Austrian GP Talking Points: Lando's universe, Ferrari's woes and Bottas' force
Four talking points from an eventful Austrian Grand Prix
After an eventful pre-season, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, Formula One season finally saw the green lights with an action-packed Austrian GP on Sunday. There was no real surprise in seeing Mercedes dominate the pace, with both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton looking strong. The former clinched the victory while the current champion got himself a penalty for a wrong move on Red Bull's Alex Albon who was looking favourite to secure a podium finish himself.
With Mercedes fighting a separate battle, all eyes were on the rest of the teams in the battle for second and it was surprisingly the Ferraris who came up with the results. Charles Leclerc took his off-pace Ferrari to a podium finish but the prancing horse struggled for most parts of the race and will have other incidents -- including Max Verstappen's early retirement and Albon's accident -- to thank for the results. McLaren were also unexpected winners with young Lando Norris surprising everyone with a third-placed finish.
Here are four talking points from the exciting 2020 Austrian Grand Prix
Valtteri Bottas clinched his 12th career pole and then drove a flawless race to win the first race of the season on Sunday. And it does look like it is going to be another Mercedes domination with both their cars qualifying half a second ahead of their rivals. While Red Bull looked good in patches, it would be surprising if the energy drink manufacturers challenge the German constructors this season.
Which brings back to the same old question -- who is Mercedes' best driver? Hamilton's rich history suggests he will be the obvious first choice but Bottas does look like a man on a mission to change his 'second-best' image. It is certainly not his fault that Hamilton's race was marred with mistakes and a win at the speedy Red Bull Ring will give the Finn all the confidence he needed. With the COVID pandemic still remaining a reality, chances are that F1 will have a shortened season which means each point will be extra crucial. The 13-point gap from his teammate might be the spark Bottas needed to do a Rosberg-like season and clinch the championship.
Ferrari horribly out of pace
Charles Leclerc's near-perfect race and a few lucky incidents going their way is the only reason why Ferrari ended up with a podium finish in Austria. The Italian F1 giants have been horribly out of pace this season, with performance in the turns the only saving grace. Which leads to the question -- what exactly happened in pre-season? A car, with the best straight-line speed in 2018, is now the worst.
Leclerc's aggressive driving bailed the Ferraris out in this race but other constructors will now be licking their lips at the prospect of catching the Italians. McLaren certainly showed they will be in the thick of things with a solid performance while Sergio Perez and Racing Point looked competitive in their sixth-placed finish. Ferrari lack the power and this could mean a season where the scarlet reds will be fighting the midtable cars.
Vettel's head not in the right place
While Leclerc was able to push his Ferrari to the podium, Sebastian Vettel could only secure a 10th place finish in a race that had 11 finishers. The incompetent car certainly played a role but the former champion will look back at his brain fade moment when he crashed into Carlos Sainz's McLaren as the decisive moment that cost him a strong finish.
“To be honest, I’m happy that I spun only once. It was very difficult. It got very tight. I think Carlos, one of the McLarens turned in and I was just on the edge because I wanted to be as close as possible and lost the rear. But to be honest, I lost the rear a couple of times today. So as I said I’m happy that it happened only once,” confessed an honest Vettel.
There is no running away from the fact that Vettel is nowhere close to the driver he once was. The mistakes happen far too often and unfortunately, these aren't mistakes borne out of the racing spirit. These are poor moves that will have people question his craft as a driver and this could partly be down to how Ferrari has parted ways with him. Vettel has been visibly unhappy with the decision to not offer him a contract and the German now faces the challenge of driving to prove a point. Or a career in Mercedes.
Toto Wolff: "I assume we will continue with Hamilton and Bottas for 2021"— إم-سبورتس (@Motosport0) July 6, 2020
"I certainly don't want to exclude Sebastian, but we are very happy with our current driver. Vettel will become a serious choice if one of our drivers doesn't want to continue"
“I really love vettel". #F1 pic.twitter.com/XnpxkdG8wN
Mclaren’s Lando Norris has certainly been a lovable figure ever since he entered F1. Memes featuring him are a common sight on the internet while his infectious energy has won him fans all over the world. On Sunday, he showed that his charisma is not just restricted to off-the-track activities by scoring his first-ever podium in F1. He delivering solid performance through the weekend and came out with a flying final lap to nick the place off Hamilton. He was also consistently faster than Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz which would have brought smiles in the McLaren garage who will also have the brilliant Dani Ricciardo racing for them next season.