COMMENT: 1 July 2018 – Austrian GP

With the ongoing World Cup and some quite oppressive humidity here in southern England I only caught one race this past weekend.

  • F1 – Austrian GP, Red Bull Ring;

To be honest after a long run of consecutive F1 and/or IndyCar races, plus Le Mans, I’m looking forward to the summer break now.

Formula 1: Austrian Grand Prix

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Zeltweg, Styria, Austria

Grid:  Bottas, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Grosjean, Vettel, Ricciardo, Magnussen;

Lap 1 was brilliant fun! Long straights between wide corners where moves could be made, great stuff.

Raikkonen made the better start and squeezed between the Mercs before the first corner. All three experienced drivers gave each other racing room on the first lap yet raced hard. Hamilton grabbed the lead as the two Finns fought over turn 1, Bottas was back ahead of Raikkonen by the time they got to turn 2, Kimi then went wide at turn 3 – allowing Verstappen into the mix, he passed Raikkonen through turns 6 & 7.

Vettel started 6th post-penalty and actually dropped 2 places over lap 1, surrounded by combative drivers.

It looked like the two Mercedes would drive away, with Verstappen and Raikkonen giving chase and Ricciardo and Vettel just getting ahead of the two Haases. A snoozer, then. But sometimes the racing Gods have a different view. This time they reminded us about reliability.

First, engine failure for Hulkenberg’s Renault. Very unusual to see an old-fashioned smokey blow up! Then two laps later Bottas was out, mechanical failure. Virtual Safety Car.

Most of the field pitted. Leader Hamilton failed to come in – a team error, they later admitted. So he held the lead on ageing tyres while those racing him had already come in under yellows – losing them much less time than stopping under green. This meant that when he came in himself he’d drop behind them. Just 10 laps later he pitted and popped out 4th.

Not long after the VSC Kimi made an error allowing Ricciardo to fight past him.

Tyres then became a problem. This was meant to be a one-stop race but the VSC was too early. It was still an advantage to pit then because the gain in track position was so big, but that pushed the tyre life too far. Ricciardo was among the first to have large blisters on the left rear.

Ricciardo and others had to come in for a second stop. This included Hamilton who came in for the super-soft tyres, dropping him behind Ricciardo.

Ricciardo retired with gear sync problems.

Then Hamilton was out too! The championship leader pulled off track with a mechanical failure. The first Mercedes double-DNF since that infamous Spanish crash, the first for mechanical reasons for… well, a long time.

That left Max Verstappen leading the two Ferraris, Kimi ahead of Seb. It seemed the trio were nursing their tyres while maintaining a high pace, none of them showed signs of blisters. Towards the end the two Ferraris pushed and closed a 7 second gap down to 3 seconds, but Max had enough in hand.

A mature drive from Verstappen to attack when necessary, to conserve tyres when necessary, proving he isn’t only about ‘maximum attack’.

Also near the end, Alonso passed Leclerc and Gasly. Leclerc got Gasly, then Ericsson passed the pair as well. A fun scrap for the minor points places. Alonso got 8th from a pitlane start! And the Saubers both got points at the expense of Gasly.

And while Hamilton’s DNF sucked some of the life out of the chase in this race, it blew wide open the chase in the Championship, just a week before Hamilton’s home race.

That turned out to be an enjoyable race because it had one thing:   Jeopardy.
You didn’t know who would be out next, who would have engine failure or tyre problems, or whether Hamilton would recover from the pit call. It was quite an old-style race in that regard and the results sheet show it:  only 3 cars finished on the lead lap! I don’t mind the spread among the mid and back of the grid, as long as two or three teams – four or six cars – are fighting for the win, as they were this time.

DRS, the elephant in the room. Despite having three zones I think it worked quite well. The job is to get cars in range, overcome the drag, and let the drivers sort it out. Occasionally it looked like the previous-era DRS (Press Here To Overtake), which is not good, but it wasn’t all the time. It isn’t ideal to have it but it is working better than before.

Austrian GP
1  Verstappen (Red Bull-Renault)
2  Raikkonen (Ferrari)
3  Vettel (Ferrari)
4  Grosjean (Haas-Ferrari)
5  Magnussen (Haas-Ferrari)

Points after Austria
146 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)  3 wins
145 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)  3 wins
101 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
96  Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)  2 wins
93  Max Verstappen (Red Bull)  1 win
92  Valterri Bottas (Mercedes)

Vettel advances to a championship lead of 1 point. No-scores for Ricciardo and Bottas lead to Raikkonen jumping the pair. Verstappen’s first win of the season sees him also jump ahead of Bottas.

247 Scuderia Ferrari  3 wins
237 Mercedes AMG  3 wins
189 Red Bull Racing  3 wins
62  Renault F1
49  Haas
44  McLaren Renault;
42  Force India Mercedes;

Ferrari improve from a deficit of 23 points to a lead of 10 points.
Haas collect 22 points with their first double points finish of the year.
Sauber close the gap to Toro Rosso to 3 points.

