Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix showed F1 is well and truly back, the race throwing up surprises up and down the grid and only eleven cars finishing.
Here we look at the winners and losers from the Grand Prix, based solely on the race itself, and if you want to check our coverage of the weekend there’s links across the page.
Winner – Valterri Bottas
Bottas’ second consecutive season opener win has placed the Finn right in the title fight, especially given the curtailed season. He performed well all weekend and kept his head under pressure in the race as Hamilton followed him within a second for a number of laps, a trait that will be crucial if he’s to mount a title challenge.
He took his pole position fully on merit and then led every lap of the race – he was only denied a grand chelem through Norris’ last-minute fastest lap – a performance even more impressive than his Melbourne win fifteen months ago.
He also dealt well with three safety car restarts, and though it was a bit lucky that he didn’t have to face a charging Alex Albon in the last ten laps, he had more than earnt that break.
His championship credentials have been further boosted by Mercedes’ apparent pace advantage over the rest of the field which should allow him to race Hamilton more freely.
Loser – Sergio Perez & Racing Point
Having seemed top of a tight midfield pack for most of the weekend, eight points will seem a poor return for Racing Point.
Over the years they’ve so often been the team that takes advantage of chaotic races where the front-runners falter, but they finished behind both McLarens and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari even without Perez’s inexplicable penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
Lance Stroll would’ve been on for a strong points finish as well had his not engine packed up. It will be interesting to see how the team, who definitely have the raw pace and driver talent to achieve better, bounce back for the Styrian Grand Prix.
Winner – Lando Norris
Lots of Sunday’s action was unexpected but Norris putting in the fastest lap on the lap of the race to take third place by 0.2s was the biggest surprise of it all.
He performed well all weekend, taking fourth place by nearly a quarter of a second from Alexander Albon.
Given his traditionally strong performance at the Red Bull Ring, he could well repeat the feat next week,
It will also be interesting to follow the dynamic between him and Carlos Sainz, who’ll want to leave for Ferrari after a positive season – although from what we’ve seen so far that could be a step backwards or sideways on the grid.
Loser – George Russell
Russell’s wait for his first point in the world championship will have to wait another week at least, as he retired at on lap 49 with a fuel pressure problem.
Despite qualifying above both Alfa Romeos, it was business as usual from the start as he dropped back to 19th. However, he hung in the fight to stay off the back of the field and was up to the heady heights of 12th at one point.
Although he slipped back before his retirement, he could well have been in the points at the end, especially given Giovinazzi’s late race pace. He’ll definitely rue an opportunity missed, although it feels like a case of when rather than if he’ll score his first points this season.
Winner – Charles Leclerc & Ferrari
The biggest winners on Sunday, after seeming well out of the podium fight for most of the weekend a second place is more than the Scuderia will have dreamed of on Sunday morning.
He was only in the top three for five laps, but crucially it was the five laps that counted, and he won those places on merit as he overtook Norris and Perez in the closing laps.
This contrasted starkly with Vettel’s struggles, he was stuck on the fringes of the points places for most of the afternoon and spun making an ill-judged and half-hearted attempt to pass Carlos Sainz.
Vettel on the whole had a poor weekend – he failed to reach Q3, had the Sainz spin and ended up finishing tenth, only ahead of debutant Nicolas Latifi – but on the whole it was a brilliant result for Ferrari given their expectations coming into the race
Loser – Mercedes
Such was Mercedes’ apparent dominance in testing, free practice and qualifying, anything other than a 0ne-two for Mercedes would’ve been a disappointment. Bottas did his part, but Hamilton’s fourth place, combined with gearbox sensor issues, meant this wasn’t the return to racing they’d have hoped for.
Two Mercedes-powered cars retired and the Black Arrows had to greatly manage performance to nurse their cars home, and we’re yet to find find out whether this is a quick fix, or whether it will persist across the season.
Hamilton’s clumsy contact with Alex Albon, and subsequent penalty, denied them a one-two finish that seemed a dead cert on Sunday morning, although they’ll be sure to bounce back next weekend.
However, they did opt to double stack their first pit-stop in seven months and then nailed it, so kudos to the pit crew.
Loser – Alex Albon/Red Bull
Poor Alex Albon. After an off-season where some doubts had been raised over whether he’d been a major upgrade on Gasly in the Red Bull, he was on course for a potential win and definite podium in Austria.
Seeing how he caught and (nearly) passed Hamilton, it seems likely he would’ve been able to do the same to Bottas which would’ve been a brilliant result for him and Red Bull, and established the Thai as a force to be reckoned with in the team.
It does feel like an opportunity missed for Albon may not find himself in that position too often this season, but his performance over the 60 laps prior to that have at least put a marker down that he is the real deal.
Given Verstappen’s retirement, for Red Bull to leave the race with no points will be very disappointing.
Winner – Pierre Gasly
Alpha Tauri seem in a strange position, detached from the midfield but ahead of the ‘Class C’ battle, it’ll be interesting to see whether that holds out across the season. Regardless, Gasly’s seventh – the same position he finished last year in a Red Bull – is a mighty strong result, and banks valuable championship points.
Gasly looks to have continued the form he showed in his two stints at Toro Rosso, and the team is a tidy outfit with the potential to be a dark horse in the midfield battle at some races.
He also had the beating of Daniil Kvyat for most of the weekend, and it’s likely the Russian would’ve finished outside the points even before his retirement from suspension failure.
Loser – Haas
The stars of Drive to Survive look to be facing another difficult year in a ‘Class C’ battle with Williams, Alfa Romeo and perhaps Alpha Tauri.
Hopes of a step forward to the midfield weren’t realised in Austria as Kevin Magnussen didn’t make it out of Q1, and then both cars retired after an uninspiring running.
They could’ve been on for a double points which would’ve cast some optimism over the team for next weekend but now they’re already behind on rivals, they could be similarly afflicted for next weekend.
Winner – Formula 1
As a whole the Austrian Grand Prix was a brilliant season opener, and probably better than most fans’ expected coming into the race. Mercedes were less dominant than expected, fan favourites Leclerc and Norris made the podium and there were no coronavirus emergencies – this was exactly the race the sport needed after the fiasco in Melbourne.
It was one of the best season curtain raisers in a while, and there’s further good news as F1 returns to the Styrian mountains this weekend.
And also a word for the safety car – it had a busy day being called three times in the race and also featured heavily in the F2 sprint race – but showed no signs of rustiness in its pace or racecraft.