Formula 1 is back – and back with thrilling overtakes, an abundance of retirements and plenty of controversy.
Valtteri Bottas kicked off the delayed season with a win – as he did last season – but Red Bull struggled at its home circuit and Daniel Ricciardo had a frustrating afternoon, albeit with a big silver lining.
Here’s five things we learned from the Austrian Grand Prix…
Watch the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship™ on KAYO. Every practice, qualifying session and race LIVE. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
HAMILTON’S WEEKEND FRUSTRATIONS
This is a big season for Lewis Hamilton. He is aiming to match Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles this year and given how Mercedes has dominated the sport over the last decade, his chances of doing so will never be better than now.
But with a shortened season, there are fewer chances for him to pick up those all-important victories, and fewer opportunities for his rivals slip up. Therefore, being controversially relegated from second to fourth will be a frustrating way to end the weekend.
In fact, it was a frustrating weekend on the whole for Hamilton, having earlier suffered gearbox issues and received a post-qualifying penalty as well, while many saw his final-lap, five-second penalty to snatch a podium place away from him as little more than a racing incident. Unfortunately for him, the stewards didn’t share that view.
RICCIARDO’S SILVER LINING
Daniel Ricciardo had a familiar feeling of what could have been this weekend after seeing reliability issues ravage yet another race he would have almost certainly picked up points in. It’s been a trend of the last two seasons and he will be praying that it won’t be defining a third campaign.
But there is hope that a Renault engine will not be his main source of frustration once again, having watched his new stablemate Esteban Ocon come home in eighth and amongst the points.
That is the short-term silver lining. The slightly longer one will be seeing McLaren picking up a podium in the first race of the season, vindicating his decision to jump ship without seeing either team race this season.
MERCEDES IS MILES AHEAD
Mercedes’ pace at the Austrian Grand Prix was frightening, especially considering the gearbox issues the cars suffered still only managed to restrict the cars to a 10-second gap.
There were nine retirements and the sheer number of safety cars stopped Mercedes’ further stretching its lead at the front of the pack.
Seeing Bottas kicking off the season with a win as well will be extra important, given there are question marks whether he will remain with the Silver Arrows beyond this season. If his hunger is there to go along with Hamilton’s genius then you can probably safely assume the constructors’ title will again be returning to Brackley.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Over the last few years, more and more youngsters have been brought into F1 and they keep on proving why the future of the sport is already here.
Lando Norris became the third youngest driver to claim a podium in F1, behind Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, but his performance – and stunning final lap – were not the only positives from the sport’s band of young guns.
George Russell, who is in contention to take that seat currently occupied by Bottas at Mercedes, also put in a strong showing before having to retire, as did Red Bull’s Alexander Albonup until his collision with Hamilton on the final lap.
Charles Leclerc’s overtake on his future Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz was also I think of beauty.
FERRARI’S VETTEL VINDICATION
Ferrari didn’t look like it got much right this weekend with it’s last-minute car changes and poor qualifying performance, but given Sebastian Vettel’s showing, it seems like they made one good decision during the shutdown.
The German began his final season with Ferrari with a 10th-place finish having dropped down the order following a botched overtake on his successor in red, Sainz.
Former world champion Jenson Button called it an “embarrassing spin” and one that will have left him “very upset with himself”, while Vettel was highly critical of the car itself.
“Very difficult race,” he said. “The car was very difficult to drive, I don’t know. Very poor braking stability, very, very, very difficult with the rear.”
This could be one storyline to continue to watch as the season gets underway.