Behind The Headlines – Austria – Surprising beginnings

Behind The Headlines Features

Sunday’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix saw Valtteri Bottas secure his second win at the Red Bull Ring, in a brilliant drive after teammate Lewis Hamilton’s race was turned on its head after a late penalty less than an hour before the race, this I thought would either fire him up or unsettle him leading to accidents.

Hamilton has been faultless in recent years, but you have to wonder if the three-place grid penalty unsettled him. This penalty came following a late challenge from Red Bull after a video emerged from FOM showing that he failed to slow under yellow flags during Q3.

The six-times champion believes that the two incidents in the last three races were different. Hamilton, I think will have seen what has happened to Vettel in recent years with his accidents which have led to him being dropped or whatever happened for his relationship with Ferrari, to get into the same trap.

Explaining what happened he told reporters, “The track drops away when you go through that corner. So a lot of people understeer through there. However, I didn’t get back on the power, I just continued to decrease in my speed, and he jumped on the power, being that he had so much grip.”

“He still had like a car’s width to the left of him. And ultimately, we touched. I think it’s unfortunate that we collided, and I wouldn’t want to ever collide with anybody.

The stewards had no choice but to award Hamilton a penalty, the president being set by the collision at Interlagos last November. Thankfully this weekend we can see Hamilton come back stronger, he normally does, and I think Valtteri Bottas has proved that the Mercedes is the team to beat.

Mercedes maybe the team to beat but they had problems with a sensor issue which saw the drivers need to stay off the kerbs, you need to hope they can solve that problem soon. I think that they will be in a very strong position going into this weekend, Hamilton could now be fired up.

Speaking to F1’s podcast, Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin revealed they weren’t surprised by the issues because they were anticipating them ahead of the race.

He said, “On Friday you saw that Valtteri had an issue at the end of one of the sessions so that was first a sign that we had a problem, we’ve had recurrence issues over the course of Saturday and going into the race we were expecting it because it seems to be a feature of the model.”

Shovlin suggested that the violent circuit didn’t help, the heat often makes this race one of attrition on the cars. I think Mercedes focus will be trying to fix those issues for this weekend properly, this could be the team’s weakness with the car this season.

Remember the “To whom it may concern F*** you”, in Melbourne last year when Bottas won, people thought this was the birth of Bottas 2.0 but that fizzled out around Monaco.

Ahead of Melbourne, I remember, Bottas saying something like this season he is the best prepared ever. The Finn’s behaviour was has been very honest and thinks of the team more often than not, he heads into this weekend’s second race with a thirteen point lead.

If this becomes a base for his maiden title, this will make him only the third driver to win the inter-team battle against Hamilton.

This race could have been very different as it was two years ago, the weakness in their armoury could be reliability. Throughout the latter part of the race, they had concerns over an electronics issue on the gearbox nearly resulted in a sensor failure that had the potential to cause a retirement on either car.

Mercedes had to tell its drivers not to use the Red Bull Ring’s vicious kerbs to protect the cars from vibrations that had the potential to shake their internals to pieces. We also had a protest over DAS, Red Bull could have waited until Sunday, but the debate will rumble on as it did in 2011 with the F-duct, 2009 with the double diffuser.

Lando Norris was the surprise as he inherited his maiden podium from the collision between Albon and Hamilton. Norris has been one of the starts of eSports broadly, although the unofficial driver’s championship doesn’t show, he has translated that single lap pace we saw him take poles in races into a podium.

Norris started the opening race with a career-best qualifying, with fourth proving he and McLaren have a strong car. In my view watching him on track the behaviour, the team are going to be leading the midfield and need to now work on leading the group and beating Ferrari.

“For a driver, it is important to create this momentum for himself as it gives him the confidence he needs to pull it off when it matters in qualifying and the race.”

“Lando was simply building it up as he started well last year. You could see that last year in his race starts when he started carefully at the beginning, and then once he had a bit of confidence and races under his belt, he was there.”

Seidl said the work they have done over the winter has helped, and that the was very happy with the result for Norris. The Englishman gained eight tenths on Hamilton, allowing him to finish third by less than two-tenths of a second in the final classification Ferrari went into this weekend expecting no they really struggled, being around a second off.

The team know that they are climbing a mountain to return to the front, although Charles Leclerc finished third (on the road). The team are bringing upgrades for this weekend, although they believe that these will not be enough to be back at the front.

They had around a second’s deficit to Bottas, which I believe underlines the weakness Ferrari has in the car in speed and aero. Ferrari can be happy with the surprise result, although luck played it part.  Verstappen’s early retirement and the incident involving Albon ultimately, I believed to lead to the podium for Leclerc.

Ahead of this weekend second race at the Red Bull Ring, we need to hope the team can get on top of some these problems. These appear in the way Ferrari are talking and the analysis of the team’s performance suggest there are weaknesses compared to the other teams are power and aerodynamics.

This weekend is going to be a challenge for both Ferrari and Mercedes if they can’t get on top of these issues, they could be in trouble with the European summer just beginning…


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.