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.
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
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.
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.