Friday newsletter – Austrian Grand Prix

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The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team has started the coronavirus-delayed 2020 F1 season where they left off last year – the Brackley-based outfit dominated the proceedings on the opening day of the Austrian Grand Prix, leaving no chance for their rivals to shine.

Not good enough – Scuderia Ferrari travelled to the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix believing that their 2020 car, the SF1000 was no match for their rivals. Following the opening day at the Red Bull Ring, Sebastian Vettel has revealed that the Maranello-based outfit’s current car is lacking in all areas at the moment.

"Right now [we don't have the pace to fight] but it is up to us to develop and work to make the car faster, I think we are lacking overall grip and downforce compared to others, lacking a bit down the straights, so it is a mix of all these things."

No engine upgrade – Renault F1 Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul has revealed that his team has abandoned its engine development programme for 2020. Despite its continuous attempt to close in on the field-leading power units, Renault had made the decision to use the current spec power unit for the entire 2020 championship as a result of the coronavirus-induced financial uncertainty.

"We had to come up with some decisions, and one of those decisions is that we're going to pause engine development, focusing on what will be the next step that we will have the opportunity to discuss later. That means don't expect any engine upgrades for us this year,” Abiteboul said.

The quick RP20 – After their promising form during pre-season testing, Racing Point’s speed has been confirmed today. Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez constantly posted eye-wateringly strong lap times with particularly the Mexican completing an impressive race simulation.

McLaren driver Carlos Sainz indicated that Racing Point seems to be out of reach for his Woking-based outfit considering the Friday pace of the Silverstone-based team. "We were expecting them to be quick, but on such a short circuit, to have the advantage they had over the rest of the midfield was particularly impressive.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean went a step even further by claiming that Sergio Perez’s race run was a match for Valtteri Bottas’ high-fuel simulation. "What I heard, I didn't get the time to see the timing in details, but I heard that they were matching Bottas - or Sergio was matching Bottas' on the long run."

Williams back in business – Following two low-key, less convincing season, the Williams F1 Team kicked off its 2020 F1 season with a very promising Friday practice day. The Grove-based outfit posted strong lap times, particularly when it came to the race runs. The former F2 and F3 champion George Russell has confirmed his good feeling with the FW43, but said that his qualifying pace still needs to be improved ahead of Saturday.

„It was fun to get back behind the wheel and my body took a bit of time to get used to the g-force again. It was a productive and encouraging day; our low fuel pace isn’t as good as our high fuel pace, where we seem relatively competitive. By the end of the day, I was back in the groove and happy in the car. We are going in the right direction, and that was our main focus.”

Early CE change – In terms of reliability, Antonio Giovinazzi’s season has not started off in the best possible way. The Alfa Romeo Orlen team had to change the control electronics in the Italian’s car after an issue had been detected following the first free practice session at the Red Bull Ring.

Due to the coronavirus-situation, Formula One is yet to define its final 2020 calendar. The number of races will dictate how many power unit components drivers will be allowed to use during the curtailed 2020 season.

Still no certainty – Alfa Romeo Orlen driver Kimi Räikkönen finished the first practice session 15th fastest while he ended up in 19th position in the afternoon session. The Finn completed 72 laps in total, clocking in a time of 1m06.278 as his best time on Friday.

The 2007 Ferrari F1 champion said that he is still unsure about what the real pecking order looks like. “Getting back in the car didn’t feel too strange, it was a fairly normal Friday. We were trying things in the car, figuring out what works well and what doesn’t to develop the best setup for the rest of the weekend.

„In the end it wasn’t the easiest day, I had a little off but it didn’t cost me much time; and we have something to work with for tomorrow. It’s way too early to say where we stand today, we will need to wait until the end of qualifying to have a clearer picture.”