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F1: The second round in Austria -- Hamilton and Bottas make it a Mercedes one-two

F1: The second round in Austria
Hamilton and Bottas make it a Mercedes one-two

FIA F1 World Championship Styrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring, Austria
Hamilton dominant this week; Bottas makes up for a poor qualifying effort with a second place finish

Spielberg, Austria, July 12/20 (GRW): Qualifying for this weekend’s Grand Prix, the second one here in as many weeks, was run in the rain and Lewis Hamilton was in charge, taking the pole seemingly with ease. His teammate Valtteri Bottas struggle I qualifying, only taking fourth on the grid a second-and-a-half slower and behind Max Verstappen and the McLaren driver Carlos Sainz. However, in the race, Bottas came thorough and he finished in second place to Hamilton, albeit, 14 seconds behind him. Verstappen ran consistently to a third-place finish well back of Bottas, while Alexander Albon, in the other Red Bull car was fourth and Lando Norris brought his McLaren home in fifth place. Sainz only managed to score a ninth-place finish.

The semi-Canadian Racing Point team was looking at a finish in the top five but Norris pushed past both of them to drop them – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll – to a sixth- and a seventh-place finish.

After qualifying, the Ferrari had ended up mid-pack with Sebastian Vettel in tenth place and Charles Leclerc in eleventh – and then leclerc got a penalty which pushed him down to 14 on the grid. Then, on the opening lap, Leclerc made a move top push forward and lost control, slamming into the side of Vettel’s car. Ultimately, the damage both cars had received forced them to retire from the race almost before it got started. What an embarrassment for the Ferrari team; you have to go back some years to remember another time when this team was so out of it.

After that, Bottas soon got past Sainz to take over third place in the running order and he moved up to second when Verstappen made his first pit stop on lap 23 of the 71-lap race. When Hamilton made his pit stop, Bottas took over at front ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen but, when he finally pitted, the order reverted to Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas.

Bottas was no running faster than Verstappen and he gradually reeled him in until, on lap 67, he fought his way past him and took over second place. Now that any hope of finishing in second place was gone, Verstappen pitted for new soft tires and went out to collect the point for the race’s fastest lap. That mission failed when Sainz was even faster that him on lap 68 and he was credited with the fastest lap.

“This has tended to be one of my weaker tracks,” said Hamilton, “so I am over the moon to have a performance like this today – so, so happy. This feels like a long time coming since the final race of last year and it is a great step forward to come back from a difficult first weekend. The team did a fantastic job with the strategy and then it was about keeping it together, staying off the kerbs and bringing it home. I tried to get the fastest lap towards the end, but I had 40-lap old Mediums, so it was going to be difficult against someone on new, fresh rubber. A big thank you to my team and everyone back at the factories, they have done a brilliant job. I think it’s easy to lose focus and determination, but I don’t ever see that with this team. We know there’s a long way to go and it’s a challenge for everyone, but this is a step forward, for sure.”

If we had any hopes that we would see a good three-team battle for supremacy, our hopes seem to have been dashed. Now the pecking order seems to be Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas and, somewhat back of them, Red Bull with Verstappen and Albon – with the other presumed contender, Ferrari, left far behind licking their wounds. This does open up some possibilities for other teams and we saw good results for the McLaren team in Norris and Sainz, the Racing Point team in Perez and Stroll and the Renault team in Daniel Ricciardo. I guess if we concentrate on this second-tier pack behind the Mercedes and Red Bull contenders, we can look for some interesting story lines. If you are a died-in-the-wool Ferrari fan, now seems to be the time to emulate the Maple Leaf fans who are forever waiting for better things ‘next year’.

• Click HERE for the race results and the points standings after the Styrian Grand Prix.

• The next Grand Prix will be the race at the Hungaroring, near Budapest, next Sunday, July 19.

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