OBSERVATIONS: Austrian Grand Prix
Sometimes these Formula 1 races write themselves, and you can pinpoint the happenings and winners simply by practice on Friday. Other times, you’re thrown a couple of twists and turns along the way. The Austrian Grand Prix was the lather.
In hindsight, Mercedes should’ve easily won with a one-two finish based on their pace and how they were able to get away early in the event after starting on the front row. Instead, their race went from good to bad, to worse.
Valtteri Bottas should find a horseshoe before the British Grand Prix because his luck lately has been horrendous, as he failed to finish once again on Sunday, this time due to a mechanical failure.
Under the virtual safety car period to clear Bottas off the track, both Ferrari and Red Bull brought their cars down pit road, performing double pit stops, while Lewis Hamilton stayed on track in the lead. Once they were back green, Mercedes then brought the four-time champion down pit road. In return, this sent him back on-track behind both Red Bull and Ferrari entries. The team admitted over the radio that they had played the wrong card, too concerned with the other strategies rather than their own, and it still appeared that they could fight back for a podium. However, a late-race unscheduled pit stop due to a blistered tire followed by a mechanical failure ended his race early.
Mercedes has been dominant over the past couple of seasons, and that appears to be threatened as Hamilton will head into the British Grand Prix a single point behind Sebastian Vettel. Notably, it’s the first double retirement for Mercedes since 1955. Alas, we finally have a good race for the championship shaping up.
The problems for Mercedes worked in Red Bull’s favor as Max Verstappen got the lead, and never looked back from there. After being criticized for his driving through the beginning stretch of the season, and some wondering about his future at the team, he has now scored three straight podium finishes. The Dutchman is still young compared to when you see Formula 1 drivers come into their prime, and indeed that brings forth lessons of when to push and conserve. Hopefully, he’s found that balance leading into the second half now.
Daniel Riccardo should’ve joined Verstappen up front as he was running fourth through most of the event, even after having to make an unscheduled pit stop for a blistered tire, but mechanical difficulties also bit him.
Ferrari took advantage of Mercedes problems as well, completing the podium with Kimi Räikkönen in second, followed by Vettel. They almost turned it into a victory as Räikkönen was closing on Verstappen in the final stages, but didn’t catch him by the checkered.
It’s easy to see these three teams mentioned are right now the class of the field, as they put the rest of their competition down a lap and were ahead by several seconds throughout the entirety of the event. Though in the best of the rest, improvement is being seen.
In their 50th Formula 1 Grand Prix, Haas F1 team scored their best-career finish with Romain Grosjean in fourth, with Kevin Magnussen right behind in fifth. While it has taken several years for other teams to reach the top-five, this group has done that in just their third season of competition.
Guenther Steiner said when the team was formed, it’d take time to find their stride, but he believed the package they had put together for 2018 would show their growth as they were ready to make their move. The double top-five is the proof in the pudding, and will now give them momentum heading into the back half of the season.
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