F1 – STYRIAN GP – RACE
Hallo, MiniFans! The first of the double headers came along for the second race of the season with the memory of last week still fresh in everyone’s minds. The conditions, however, are different: lower temperatures giving drivers a colder track and a rain-filled qualifying session meant a free choice of starting tyres for everyone, which may prove to be key later on in the race, allowing drivers out of position to counter the top dogs’ strategies.
As soon as the lights turned off, Sainz started trying to overtake Verstappen after a great start by the Spaniard, but his efforts were soon cut short due to a safety car prompted by both Ferraris colliding with each other after an atrocious start by both of them. Leclerc tried to squeeze through a space too small for him and created the contact with his teammate. He could continue with some floor damage and a new set of hard tyres in an effort to reach the points, but it lasted just a handful of laps, as his car was deemed almost dangerous to drive. Vettel had to say goodbye as well, due to the great amount of damage caused by the Monegasque’s rear tyre onto his rear wing. Pérez, who had started completely out of position, was slowly but surely climbing back up to where he would have been weren’t it for the rain during qualifying.
Renault seemed not to understand how their two different strategies could be hindered by their reluctancy to impose team orders, as Ricciardo got stuck behind Ocon in medium tyres with what he claimed to be better pace and both were losing time to Sainz while Racing Point was getting dangerously close. Once he managed to go past, he started to very slowly chip away at the gap to Sainz. Verstappen was the first one to box with an incredible pit entry, changing his softs to mediums in an effort to go to the end of the race and protect himself from an undercut from Bottas. Hamilton copied him almost immediately and Sainz followed through a few laps later, but a very slow pit stop made it so both Racing Point cars and Ricciardo were able to overtake him in boxes.
The race slowed down in the last thirty laps, with the occasional overtake and Pérez’s journey to conquer the fourth place from Albon, while his teammate kept struggling behind Ricciardo, even with the clear car advantage. The other place that needed looking at was whether Bottas could catch up and overtake Verstappen for second, who had some damage to his front wing. However, the Red Bull driver wouldn’t give up easily and made Bottas sweat for the position, not giving it up easily despite it being clear the Finnish driver had more pace, as well as better placement. Both Sainz and Verstappen stopped to try and get the fastest lap, having enough of a gap behind them to not lose a position, this almost being the last battle that would happen, until Stroll, Norris and Ricciardo got in a three-wide battle in the last lap, with one last great overtake by the British driver over the Racing Point. The cherry on top was one last overtake by Norris over Pérez, who had a severely damaged front wing from a small contact with Albon a few laps prior.
A slower and less hectic race than last week’s, the Styrian GP still had its moments of brilliance, specifically around the middle class and the Ferrari collision that allowed the former to occupy the last two places of the top six, which aren’t clearly red-owned anymore. Hamilton came back to his usual hunting grounds, not allowing anyone to get close to first place, Mercedes locked the two top steps of the podium and Verstappen was back on the third step. McLaren and Racing Point made clear that they are the best among the middle class and Ricciardo was back to show his resilience by keeping a clearly faster car – even if not faster driver – behind him until almost the end of the race. It’s now time to move on to Hungary, somewhere Ferrari needs to show up and be successful, or else we can pretty clearly state that it’s another season that will lean towards the former silver arrows.