After what feels like a lifetime since the false dawn of the Formula 1 Season back in Australia, F1 is back. Back, and with a race as event-filled as any we have seen in the last year.
The real treat? We get to see another race at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. As a rather unique proposition, it is still to be seen how the teams will fare. So, let’s have a look at what made this past weekend so much fun, and how the forthcoming race could be different.
Great- A Shuffled Grid
From the late grid penalty to Lewis Hamilton just before the race, to Hamilton’s later five second penalty, the Austrian GP shook off any fears of being a processional race. Instead we got the treat of wheel to wheel racing, and the high-risk nature that it brings. Racing amplified by the fact that for a number of reasons, cars of a varying pace were well mixed.
Ferrari for example struggled in qualification but looked slightly more assured in race trim, the result was Charles Leclerc cutting his way through the grid. Another instance would be the closely fought tussle between Racing Point and McLaren, the close nature perhaps illustrated by the fact the teams managed to drag the conflict into the pits with a rather questionable release from the Racing Point team.
Different- Wet Weather
The Austrian GP was a scorcher on race day, with track temperature up to 50˚C. The result was the primary fear being that of overheating. Looking at the weather forecast, this is no such worry for this weekend. Rain, rain, rain. The forecast which tends to instil excitement into motorsport fans, joy in some drivers, and fear in others.
Taking the wet weather carnage of last year in Germany, I would be a fool to try to predict what could happen. Thankfully, I am a fool and will. Wearing my Red Bull cap, I see a chance for Max Verstappen to recoup some points after his torturous retirement 11 laps into Austria. Wearing my thinking cap, I see a Mercedes team eager to avenge the mistakes of Germany last year. A team that prides itself on learning and improving may go into a weekend with a point to prove, a point helped by also having one of the finest wet weather wizards of all time, Lewis Hamilton.
Great- Mercedes Mayhem
Mercedes 1-2. The joke, the meme, the reality of many a weekend. In qualifying it looked an inevitability, but slowly the wheels came off (not literally, that luxury was reserved for Kimi Raikkonen). Hamilton was bumped down to P5, we got a spot of ‘Valtteri, it’s James’ (AND LEWIS!), then to top it off Hamilton and Albon found themselves in a tangle once again.
Of course, Bottas still won, and Hamilton did nearly cling onto third, but the entertainment came in the uncertainty. For a team where so often the predictable happens, it added a degree of spice to have some chaos amongst the usual routine.
Different- Points To Prove
With 9 retirements comes 9 disgruntled drivers. 9, not including those who finished but fell on the end of costly penalties such as Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez. The result of this is a weekend with many pilots seeing that they have a point to prove. The thrill here comes in the often top-notch performances which come where a driver has a chip on the their shoulder.
Take for example, Max Verstappen in Mexico in 2018 after a minor issue kept his car off pole. The response was an absolutely dominant drive the next day. The reality is that with a condensed season, every race is of greater points importance relatively. There is no time for slow starts, and the drivers will be all too aware of this.
Great- Lando On The Podium
When the delta from Norris to Hamilton showed up as just over 6 seconds with a lap to spare, I must admit that I thought the Young Brit was just too far off the Not Old Brit. Then, something special happened and Norris put in the purple sectors required. The gap went tumbling as Lando Norris set the fastest lap of the race.
Much like Carlos Sainz’s podium in Brazil last year, it is simply a great joy to see a non-Big Three team on the steps. It keeps the hope going that the often joked about Formula 1.5 (where all the lagging teams are seen to exist) can soon join Formula 1.25 (Ferrari and Albon), and finally F1 (Mercedes and Max).
Different- Literally Anything
If you said the podium would be Bottas, Leclerc, and Norris you would have been laughed at and rightly locked away. Yet, it happened. The thing with F1 is that whilst so often races end with the exclamation ‘of course’, the true gems are where the surprises come.
In wet weather anything truly could happen. I for one hope that this is the weekend where George Russell finally gets his first point, a feat, which if not for engine trouble, could have happened in Austria. It’s this hope which makes the sport so exciting.
Anything you’re looking forward to this weekend? Do let us know!