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  • Sasha Martinengo

Lewis cruises as chaos reigns in F1. Protests, Domination and the Driver of the Day

f1pitbox.com : Lewis Hamilton is only 6 wins behind the record held by Michael Schumacher. I didn’t think I would see that record broken so soon after it was achieved but it’s here and it might well be eclipsed come the end of 2020.



Lewis cruised to a very comfortable win in Austria for the Styrian F1 race. His qualifying on the Saturday was simply remarkable in the rain but come Sunday the sky was clear, and Lewis controlled the race from the front and was not bothered at all. Status Quo in F1 has resumed. Whether we like it or not, Mercedes domination has returned and it does not look like anyone can do anything about it.


This is the reality : Alexander Albon finished 45 seconds down the road compared to Lewis Hamilton. And Lewis wasn’t even pushing for most of the race. Take nothing away from Albon as he is a decent driver. You might ask “What about Max?” Max Verstappen is one of those drivers that comes along every decade or so that is a wunderkind. His ability to extract more out of his Red Bull is just his brilliance. The real benchmark about how quick the opposition is compared to Mercedes at present is Albon.


Mercedes Domination



I understand F1 domination. Every few years you get a team that just gets the regulations spot on and the rest of the field must play catch-up.


This is the uniqueness of F1 and why it is the greatest racing formula on earth. I don’t want to see the cars all being the same with the same engines and gearboxes and front wings. F1 is about exploring the boundaries and finding solutions that make others think.


What we are experiencing now and have been since the introduction of the Hybrid era of racing is somewhat anomalous. We have had the Mclaren years, the Williams years, the Ferrari years and the Red Bull years over the last 25 years. All these dominant eras were fantastic to watch; to watch a team and their drivers just rise above everyone else and claim victory after victory much to the exasperation of many an opposing fan. And of course, the wheel does turn, and other teams find their sweet spot and start challenging for victories.


Since 2014 Mercedes has raised the bar to a level where no-one can offer a decent challenge. Admittedly, Ferrari came close with Alonso and with Vettel, but the struggle was immense. Just when a team thinks they are getting closer to Mercedes, the German team seems to find another gear and leaves everyone behind.


In 2020 it is no different and worryingly the gap to their competitors seems to have grown even bigger. And the problem that Ferrari, Honda and Renault have is their respective engines. Since the PU change and the introduction of hybrid racing, no-one can work out what or how Mercedes have generated so much power and consistency as well as improvements every season.


When Ferrari thought they had something as powerful they were called to the FIA to explain their improvements. We might never know what Ferrari had or has but it is clearly not in the same direction that Mercedes has gone within the sporting regulations of F1. Honda have improved immensely since their unfortunate partnership with Mclaren and with Red Bull they seem to have found a very comfortable home, but they are still not near the power that Mercedes are producing.


Will there come a time where the FIA must step in and balance this power issue? I hope not but I do not see the other engine manufacturers solving this riddle for many years to come.



The Styrian GP Review

Hoping for a similar race to the previous week was too much to ask for but there was some great entertainment during this race behind Lewis Hamilton



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Max Verstappen drove the wheels off his Red Bull but not even his wizardry could keep him from losing 2nd position to the 2nd Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. Bottas still leads the championship after this race but he knows that he has got to keep Lewis behind him if he wants to mount a serious challenge for the title this year. Much easier said than done especially after Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying performance in the wet conditions on Saturday. Bottas will be hoping for dry weather in Hungary



Max pitted late in the race for fresh rubber and had a full pit stop plus 10 seconds in hand to the 4th placed driver Alex Albon. With fresh rubber I though Max would go for a fastest lap point, but he didn’t manage and for the 2nd race in a row that honour went to Mclaren but this time it was Carlos Sainz who got the point.


As with last weekend the final lap gave us massive excitement. With three laps to go, Albon and Perez and a little touch at turn 4 where Perez tried to pass the Red Bull driver but came off second best. Albon must have thought “not again” but this time he came away unscathed and raced off. Perez suffered a broken front wing which hampered his progress so much that the following 3 drivers all caught him on the final lap.


And what a final lap it was. The shenanigans were on fleek!!!


Stroll dived down the inside of Ricciardo, pushed him wide and Stroll went wide as well. This opened the door for Norris who was 8th. He passed both Stroll and Ricciardo and chased after Perez. Norris caught and passed Perez in the final corner and Stroll nearly beat Perez to the line as well.



Carlos Sainz and Danill Kyvat made up the final points paying positions.


Team by Team


Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton was back to his best and even though he is still behind Valtteri Bottas in the driver’s championship I believe Lewis will claim his 7th World Title this year and become the winningest driver. This team works brilliantly and are in total control of their destiny. It is a phenomenon. Also, it looks very likely that Bottas and Hamilton will stay with Mercedes for 2021 as well.


Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen drove his heart out and even still could not get close to Hamilton. He even had to relinquish his 2nd place on the track to Bottas late in the race although he tried his best to keep the Finn behind him. Red Bull and Honda must be wondering what Mercedes have that they are missing. I know this team will fight as hard as they can and if they find the golden key then Max will be a massive force. Albon will be pleased to score points and finishing 4th is very decent. It shows the real running order of F1 at present. Mercedes and then Red Bull.


McLaren

Lando Norris is having the time of his life. A podium in the first race and then a brilliant snatch of 5th place in the 2nd race. A bigger smile in the paddock you won’t find. He really is loving his car. Carlos Sainz will be irritated about his finishing position because of a fumbled pitstop which cost him positions on track as well as time. He managed to claim fastest lap, but the future Ferrari driver is now 0-2 vs Norris.


Racing Point

Besides the fact that Renault have lodged a protest against the Racing Point Team regarding their brake ducts, the 2020 Racing Point is a serious piece of kit. In qualifying they only managed to line up on the grid in 13th and 17th. People love to refer to them as the “Pink Mercedes” and this car is flying. Perez was by far the driver of the day and has shown yet again what a great talent he is.



Lance Stroll had another strong performance and his race craft is impressive. His lunge on Ricciardo could be debatable but it’s racing, and you must go for it. Yet again I do have to question the stewards about some of their decisions. If Hamilton was regarded to have spun Albon out in last week’s race and received a penalty, then why was Stroll not penalised for pushing Ricciardo right off the circuit?


We wait to see what the FIA rule about the Racing Point brake ducts. Looking at them they look suspiciously like the brake ducts used by the 2019 Mercedes.





Renault

I’m not sure who the decision makers are at Renault, but they erred big time. Daniel Ricciardo started the race on a different tyre to his teammate Esteban Ocon. Ricciardo was clearly quicker and expressed that to his team. They didn’t get Ocon to move over immediately. They chose to lose time to the Mclaren in front and it cost them I believe a 5th position or perhaps even 4th. Ocon was great in qualifying but his racing was not anything special. He retired on lap 25. Renault and Ricciardo might get promoted when the FIA rule on the Racing Point protest.



Alpha Tauri

I was disappointed for Pierre Gasly. He has a brilliant qualifying on the Saturday but come race day he was nowhere. He had a bit of contact with Ricciardo at the start of the race but after that the car had no pace and even though they tried to change their strategies nothing happened for his side of the garage. Kyvat will be very happy to get on the scoreboard and too finish ahead of his teammate.


Alfa Romeo

Weird to say but the fastest Ferrari powered on the track and they finished 11th and 14th. Giovinazzi had an ok race but nothing special. Kimi had a decent race and after avoiding the clash between the two Ferrari’s, he had to fight his way through the field. He finished out of the points which will be zero consolation and yet again he outclassed his younger teammate.




HAAS

I applaud HAAS for how they raced on Sunday. They chopped and changed their drivers around on the track and changed strategies mid-race as well. This all for the cause of testing the car. Both cars finished and they solved their braking issues. If Racing Point get disqualified after the protest they might sneak in a point. Great effort from both Grosjean and Magnussen.



Williams

George Russell had an outstanding qualifying on the Saturday and with all the penalties dished out, Russell started from 11th on the grid. He had a decent start and was in a proper race with much faster cars around him. And then he went off the track. The way I see it is that Russell was enjoying racing with some quicker guys and saw what they were doing, and he decided to give it a try as well. His talent could handle it hut the williams could not unfortunately. I suspect he had some floor damage as he couldn’t get onto the pace I expected for the rest of the race. Nicholas Latifi finished his 2nd race in a row and will be glad to get some miles under his feet.



Ferrari



A weekend to forget for the Maranello team. New upgrades and a new wing for this race and we didn’t see any of it. What a shambles in the race. For the second time in four races the two drivers tangled which caused them both to retire. The fact that it happened on the first lap is even more frustrating as we couldn’t see if the updates had improved the Ferrari. Also, not having a Ferrari in the race feels a bit like not being able to touch your wife. Leclerc admitted his mistake and was very remorseful after the race. He really does take these incidents very personally. The press have ripped into Ferrari and Binotto. Now I do feel a bit sorry for Mattia Binotto. He doesn’t seem to have a decent 2IC. Mercedes have James Allison, Red Bull have Marko and Newey, Mclaren have Seidl…. Ferrari has … who? In the past they Todt and Brawn, Domenicali and Costa etc etc… It cannot just be Binotto. I understand the anger towards him regarding the Vettel situation and I am not happy that Vettel has been kicked out but when you look at the team and their direction, Binotto seems to be carrying the entire team as well as the fans on his shoulders. I am sure there will be some mega meetings between Binotto, Camilleri and Elkan this week to find a way to keep the team and the drivers motivated. That said, maybe they can get a customer engine from Mercedes?






Bring on Hungary

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