After a borefest that was the French Grand Prix last weekend, Formula One headed to the Red Bull Ring, Austria for the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix as a heatwave gripped Europe.
With that plume of hot weather came surprises throughout the grid as Mercedes aimed for an eleventh straight victory whilst McLaren looked to continue their impressive form from Le Castellet and Red Bull were on the hunt for a second consecutive home victory.
Now without further ado, let review how each team fared this weekend.
Race Results: Valtteri Bottas – 3rd, Lewis Hamilton – 5thEmbed from Getty Images
Having suffered a double retirement here last season, Mercedes should be happy with their points haul from what has been a tough weekend on top of the heatwave.
Starting with the positive, Bottas did a great job to come back from a heavy FP2 crash to finish third although he possibly could of done more to fend off Verstappen but in fairness, third place is the best that he could of done given that the heat exposed the car’s weaknesses.
As for Hamilton, he was unlucky to get a three place penalty (eventually two due to how penalties are applied) for impeding Raikkonen in qualifying because to me, he did get out of the way although could of been more aware and got out of the way earlier.
That therefore cost him a front row start and possibly a shot at victory but he should be happy with fifth because this was Mercedes’ worst race but track limits seemed to be a slight issue with Hamilton often running over the kerbs which was problematic for everyone’s front wings.
Mercedes’ main aim now should be to write this weekend off and focus on finding a way to get their car performing in the hot temperatures, especially if Silverstone is as hot as it was this weekend in Spielberg.
Race Results: Charles Leclerc – 2nd, Sebastian Vettel – 4thEmbed from Getty Images
There is very little to say about Leclerc this weekend other than he was unlucky because he absolutely dominated this weekend after a slow start in FP1.
We all knew that the numerous straights meant that this track would suit Ferrari and Leclerc proved that because his car just seemed perfectly set up for this track, although tyre degradation however was slightly worse on his car than Verstappen’s which could well be down to the hot track temperature playing into the Dutchman’s hands slightly more.
Speaking post race, Leclerc was however positive in saying; “Second place is not what we wanted but we gave it our all and made a good a step forward this weekend.”
Vettel meanwhile had a solid weekend despite narrowly avoiding a FP2 crash and reliability issue put him out of Q3, as he fought back to finish fourth through a two stop strategy.
Well if this performance is a sign of things to come then Mercedes definitely won’t have it all their own way from here on in.
Race Results: Max Verstappen – 1st, Pierre Gasly – 7th
This Austrian Grand Prix has been a race of two halves for Red Bull because one of their drivers took a controversial win whilst the other was embarrassingly lapped by the winner.
Starting with Verstappen, I think we are starting to see a mature future champion beginning to emerge in him because he was nothing short of phenomenal in being right on the pace of Ferrari and Mercedes all weekend.
Another point to praise is how he harnessed the energy from his huge following as extra motivation rather than pressure, especially after a heavy FP2 smash due to gusty winds because in the past, he would of certainly made an error somewhere which further highlights his maturity and progression as a driver.
Admittedly his race start was disappointing but he produced a brilliant fightback, which made for an grandstand finish as he reeled in Leclerc before producing a clever late braking manoeuvre into Turn Three.
Although he did nudge Leclerc wide, I saw a lot of similar moves in the F2 and F3 races so he deserved to keep the win after a post race investigation and as for Leclerc, perhaps he should take a leaf out of the F2 and F3 drivers’ books because they didn’t complain when nudged wide.
Now onto Gasly and I must admit that he showed progress throughout practice but his qualifying and race performances were unacceptable, and to be lapped by your race winning teammate in the same car is just dire to say the least.
Whilst many would now say that it’s time to send Gasly back to Toro Rosso, I am the opposite because progress was definitely shown so the aim between now and summer break should be to hook up a consistent weekend.
Do that then Gasly should stay for rest of season but if not then I would say do a mid summer swap with Kvyat and start looking at someone like McLaren’s Lando Norris for next season.
Race Results: Lando Norris – 6th, Carlos Sainz – 8thEmbed from Getty Images
Whatever is going on at McLaren seems to be working because their performance this weekend was just as good as at Le Castellet last weekend.
Both cars were firm midfield front runners throughout the entire weekend and Norris in particular was exceptional in threatening Red Bull, eventually not just outqualifying Gasly but also finishing the race ahead of the Frenchman.
Just to underline how exceptional Norris was this weekend, he even fought Hamilton at the start for third before enjoying a solid drive to sixth, which he described post race as “…a fun race.
Sainz meanwhile did a great job in maximising a power unit upgrade to charge from 19th on grid to eighth through a brilliant medium to hard tyre strategy, which left the Spaniard slightly frustrated due to a front wing issue affecting his pursuit of seventh-placed Gasly at end of race.
I am therefore expecting a strong performance at Silverstone because the team and Norris will receive that boost from the home crowd but it’s fair to say that McLaren is back where they belong fighting the bigger teams.