Coming Soon

The British GP at Silverstone! And a new surface for the track’s anniversary.

Saturday’s qualifying is immediately followed by England vs Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, and oh, wasn’t that tense Tuesday night?! Wow.

IndyCar is back this week with the Iowa oval on Sunday [7pm BT].

IMSA runs a back-to-back weekend, from last weekend’s 6 Hours of Watkins Glen straight to Ontario for the standard-length 2h40m race at Mosport. Consecutive weekends in endurance racing is a tough ask.

Wimbledon has already started and the Tour de France starts on Saturday.

2018’s Summer of Sport is well under way.


2 thoughts on “COMMENT: 1 July 2018 – Austrian GP”

  1. Nice race report Pat.

    Not much I can contribute other than Mercedes’ pit stop calls are costing Lewis dear. Whilst DC speculated that perhaps Lewis had passed the point of no return to come in for tyres on the deployment lap of the VSC, the team were falling all over themselves to apologise on the radio. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t take the opportunity for new tyres at that point in the race?

    I was impressed with Kimi though. A while since I have seen him determined in a dog fight, perhaps the impending move to McLaren has him thinking, sod it, I’m driving the way I want to drive.

    Seb, was…….well, just Seb. We know he’s not scared of a scrap, as many maintained, and he grinds out results even when the car’s not as good as his results suggest. He has definitely brought something to Ferrari. There have been management changes but I suspect those have been because of an inability to respond to Seb’s expectations rather than an inability to manage a team. Michael was another example of a character able to stamp his personal authority on Ferrari as number one driver. There is most certainly a case for a one, two driver status judging by Ferrari. Everything moulded round one driver to get wins and the drivers crown, the number two driver is there to bring home the constructors title. Michael and Massa, Seb and Kimi.

    Mercedes, on the other hand, seem to hand the driver the ‘perfect car’ and tell them to get front row and the job’s done. But their perfect car just can’t take turbulent air. It’s miserable to watch a Mercedes following a Ford Fiesta, it just can’t get close, and I’m certain Lewis wants to get close and personal. The car is simply too compromised by team ‘fair play’ rules and Germanic adherence to crushing race domination. Put a Williams in front of them and they can’t dominate a boiled egg. Two of the most talented drivers in the paddock, crippled by a perfect automobile. But perhaps that’s more an indication of Hamilton’s inability to take the team by the scruff of the neck and tell them he needs to race to win.

    Team of the race? definitely HAAS, and I suspect I’ll be nominating them as team of the year in terms of improvement when the time comes.

    What a miserable existence Williams and McLaren are having. Oh how the mighty have fallen. And how ironic is it that Alonso has nowhere to go other than for the triple crown, a target never bothered with until he nominated it as an obective. Stuck with midfield placings, having sown the seeds of the McLaren’s fall from grace and dominance when he stabbed Ron Denis in the back. Ron must be watching muttering to himself that revenge is best served cold.

    Time for Zak Brown to go I’m afraid. And I’m also afraid Claire Williams has to go as well. If these two wonderful British marques are to survive, there needs to be a wholesale management enema. Or sell the teams to some broke enthusiast, as Frank and Ron were (I know, Ron rose through the McLaren ranks) who actually care about winning rather than the management process supposedly involved in winning.

    This is motor racing at the highest level and what Ron, Frank, Peter Sauber, Ken Tyrrell, Chapman and, of course Enzo himself brought, was a blend of respect for the engineering, the personnel and the drivers, and the courage and passion of them all.

    Mercedes mistake on Saturday exemplified one of the most famous saying in motor racing: You can’t win a race with a spreadsheet, but you sure can lose it. (I paraphrase) 🙂


  2. I think Hamilton recognises he has nowhere else to go so has to play by Merc’s rules. In return he gets a largely compliant no.2, or more accurately “1A”. They could’ve hired Ricciardo.

    I like Seb. I can be a bit annoying sometimes but he is always flat out. I’d quite like him to win the title this year, partly because I think he’s earned it where he is, partly that winning with 2 teams cements his position, and partly I’m bored with Hamilton. He’s shown Kimi up a heck of a lot. Though I like that Kimi seems to have woken up again – hopefully next year he races something interesting, somewhere.

    Yes I think Haas are doing a good job. Certainly proving a different business model. Maybe customer cars are the way forward, since they all look the same anyway. I’d like to see a mixture of teams running different things.

    It is a real shame to see McLaren and Williams struggling from year to year. It is clear McLaren’s problems had little to do with Honda, had they tried working with them rather than against them as Toro Rosso are now proving, the story might’ve been very different.
    I like that Brown is a racer but he is getting distracted. Part of me hopes he is right and that disassembling the Dennis/Whitmarsh ‘matrix’ proves to be correct. But do they have that long? As for Williams, I thought Paddy Lowe running the technical side would solve problems, but it isn’t happening.


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