As the Australian sporting landscape feels the impact of COVID-19’s second coming, the situation with the Supercars championship continues to be a fluid one ahead of the next round in the country’s Top End.
Lewis Hamilton led home a Mercedes 1-2 at Sunday’s Grand Prix of Steiermark to complete a dominant weekend for Mercedes.
Contrast this to Ferrari, whose weekend went from bad to worse.
On the first lap, the two Ferraris made contact with the resulting damage forcing both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc to retire.
The field was already tightly packed on the run up to Turn 3, running three wide in places. There was no room for Leclerc to take the inside line but that is what the Monegasque driver did.
Leclerc went up over the inside kerb and made contact with Vettel’s rear wing, which ended up hanging by a thread.
Vettel had to retire as it takes several minutes to fit a new rear wing while Leclerc retired with significant floor damage.
A double retirement for Ferrari is exactly what the Scuderia don’t need right now.
The only other retirement was that of Esteban Ocon, whose Renault had a cooling issue. That was the only major reliability issue seen in this race, compared to the many problems suffered by teams up and down the grid last weekend.
While Hamilton was leading comfortably, his teammate Valtteri Bottas was making up ground after a difficult qualifying. The Finn was chasing down Max Verstappen through a combination of good race pace and good strategy.
Verstappen pitted on Lap 25 to attempt the undercut. Bottas pitted 11 laps later.
Bottas came out of the pits with fresher tyres and an eight-second gap to Verstappen in front.
That’s the strategy box ticked. Now for the greater race pace of the Mercedes compared to the Red Bull.
Initially, Bottas’ charge was hampered by traffic but once that was cleared, things became relatively easy for him.
Verstappen was struggling with some front wing damage and Bottas closed right up to the Dutchman on Lap 65.
On the next lap, Bottas made his first attempt at a move. He was forced to the outside by Verstappen at Turn 3 but Bottas got better traction on the exit and got ahead of Verstappen on the back straight.
However, Verstappen still had some defence left in him as the two drivers went side by side on the run down to Turn 6, where Verstappen held on to second place on the inside line.
Next time around though, Bottas did get past Verstappen, getting ahead of the Dutchman before the braking zone of Turn 4, with Verstappen not able to fight back.
Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag with Valtteri Bottas in second and Max Verstappen in third. Bottas maintains his lead in the drivers’ championship, sitting six points ahead of his teammate Hamilton.
Once again, the midfield battle was a corker.
In the closing stages of the race, it boiled down to two main battles. Alexander Albon and Sergio Perez were fighting for fourth position while Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll were battling for sixth.
It all came down to the final two laps of the race.
On Lap 70, Perez went for the move up the inside of Albon into Turn 4. The two made contact though, and Perez was left with a damaged front wing. Albon had held on to fourth position.
Meantime, Stroll was going for the diving move on Ricciardo up the inside of Turn 3 with both drivers running off the track. Lando Norris was able to take advantage of this, getting past Ricciardo on the back straight.
Norris then went wheel to wheel with Stroll, with the Canadian managing to hold on to sixth position.
That was until the next lap when Norris got better traction coming out of Turn 3 and took sixth place off Stroll on the back straight.
Norris then climbed up another place by getting past Perez’s wounded Racing Point at the final corner to finish in fifth. Perez held on for sixth place with Stroll and Ricciardo close behind in seventh and eighth, respectively.
Mercedes lead the constructors’ championship by a whopping 41 points over McLaren, who still sit in second place after another great drive by Lando Norris. Carlos Sainz struggled in his second stint and only finished ninth, having started third.
But the major talking point to come out of the Grand Prix of Steiermark has to be another shocking weekend for Ferrari. There are plenty of problems for the Scuderia to sort out.
F1 returns next weekend, moving onto the Hungaroring for the Hungarian Grand Prix.