Race Results: Daniel Ricciardo – 12th, Nico Hulkenberg – 13thEmbed from Getty Images
Renault has had another quiet weekend with both cars firmly in the midfield but their lack of progress in comparison to last season is a fair concern because they barely threatened the top ten, except in FP1.
Nico Hulkenberg post race rightfully summed up the weekend as disappointing, saying; “We can’t be happy with this weekend. We had multiple issues on the car today and it made it hard work out there…”
Those feelings were shared by everyone else in the team so definitely expect Renault to be a team to watch at Silverstone if want to challenge McLaren for fourth in the Constructors’ championship.
Race Results: Kimi Raikkonen – 9th, Antonio Giovinazzi – 10th
I don’t think anyone expected Alfa Romeo to turn up and be competitive around Austria given recent form but they did a great job to earn their first double points finish since Mexico last year, which coincidentally was a race won by Red Bull’s Verstappen.
Whilst Raikkonen naturally was the better driver across the weekend, Giovinazzi has shown what he can do if given a suitable car as he managed to finish ahead of his teammate in a crash disrupted FP2.
Raceday however brought two contrasting yet impressive performances because Raikkonen did a great job in troubling Gasly for much of the race before fading, which the Finn put down to having “…lacked a bit of speed to challenge the cars around me and when I did have it, I had to be careful with the tyres…”
That is a fair assessment of Raikkonen’s race whilst Giovinazzi scored his first F1 point after a tough drive to fend off Perez of Racing Point, which meant that his mane finally got a trim by team boss – Fredric Vasseur.
There is however room for improvement in race trim given that Raikkonen had fallen from fourth early on to an eventual ninth placed finish, but a great step forward this weekend for the Swiss outfit.
Race Results: Sergio Perez – 11th, Lance Stroll – 14thEmbed from Getty Images
In comparison to recent seasons under the old Force India name, Racing Point have work to do because their single lap pace in qualifying is still a concern with three double Q1 exits in their last four races.
Their race pace however is very strong as evidenced by Perez managing to finish 11th and just outside the points in a tight midfield scrap, which Team Principal – Otmar Szafnauer believes will “…ebb and flow throughout the season..”
I do agree with Szafnauer because the midfield is incredibly tight but Racing Point needs to improve their qualifying performance if want to maximise their points earning potential.
Race Results: Alexander Albon – 15th, Daniil Kvyat – 17thEmbed from Getty Images
Having taken a new power unit this weekend to earn himself a P18 start, Albon did a solid job throughout the weekend to gather valuable data because his lap times were solid and did a great job to come from behind to finish two places ahead of Kvyat.
Speaking of Kvyat, he too showed signs of progress despite being impeded on his final Q1 flier by Williams’ George Russell but the wrong setup ultimately destroyed his race so the potential is there for improvement at Silverstone.
In summary, this has been a difficult weekend for Toro Rosso but I am sure that plenty will have been learned and am expecting them to bounce back in a fortnight’s time.
Race Results: Romain Grosjean – 16th, Kevin Magnussen – 19thEmbed from Getty Images
Haas definitely will be disappointed with this weekend because they clearly have great pace over a single lap, only to fail to convert that speed into race pace which has been their season so far.
Magnussen in particular was a stand-out performer in qualifying, finishing P5 but a combination of five place penalty due to unscheduled gearbox change and wrong strategy resulted in him sliding down to finish second-last.
We must however acknowledge that the race conditions were much hotter than expected after the race simulation on Friday, so this is probably a valuable lesson which the Dane and Haas can learn from.
Grosjean meanwhile struggled to extract more speed from his car with improvement of less than a tenth in his best lap times between FP2 and FP3 and again between Q1 and Q2, which pretty much undid his race given the lack of race pace in the Haas.
Speed extraction and translation of pace between single and race laps are therefore bound to be key areas for improvement ahead of the British GP.
Race Results: George Russell – 18th, Robert Kubica – 20thEmbed from Getty Images
As often been the case this season, Williams have been in a world of their own at the back but there are some positives, albeit only on Russell’s side of the garage.
For starters, he absolutely thrashed Kubica all weekend from the get-go with the gap during FP2 being 1.291s between the pair, which is a real worry for the Pole whose future is currently in question although he was only 0.302s behind the Brit in qualifying which is fair credit to him.
The other reason why I am praising Russell is because of how he came back from a pit lane start (front wing change) to quickly pass his teammate and battle Kvyat early on before eventually having a lonely race.
Given all of Williams’ woes this season, it was great to see Russell battling Kvyat because it shows progress and demonstrates that if had a competitive car then Russell could mount more of a midfield challenge that he’s currently doing.
As for Kubica, it was another disappointing race as he finished slowest and three laps down on Verstappen so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see someone like Paul Di Resta in the car come Belgium.
Overall, this Austrian GP has provided a taste of what Russell can do in the car whilst more questions surely needs to be asked of Kubica in coming days and weeks.