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Opinion

Five talking points from the Styrian Grand Prix

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12th July, 2020
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Hello fellow sports fans, I’m back for another close look at the talking points from the second F1 race of the season.

And while the closing laps in the midfield were exciting, we’re seemingly back into a fairly standard zone after the excitement of last week. Let’s get to it.

Ferrari are cooked
Words cannot express the bitter, bitter disappointment Ferrari are feeling right now. Just when you think things couldn’t get worse, they do and a double DNF on the opening lap essentially sends Ferrari into a spot that they look likely not to come out of in a long time.

Their pace was nowhere all weekend despite so called upgrades, and then when the true test was to come to really show some race pace they were out before you could even finish those two words.

What is even more worrisome for the team is that there seems to be no clear fix, and they will have to have this car for the next 18 months. It is going to be an incredibly long period of frustration for the Italian team, and every single Ferrari fan following them.

On another note, Charle Leclerc showed just how classy of a driver and a human he is. Going in way too deep in Turn 3 at the beginning, he was clearly at fault for the incident, which took himself and teammate Sebastian Vettel out (despite the usual vocal Vettel hate club somehow blaming him once again).

Sebastian Vettel on track in his Ferrari SF90.

(Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Leclerc owned up to the incident immediately, apologising to Vettel afterwards, accepting the blame in post-race interviews and Tweeting out: “I am disappointed in myself. I’m sorry but being sorry is not enough. Seb hasn’t got any faults today. I’ve let the team down after them working a whole week to bring the updates early. Too eager to gain those places in the first lap. I will learn from it.”

I may have criticised him for being too hard on himself in the past, but his level of honesty and humility is a strong asset for the sport and one that could easily rub off on a select few drivers. He is a driver who we could all learn from.

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We’re back to where we feared we would be
There was no way we were going to the same excitement as we did last week, and it was only a matter of time until Mercedes waltzed away to a comfortable 1-2 finish. That’s what we got here this weekend, and as I mentioned last week, this is a worrying sign for the season and the sport.

Once again we find ourselves staring at a dominant Mercedes team who has no challengers close to them. What is even more worrisome is the limited diversity in races this year, with multiple races at the same circuits meaning we are at risk of the same result every single round.

It’s not to take away from Lewis Hamilton’s performance on the weekend. He put in an astonishing qualifying lap to take pole on Saturday and dominated the race on Sunday. And his teammate Valtteri Bottas was solid all weekend to consolidate his lead in the championship.

But as always, non-Mercedes fans are once again staring at their screens each weekend wanting to be woken up from this long standing sleep that has occurred since Albert Park 2014.

Verstappen continues to shine
I’ve been accused of not liking Max Verstappen in the past and yes, I will admit, the guy hasn’t exactly rubbed me the right way since he started. But that feeling has absolutely nothing to do with his driving talent.

He is fast. Super fast. And an absolute excitement machine to watch. The fact he was able to hang on to second as long as he did was great, considering the way the Red Bull looked in comparison to the Mercedes in the race.

His holding on of that position when racing Bottas too was a great spectacle, and there is no doubting that Verstappen can race just about anyone in any machinery on any given day.

If we can only get him in a machine capable of getting closer to the Mercedes every weekend so we can maintain that racing a little bit longer, we’d be in a much better position every single round.

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Max Verstappen

(Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Norris might be the most exciting driver on the grid
Yes, I’ve just said how great Verstappen is to watch as a race fan, but Lando Norris? He is something else. Give him a sniff and he’ll take it, and somehow he can manage to race the wheels off a car and find a way to get it home in a position he looked nowhere near a lap beforehand.

The final two laps from Norris were simply astonishing to watch, which makes you wonder how far he could’ve gone had he had that pace across the entire race.

Outside of the car he is also just such a fun character, which really adds to his overall appeal. Alongside Alex Albon and George Russell, we’re really spoilt for choice for fresh, young, talented faces who are fun to watch on and off the track, meaning F1’s next generation is going to be entertaining us for some time yet.

Stroll shines, Latifi solid
What a race from Lance Stroll. Starting 12th, Stroll was solid and consistent once again throughout the race and ended up in seventh place. He pulled off some great overtaking moves, particularly late on Daniel Ricciardo, who he had been stuck behind for a large portion of the race.

He was unable to defend from the speedy Norris on the final lap and narrowly missed out on beating his teammate Sergio Perez (who easily was the driver of the day) by less than a tenth on the line. It won’t be talked about as one of the best drives of the day, but you can’t take away from what a solid driver it was by Stroll.

As for Nicholas Latifi, he did what he could. A car issue on Friday cost him valuable track time on practice, but he didn’t qualify last (albeit with the help of a couple of issues for guys behind him) and ran most of the race ahead of his teammate Russell before eventually settling for 17th place. Nothing outstanding, but nothing terrible. And that’s the best he can hope for right now as he settles into the sport.

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Bonus: What is the deal with those trophy presentations?
Can we just talk about those trophy presentations coming from remote-control robotic platforms? That’s either the greatest thing to ever happen to F1 or the dumbest. It’s hard to fathom which. Although props to the Twitter user who said it was nice of Ferrari to allow F1 to use the SF1000 in the trophy presentation. Now that is good comedy.

For the second time in F1 history it’s a triple header as we head to Budapest next weekend for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Here’s hoping an upset can be on the cards and we see a car other than a Mercedes on the top step of that podium!