After a seemingly never-ending pause, Formula One has returned to action this weekend. The Austrian Grand Prix has turned out to be a thriller with Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas striking the first blow in a race that tested the limits of the race cars in terms of reliability.
Shock for Red Bull - Despite starting the race from the second and the fourth position after Lewis Hamilton’s three-place grid penalty, Red Bull finished the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on home soil in a rather dismal way. While trying to hold off the charging Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen lost power on lap 11 which brought his day to a premature end.
“I’m not quite sure what happened yet, we’ll investigate and find out but of course that’s not how you want to start the season. I had a good start, unlike last year, and quite early on I could see that Valtteri was quick so fighting for the win was always going to be a big challenge.”
„I think it would have been an easy podium and third would have been a decent start to the season but what can you do? This is racing and it is what it is, you can’t change the result now. It is a shame for everyone who worked so hard to get us here this weekend but we will just focus on the race next week and hope for something better,” he said.
Verstappen’s team-mate Alexander Albon endured a slower start to his race, but he was adamant to win the Austrian Grand Prix after the third safety car period on his much fresher tyres compared to the Mercedes drivers.
„The contact with Lewis was so late in the corner that it surprised me. I was right on the edge of the track and I knew if I gave him all the space I could it would be up to him if he wants to crash or not. This time I was the one on the attack and he was defending. I wouldn’t say this one hurts more than Brazil but that incident was maybe 50/50 whereas this one isn’t. Obviously we’ve got next weekend to focus on now, we’ll need a bit of luck to have the same opportunity as today, but let’s see,” Albon said.
An unexpected podium for Ferrari – After starting the 2020 F1 season with low expectations, Ferrari secured an unexpected podium finish yesterday thanks to some luck, but also thanks to some wonderful overtaking manoeuvres of Charles Leclerc in the dying stages of the race.
„The team did a fantastic job, both in terms of strategy and with the car itself. We knew we had to make the best of it today. I told myself that we had to take any opportunity we had and that’s the way I drove. I am very happy with the result - we didn’t expect to finish in second place.
While it was great to start off the season with a podium, we cannot ignore the fact that we aren’t where we want to be in terms of performance. We were lucky this weekend, with safety cars and retirements mixing things up, but we can’t expect to fight for the win at these next few races,” said Leclerc.
Started from the 11th place and ended in the 10th position - Sebastian Vettel’s day at the opening grand prix of the season was eventful, but not successful. Trying to capitalize on the battle between Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, the German wanted to brake extremely late into Turn 3, but a small touch with the McLaren spent his Ferrari into a spin.
"It was a disappointing race for me, even if we knew beforehand it would be tough. I struggled for the entire race, already after the first two laps, just as I had done in quali. The balance and speed I had on Friday just slipped away from us and I was really struggling to keep the car on the track. So now we have to try and find out why in the hope of doing better next weekend,” concluded Vettel.
Dominant performance – Despite failing to achieve a perfect result, Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport started its season in convincing fashion. The reigning world champions have delivered eye-wateringly strong pace both on low and high fuel.
„Winning an F1 race is never easy, but today was particularly challenging. There were so many things going on in the race and it would have been quite easy to make a small mistake and lose it all. When the Safety Car came out the last time, I was thinking ‘Come on! Again!?’ I guess it was my chance to really master the restarts here.
„When you’re in the lead, you want things to be constant and trouble-free, but today felt more like dodging bullets, though things were never out of control. I could build a good margin in the first stint and look after the car and the tyres to make sure that we could stick to our planned strategy. In the second stint, there was more pressure, particularly after all the Safety Cars.”
Reflecting on the clash with Alexander Albon, Lewis Hamilton labelled it as a racing incident, but he was able to accept his five-second time penalty. „The scenario with Alex felt more like a racing incident to me. The time penalty meant that I lost the podium, but it is what it is. The car felt great, although reliability was a real issue for us today."
"But at least we finished, so we’ll take those points. Obviously it’s a loss from a potential 1-2, but I’ll try to recover those in the coming races. Ultimately, this was not a good weekend for me, but it could be worse – I’ll take what I’ve got, try to learn from it and be better next time,” added Hamilton.
Successful debut for AlphaTauri - The rebranded team collected six championship points thanks to Pierre Gasly’s seventh-place finish in the Austrian Grand Prix. Although the team’s race pace suggested a pointless finish in the season-opener, but the Frenchman capitalized on the chaotic second half of the grand prix.
“It felt amazing to get back racing after such a long break and I think we started the season with a really exciting race. If someone had told us that we would have been P7 on Sunday we would have signed straight away, so I think we can be very happy with my result after a difficult start to the weekend.
