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Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS20. Steiermark Grand Prix, Sunday 12th July 2020. Spielberg, Austria. Credit: Renault media site.

After a bonkers fight for the podium places at the end of last week’s season opener, the return to Styria again provided a lights-to-flag Mercedes win with the late drama shifted back a few positions.

Mercedes led every lap and finished with a first 1-2 of the season (despite having arguably a less impressive all-round performance this weekend), whilst behind, the battle for the ‘best of the rest’ placings exploded in the last laps with involving four teams and the fastest lap was jumping all over the leaderboard.

We’re now two rounds into the season and already the running order’s starting to take shape and with a very different track up next in the Hungaroring, we’ll soon know even more about what teams can expect from the season.

All that’s to come, but here we look at the winners and losers from the race.

Hamilton dominates Styrian GP ahead of tight midfield battle – Report

Winner: Lewis Hamilton

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His title tilt is well and truly underway after a stuttering start last week. He never looked under pressure from the first corner to the last after an equally dominant qualification performance and dispelled any notion from Friday that he wasn’t enjoying the car.

After the start, he barely got any airtime on TV as he drove away from the rest of the field in an undramatic race Hamilton will welcome following last weekend.

The only negative was that he missed out on fastest lap – he held it briefly but Carlos Sainz had pit to target the championship point and duly took with a 1m05.6s.

Although Hamilton’s still behind Valtteri Bottas in the championship by six points, it feels like he’s gathered a lot of momentum and he’ll be the red-hot favourite to repeat today’s win in Hungary.

The Brit’s taken the most wins of any driver there – seven – with Michael Schumacher the next best on four.

 

Loser: Ferrari

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Not sure how the Sunday could’ve gone worse for them. After a disappointing qualifying where Charles Leclerc was less that one hundredth ahead of the Williams of George Russell – more on him later – both cars were retired within three laps having hit each other at turn three.

On the opening lap, Leclerc launched an optimistic dive up the inside of turn three, bounced up off the kurb and knocked out Vettel’s rear wing with his rear left tyre.

After the euphoria of last week’s second place for Leclerc it’s been a major comedown for the Monegasque driver, who took full responsibility for the incident.

At least the Hungaroring is much less power-heavy than Spielberg so they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves immediately, but it will have to be a big performance to get them back on the right track after this.

Winner: Daniel Ricciardo/Renault

Finally, Renault have some tangible evidence they’re truly in the midfield fight as Ricciardo finished eighth, and just a second off fifth. If things had gone differently in the closing laps – he wasn’t happy with Stroll’s lunge up the inside of turn three in the closing laps – he would’ve been in pole position to take fifth and his second-best result for Renault.

Regardless of theses ifs and buts, it was still a good race for Ricciardo who was in touch with the top five throughout the race, and was able to hold off Lance Stroll for a large portion of the closing laps as well.

It was a better weekend for Esteban Ocon too as he qualified fifth and then ran comfortably in the top 10 up until his retirement from reliability issues after 25 laps, but he’ll need to put it all together within the next few races to get some results on the board.

They’ve protested the Racing Point design after the race so could find themselves with one less opponent in the midfield battle over the coming rounds too.

Loser: George Russell

After such a strong qualifying session, it will be bitterly disappointing for Russell to be once again bringing the rear for much of the race. Unlike last week he made a decent start and was fighting for places through the opening sector of the race.

However, he was forced off the track attempting to pass around the outside of Kevin Magnussen for eleventh place, and that was as good as it got for the Brit.

While on pace it’s likely Russell wouldn’t have finished in the points, it’s still another opportunity missed to be fully in the fight at the top of the ‘class C’ battle and at the moment Williams aren’t putting themselves in position to pick up the pieces when teams above them have off days.

Russell can’t believe how close he was to Q3

Loser: Pierre Gasly

Another driver who endured a tough race having a brilliant qualifying session. tough race for Gasly after a brilliant eighth place in qualifying.

It was difficult to see where it went wrong for the Frenchman who was running decently up to the first pit stop, but then sank like a stone to the bottom of the order and never recovered.

He stayed in the top 10 for a while but seemed to struggle on the straights, with a series of cars passing him at turn four. He ended up finishing 15th ahead of only the two Williams, which will be a disappointing return especially after his Saturday performance and last weekend.

Winner: Sergio Perez

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Won the driver of the day and quite rightly too, this was a quality performance from Perez. After showing so much promise last week it was an underwhelming start for Racing Point – they made the losers class in these rankings – and looked to be in a pickle after a poor Styrian qualifying where neither made it into Q3.

However, Perez turned it around in some style in the race, rising from 17th on the grid to finish sixth and looking for much of the closing stages like he’d take fourth from Alex Albon. His overtakes on Stroll and Sainz were particularly good, flowing side-by-side through the second sector, he was definitely the driver to beat in the midfield.

Although a broken wing attempting to move up the inside of Albon into turn four relegated him to sixth at the end, it was a masterful performance overall from the Mexican.

Winner: McLaren

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What a start to the season for Lando Norris. He’s becoming a last-lap specialist after his fastest lap to take third last weekend, and has really kicked on after a promising rookie season that was slightly held back by reliability problems.

He’s also done well historically at the Hungaroring, not to the same extent as Austria though, so will likely come out of this triple header with a very strong points tally, whilst it’s also a happy hunting ground for teammate Sainz.

And a word for McLaren’s team organisation –  the decision to switch Sainz with Norris earned the team an extra seven points compared to the eighth and ninth, with no fastest lap, that they likely would’ve finished without team intervention.

In contrast, Perez, who finished less than a second behind the Brit and was passed by him on the final corner, spent valuable time stuck behind his teammate. Had Racing Point been as decisive as McLaren, they could well have taken the spoils.

It also showed great respect and humility from Sainz, and he was duly rewarded by taking fastest lap having pitted to put on a fresh pair of soft tyres.

McLaren really are a team where everything seems to be going right at the moment, and it’s great to see.

Loser: Alex Albon

Fourth place is still a decent result for Albon (equalling his best ever), but after having seemingly elevated himself to the next level last weekend the Styrian GP will see many doubters return over his long-term suitability at Red Bull.

And without his robust defence from Perez that saw the Mexican lose his front wing, he would’ve likely finished fifth which would’ve been a much worse look.

It’s nowhere near the ignominity of Gasly being lapped at the circuit last year, and lots of the criticism coming his way will be out of proportion and unjustified.

But he was clearly off the pace of Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen so the pressure will be back on over the next few rounds.

Winner: Daniil Kvyat

The Russian took a superb tenth place in the Alpha Tauri to get his points total up and running for the season. While the team’s not at the pace of McLaren, Renault and Racing Point they’ve so far shown themselves capable of picking up points when those teams falter, which is a huge asset.

After his teammate’s strong performance last week and in qualifying it was important for the Russian to make a statement and he’s definitely done that with this result.

 

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