2020 Austria Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: F1 is back!
SILLY SEASON: One of the wildest and craziest silly seasons in a long time. Especially because there was no racing going on. So riveting we forgot none of these driver lineup changes take affect for another six months.
LINEUP: In fact, this year's grid had only two "minor" changes from last season -- Esteban Ocon returns, replacing Nico Hulkenberg at Renault, and Nicholas Latifi debuts, replacing Robert Kubica at Williams.
EVENT: Just the fact the race took place is enough of an event in these times.
TRACK: Stay. Off. The. Curbs. (Or, as the British spell it, kerbs.)
QUALIFYING: Mercedes is fast as expected, but surprise, surprise it's Bottas that gets the pole; Racing Point is fast as expected, but surprise, surprise it's Norris and McLaren that's the best of the rest; and Ferrari, especially Vettel, are disappointing as expected.
RACE: A typical first race of a season -- high attrition, surprise performances, oddball placements.
START: Bottas gets away clean, Norris looks splendid giving Verstappen all he can handle, Albon is not at all intimidated by Hamilton, who's mired down in fifth because of a last minute penalty, and Perez tells Leclerc no way.
BOTTAS: His restarts were absolutely perfect.
HAMILTON: Mercedes should have allowed Lewis to go around Bottas at the end, so he could open a five-plus second lead over Leclerc and Norris, allowing Hamilton to keep second.
MERCEDES: In some ways, they were very lucky to have two finishers, never mind a first and fourth. They had niggling engine reliability issues in testing, and they continue to have them in racing. Not like Mercedes.
LECLERC: Well, that was unexpected. Sure, a bit of luck, but Charles took advantage of what he could with a poor car.
VETTEL: Another grave, silly error in wheel-to-wheel combat made Sebastian lool amateurish. Again.
FERRARI: Of course your cars are "draggy." They no longer have a cheater engine with enough power to push your aerodynamic slugs through the air.
NORRIS: Lando! Lando! Lando! First he had to make an aggressive move on Perez and then put in an absolute flier on the last lap to get within five seconds of Hamilton to take advantage of the penalty to end up on the podium. A brilliant few laps after a solid weekend.
SAINZ: Had a few problems, so not going to troll on Carlos about being the slower McLaren driver Ferrari picked for next year. Yet.
MCLAREN: This could be a great duel between them and Racing Point ... oh, heck ... between them, Racing Point, and Ferrari for the best of the rest.
PEREZ: Big mistake not pitting during the second full course yellow for fresher tires. Of course, the pit lane speeding penalty would have negated that, but still.
STROLL: This is definitely the best car Lance has had in his career. Now, he just needs it to last.
RACING POINT: Better reliability and better strategy should leapfrog them above McLaren next week.
GASLY: A strong, quiet race.
KVYAT: Was also having a strong, quiet race until his tire made a lot of noise.
ALPHATAURI: Yes, there is Alfa Romeo. But this is a wonderful name. For starters, it's no longer just Red Bull in a different language. Like Red Bull, it is advertising a product in its name (a clothing line subsidiary of Red Bull). And, it still ties into Red Bull, as Alpha Tauri is the star representing the eye (and brightest star) of the Taurus constellation. (The actual name of the star in Latin is Aldebaran.)
OCON: Welcome back to F1 Esteban. You have your work cutout trying to move Mercedes' eye away from George Russell onto you.
RICCIARDO: Just how focused will Daniel be on Renault when he knows he's heading to the faster McLaren?
RENAULT: If they can actually go faster, the intrigue for their open seat will grow immensely.
VERSTAPPEN: He was on the perfect strategy to have a chance at beating Mercedes, especially when the Silver Arrows had to be cautious.
ALBON: Once again, a podium spot snatched away from him by Hamilton. The later mechanical problem only slightly eased his anger.
RED BULL: Race strategy can definitely give them a win next week.
LATIFI: This crazy race almost gave Nicholas a point in his debut. In a Williams car no less.
RUSSELL: He definitely has a stronger car this year. He showed off some of what he might do with it. He should show off even more down the road.
WILLIAMS: They can realistically beat not one but two teams on the grid. But, it won't be easy.
ALFA ROMEO: Like their Italian brethren and Haas, the engine is now their weakest point.
HAAS: Back to having brake problems again. Just how many years does it take to figure this out? (Apparently just as long as F1 TV to figure out how to make a streaming service work.)
F1 TV: Wretched. Just wretched. And this after two years of (not really) trying.
F3: American Logan Sargeant finishes second in the feature race. Keep an eye on him.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: Racing.
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 11 -- This is the eleventh country to host the season opener in the 71 years of the World Driving Championship. Interestingly, England which hosted the very first one was the only time the season started in the birthplace of F1. Here is the list in order of number of times the country started the season: Australia (22), Argentina (15), Brazil (10), South Africa (9), Monaco (5), USA (3), Switzerland (2), Bahrain (2), England (1), Netherlands (1), and Austria (1).
HISTORICAL STAT OF THE WEEKEND: As the F1 season finally got started this year, cars hit the track for FP1 on the same day Karl Benz drove the first automobile in 1886 at a top speed of 10 mph with a 0.75 HP one-cylinder gasoline engine. His company cars now dominate F1 with technology even Karl Benz himself may never have been able to envision.
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Ted Kravitz, Sky Sports F1 pit reporter, as cars left pit lane for FP1, "Cars on the track! For real! Not on a computer game!"
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Carlos Sainz was so excited, even the first slow installation lap of the weekend was still a thrill to him, "It's fast! Whoa, this is fast!"
SCHEDULE: It's déjà vu all over again next week. Just a different name.
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