„We knew the race was going to be a challenge because the Renaults, McLarens and Racing Points are very strong, but I had some good fights on track and managed to stay out of trouble until the end. It was a really good one for us today!”
The Faenza-based team’s Russian driver Daniil Kvyat race ended in tears following contact with Esteban Ocon. He said: “The race was going really well for me until the contact with Ocon, I had a very good pace and fresher tyres.”
„After the collision, my front wing and a suspension broke, I also had a puncture, so my race was over. This moment cost me a lot of points today, so it’s a real shame and very disappointing to finish the day like this. Today it could have been a very strong race for me.”
First points for Alfa Romeo – After a miserable qualifying session for the Sauber-operated Alfa Romeo ORLEN outfit, the team was in a much better shape as promised by Kimi Räikkönen on Saturday afternoon. Having recovered to the low teens after losing out by a safety car period, Räikkönen was then forced into retirement by a technical failure that caused the loss of the front right wheel.
“It’s a shame to end the race like this when things were looking good. Compared to yesterday, we had made a step forward and we had a reasonable turn of speed. The timing of the first Safety Car cost us places, but we were still in a good position and with new tyres, I could have fought for some points.
„Unfortunately then we had to retire: the problem came as a surprise, I had no warning it would happen. We will need to investigate what happened. For now, we can take some positives from our pace in race conditions and keep improving the car,” said Räikkönen.
Antonio Giovinazzi executed a spotless race, overcoming the hurdles of several Safety Cars and charging rivals to score two points and open the team’s tally in the Constructors’ standings.
„I am really happy with today’s result. After our difficult qualifying yesterday, to get to the points was the maximum we could do. The race wasn’t easy, we struggled a little at the start but we got stronger as the race went on. Of course, in such a chaotic race you need a bit of luck, but we were ready to grab any chance with two hands when it came.
„We put up a big fight for this and in the end, P9 is a great way to start the season. I am really happy for the guys and girls in the garage and back at home. There’s still a lot to improve but it’s just the first race of the season: there’s plenty of time and I am already looking forward to being back in the car next week.”
Fantastic pace for Racing Point – The small team from Silverstone confirmed at Spielberg what the pre-season testing suggested – the team’s car, called ’Pink Mercedes’ in the paddock, is a top machine that enables its drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll to fight for podium places. After clashes and reliability issues, Perez race derailed when his team opted against changing tyres during the second safety car period.
“We had to fight hard today and we had a strong pace. Sixth place is a good way to start the season, but we could have finished even higher. We were unlucky with the safety cars, but it's easy to say after the race that we should have pitted a second time. I had to defend from drivers on fresher tyres in the final laps, which was a challenge.”
„However, this was a good race to learn plenty about the car and our performance. The main positive is that we have a competitive package and I think we can be fighting for another strong result here next week,’ said Perez.
Despite pinning hopes on his car’s race pace, Racing Point’s Canadian driver Lance Stroll suffered engine problems in the early stages of the race, depriving him of opening his 2020 tally with good points.
“It was a good start to the race, but then I began to lose power early on. We tried to make some changes to various settings, but eventually, we had to retire the car. We'll look into the problem and come back stronger next time. The car felt good at first and I think our pace would have been strong. We could have scored a good amount of points today.”
Worse than expected – Although Williams’s form at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix indicated that the team managed to turn its fortunes around following its miserable season in 2018 and 2019, the team’s British youngster George Russell was disappointed with his race, suggesting that he expected more from the race.
„We didn’t have as much pace as we were hoping for today, and I struggled a lot out there. I was trying my hardest to hang on with the Haas and the Alfa Romeo, but they were too fast. I had a fuel pressure loss, but I don’t know all the details, I just had to turn the car off.
„It’s a shame as there were a lot of mistakes made out there today and many cars stopped. It is just one of those things. We still need to make some improvements, and we have the opportunity next week to do that.”
Formula One’s only newcomer Nicholas Latifi has confessed that his debut race at the pinnacle of motorsport was dedicated to learning the procedures of a grand prix.
„Firstly, thanks to the team for getting us here, it has been a long way to come here. Today was all about learning for me. We struggled early on in the race with some cooling issues so I couldn’t push as hard as I wanted to. It was about managing a bunch of things, but that is part of Formula One, it can happen.”
„We got caught out by the first safety car, by staying out an extra lap. Most of the race was unfortunately done by myself, so it was nice that the safety car came out at the end so I could experience running close to the other cars. I am frustrated that I was so close to getting a point, but it is a learning experience and I will come back stronger next weekend,” said Latifi.