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Styrian F1 Race Report – 12th July

A Mercedes one-two sees Hamilton’s first win of the season at the Styrian F1 Grand Prix.

After last weeks chaotic and eventful race F1 had a lot to live up to. Though we may not have seen the drama of last week we were treated to a slow burner of a race leading to an epic finale. Hamilton really launched his season this weekend dominating both qualifying and the race. Sometimes it seems Hamilton is able to access another level of performance, and on those weekend, no one has a chance in beating him—this was one of those weekends.

A wet qualifying session lead to a mixed-up grid with Hamilton on pole, blowing away Verstappen—his nearest rival—by over a second. After a poor qualifying performance Ferrari started tenth and fourteenth and their weekend got worse with the two drivers coming together on the opening lap. The chance of collision is always higher when you’re in the middle of the pack, and with cars running so close together at turn three, Leclerc—running out of room—clipped a curb sending his car into Vettel’s. Although a racing incident, a contrite and devastated Leclerc took full responsibility for the subsequent retirement of the two cars. Oh dear, Ferrari’s woes go from bad to worse!

Hamilton converted his pole to a lead, followed by Verstappen and Sainz, whose slower Mclaren meant he was soon passed by Bottas in the Mercedes and Red Bull’s Albon. The main winner in the opening stint Sergio Perez (the Racing Point driver). Starting in 17th, the Mexican was up to 10th within the opening 14 laps.

It was soon clear the Mercedes and Red Bulls were in a league of their own, with the Racing Points, Mclarens, and Renaults fighting for best of the rest—minus Ocon who suffered mechanical failure and retired on lap 26. A one-stop race for most saw pit stop timing and tyre strategy play a crucial part in  the unfolding of the race. Those who had stopped earlier held track position, but were chased down by those who had pitted later and were therefore on fresher tyres leading to a climactic ending. Sainz was the biggest loser in the pit stop round; an issue with his left rearing making it a slow stop and dropping him from fifth to thirteenth.

Lap 40 saw the move of the race when—fresh from a pit stop—on-form Perez goes round the outside of Riccardo at turn five; a pass no one saw coming. Post pit stops we really see the pace of the Racing Points and Perez was even able to catch up to fourth place man Albon. Rumours that this team are better than the best of the rest—possibly faster than Ferrari and even Red Bull—may prove correct as we move through the season if Perez’s performance today is anything to go by.

Good team strategy from McLaren sees eighth place man Sainz let teammate Norris past. The Brit—on tyres six laps fresher—is unleashed to chase down Stroll in seventh, just over four seconds ahead. This also allows Mclaren the option to put fresh tyres on Sainz’s car and give him a shot at the kudos (and championship point) which comes with gaining the fastest lap.

OK, now we’re getting to it! The slow-burner comes alive as tyre strategies bring us battles at the tail end of the race.

Up front Bottas has hauled second-place man Verstappen in, and the Mercedes—on fresher tyres—is just too quick for the Red Bull driver. After a stunning battle on lap 66 where Verstappen comes back at Bottas, the Fin finally gets the job done the next lap.

Further back Perez, still on his incredible run, has reeled in fourth place man Albon and takes a shot at the inside of turn four—the scene of Albon and Hamilton’s contact just a week ago. A slight coming together sees damage to Perez’s front wing and leaves him seriously lacking pace twelve seconds ahead of the battle for sixth position behind him between Riccardo, Stroll, and Norris.

This aforementioned three-way fight has also come alive as Stroll finally makes his move on Riccardo on the penultimate lap. The slightly bungled overtake sees them both lose momentum and Norris pounces on Riccardo to move up to seventh. For the second race in a row Norris brings out his last lap magic, sliding down the inside of Stroll at turn four before flying past the stricken Perez just after turn nine; he gains three places in two laps to finish fifth. Stroll and Riccardo both catch Perez on the final corner, but a short drive to the line sees the Mexican pip his team mate to sixth place by 66 thousandths of a second. Mclaren’s day gets better when strategy pays off and Sainz delivers a great fastest lap.

Driver of the day: Sergio Perez.
Honourable mentions: Hamilton and Norris.

Numpty of the day:  No-one! All very well behaved.

Styrian F1 GP Race results

1. Hamilton
2. Bottas
3. Verstappen
4. Albon
5. Norris
6. Perez
7. Stroll
8. Riccardo
9. Sainz Jr
10. Kyvat
11. Raikkonen
12. Magnussen
13. Grosjean
14. Giovinazzi
15. Gasly
15. Russel
16. Latifi
DNF: Ocon, Leclerc, Vettel.

Next up! Hungarian Grand Prix Sunday 19th July. That’s right, there are more tracks than just Austria! The Hungaroring, a twisty track which often leads to eventful and dramatic races.

USA: Live on ESPN. Show begins at 8am ET, starts at 9:05am ET.
UK: Live on Sky sports F1. Show begins at 1:10pm, race starts at 2:05pm.
Highlights on Channel Four at 7:30pm and Sky One at 6pm.

 

Written by Jenny Alderton

Jenny is a freelance writer based in Wales with keen interest in Motorsports. An avid follower of Formula one for over twenty years she has recently branched out into watching other vehicles driving around in wiggly circles. Namely, Motogp, World Superbike championship, and British Superbike championship.

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