As the media focus is firmly on driver line-ups for 2021, F1 is about to head into unknown – yet very familiar – territory, with a second consecutive race at the Red Bull Ring. Here are five of the main talking points ahead of the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix weekend!
What next for the Silly Season?
A lot can happen in a week, as Formula 1 has proven in the days since the Austrian Grand Prix. On Wednesday, Renault confirmed that Fernando Alonso will race alongside Esteban Ocon in 2021, with the two-time World Champion returning after a two year absence from the sport. It also appears that further news on the 2021 line-up is imminent. Could there be another ground-breaking twist ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix? There’s bound to be plenty of speculation over the weekend on who will fill next year’s remaining seats.
Unknown, but familiar, territory?
For the first time in Formula 1 history, we have two races at the same track on consecutive weekends. It’s the first time since 1996 that Formula 1 has raced in the same country for two consecutive Grands Prix. Everything at this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix will be the same as at last week’s Austrian Grand Prix – the cars, the drivers, the track and the tyre compounds. However, given the incident-strewn Austrian Grand Prix, it seems unlikely that the result will be a carbon copy of last weekend.
After three Safety Car periods and nine retirements, Valtteri Bottas won ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris. While Mercedes look as though they’re firmly top of the order, Red Bull will be hoping to show their true potential after a disappointing double retirement at the season opener. Which teams will head to the Hungaroring happy with their performances at the season’s opening two races?
What’s the real order?
While the race result is likely to be quite different to last week’s order, the qualifying result is more likely to resemble last week’s offering. However, a late yellow flag in Q3 meant that some of the drivers’ attempts at their fastest laps of the weekend were cut short.
While it still seems that Mercedes are fastest with Red Bull just behind them, the true pace ranking after that is a relatively unknown. Lando Norris was even able to split the Red Bull drivers on the grid last week, while Racing Point showed impressive speed all weekend. Sergio Perez’s fastest lap time in qualifying was the same as Alex Albon’s, but the Red Bull driver started ahead as he set the time first. To add further intrigue, Daniel Ricciardo set the second fastest first sector time for Renault before yellow flags for Bottas’ excursion prevented him from improving his lap time. Expect another close fight behind the Mercedes pair in qualifying this weekend, and another close battle to get into Q3.
Are Mercedes’ issues fixed?
Valtteri Bottas was the man on form last weekend, as he took pole and led every lap on his way to the first victory of the season. The Finn has an excellent opportunity to extend his early advantage at the Styrian Grand Prix. But not all is calm in the Mercedes camp.
The short answer to the above question is the gearbox issues suffered by Mercedes at the Austrian Grand Prix are unlikely to be fixed this weekend. Sensor issues on Mercedes’ W11 led to both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton being told to stay off the kerbs during the race. With Mercedes commenting that the issue is a flaw in the design of the car, it’s not something which is likely to be fixed in just five days. It’s not out of the question that the issues will persist this weekend – but will the chasing pack be ready to pounce if the opportunity arises?
Will Ferrari improve?
At the Austrian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc took an unexpected second place finish for Ferrari on a weekend where the Italian team looked to be well off the pace. While Leclerc qualified seventh, team-mate Sebastian Vettel failed to reach the top ten. Vettel’s Sunday wasn’t much better either, with the German spinning after nearly clattering into the side of future Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. After the race, such was the poor handling of his car, Vettel said he was pleased to have spun the car only once. Of the eleven finishers, Vettel finished tenth, ahead of only rookie Nicholas Latifi.
It’s a fair assumption that, with both Red Bull drivers out of the race and Lewis Hamilton having picked up a penalty, Leclerc’s podium finish was somewhat of a fluke and the Ferrari will not be challenging for the top spots under normal circumstances. Nevertheless, the team have rushed through some updates to add to the car this weekend, rather than at the Hungarian Grand Prix as previously planned. Will that be enough to help them move up the field?
What are your predictions for this weekend? Leave a comment below!
Header image: Takayuki Suzuki, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0