F1 back with a bang

July 8 - 14 , 2020

Gulf Weekly F1 back with a bang

By Abu George

Amazing race ... and fortunately we can do it all again this coming Sunday!

The peculiarities of the 2020 F1 season means that the teams will stay in Austria for the second race of the season which allows fans to see a completely new side of the series – how teams can adapt between one race and another with almost identical conditions.

This adds a degree of intrigue. Several teams have struggled with the kerbs and rumble strips at the Spielberg ring so mechanics will needs to make adjustments. 

Drivers, having rubbed the sleepiness from the eyes, have tasted competition and will now have a feel for the moves that their competitors will make.

Will Red Bull repeat their strategy of sending out Verstappen on a different tyre in qualifying? He certainly felt that the mechanical failure cost him an ‘easy podium’ in last Sunday’s race.

Mentally both Mercedes and Hamilton committed too many mistakes. Fortunately their car appears so superior that they were almost able to ride it out. The team made several strategic errors, firstly by failing to change tyres when it would have been safe to do so under with the safety car deployed and, secondly, for allowing Hamilton to lose position so drastically in the final laps.

Perhaps distracted by the unwillingness of all the other drivers to conform with his Black Lives Matter campaign suggestions his problems started by allowing Bottas to claim pole. 

The manner in which he was demoted three places on the grid an hour before the race (ironically as Red Bull used an official F1 tweet to overturn an earlier decision) was unusual even by F1’s standards. 

Given that he had been instructed to stay away from the kerbs he was perhaps also a little unfortunate to concede the five second penalty. Yet Mercedes could have allowed him to pass Bottas and still give him the win.

LeClerc managed to secure second place by simply keeping out of trouble, which is more than can be said of Sebastien Vettel whose race disintegrated when he crashed into the man who will be replacing him next year, Carlos Sainz. 

Admittedly, the Monegasque driver did show strong form in the later stages having switched to the medium compound tyre although the Ferrari will need to improve drastically.

While Albon secured the fans vote as best racer of the day, Lando Norris pushed him close, as he had on the track.

Setting the fastest lap of the race to secure his first podium was incredible racing. In the process he became the third youngest driver to ever finish on a podium while McLaren secured their first since 2014 in an opening race. This is also the first time since that year that Hamilton has not been the top-ranked British driver in a race.

No doubt the royal pat on the back he received live on TV spurred him on to third place!

As reported on our sister website, GDNonline, a shocked Norris received a call from His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain, 24-hours earlier, after securing McLaren’s highest grid position since 2016.

The 20-year-old, Formula One’s youngest current driver, was quicker than both Ferraris as well as Red Bull’s Alex Albon and the Racing Point cars many had expected to be leading the midfield charge.

Interviewed on live Sky television in the paddock afterwards, the startled Briton was handed a mobile phone by McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown who informed him of the caller’s identity.

McLaren are majority-owned by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat.

The other notable drive last weekend came from Williams’ George Russell who retired while placed 12th, unfortunately unable to benefit from the same consistency available when racing online!

However, for all the thrills and spills of this race, let’s not get too carried away – Bottas won the season opener last year too.  Although, perhaps it is about time that Mercedes let their second driver claim the championship?

This was not a typical Austrian race. Last year there were no cars retiring – this time there were seven!

Let’s see what happens in race two.

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