling Ferrari was grinding out the race, surviving on the back of retirements and safety car deployments. Vettel attempted an overtake on Carlos Sainz at the circuit’s tight hairpin. Vettel went for an ever closing gap, collided with the Mclaren driver, and fell down the order. Teammate Charles Leclerc would end the race second.
However, Ferrari’s miraculous recovery from a dreadful qualifying was due to a string of retirements and safety cars. Meanwhile at the front Mercedes appeared to be heading for a dominant 1-2 finish. Hamilton was pressuring Bottas for the win. The gap between the two Mercedes drivers fluctuated between 0.5 seconds and over 1.2 seconds.
Yet another safety car 16 laps from the end threw the result into doubt. Red Bull’s Alex Albon pitted under the safety car period switching to a softer tyre while the Mercedes decided to pit. At the rolling restart, Albon immediately had Lewis Hamilton in his sights. It was clear Albon had a significant tyre and advantage over both the Mercedes.
Albon went for second place on turn 4, on the outside, wheel to wheel with Hamilton. Corner 4 tightens rapidly and needs the co-operation of the driver on the inside in order to avoid a collision. Albon’s move was risky. However, Albon was just ahead of Hamilton on the outside but the two collided pitching Ablon into a spin across the gravel.
Hamilton should have let Albon by, he knew Albon was on the faster tyre compound and the Red Bull could easily have taken victory off Bottas. By allowing the Red Bull to pass him Hamilton could at least have denied Bottas the win and vital championship points. And, Hamilton could have pipped Bottas to second.
Nevertheless, Hamilton received a 5-second penalty and was demoted from second to 4th. It would have been 3rd had Lando Norris not put in a last-minute, last lap charge which promoted the McLaren driver to register his first-ever Formula One podium.
The whole 2020 Austrian Grand Prix saga resumes next week, as back-to-back racing fills a busy pandemic affected F1 race schedule.
2020 Austrian Grand Prix Results: Red Bull Ring, Speilberg
|6||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||71||+15.092s||8|
|9||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||71||+21.146s||2|
|13||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||67||DNF||0|
|NC||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||53||DNF||0|
|NC||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||20||DNF||0|
|NC||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||11||DNF||0|
Note – Norris scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Hamilton received a 5-second time penalty for causing a collision. Perez received a 5-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane.