Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2020

2020 Austrian Grand Prix Star Performers

2020 Austrian Grand Prix

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Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Austrian Grand Prix – here’s why.


Lando Norris

McLaren played down their chances of leading the midfield before qualifying as Racing Point and Renault showed strong pace in practice. But Norris sprang a surprise with a career-best fourth in qualifying, ahead of a Red Bull and both Ferraris, despite being delayed on his way out of the pits before his final run. He was later promoted to third on the grid when Hamilton was awarded his pre-race penalty.

Norris pressured Verstappen during lap one but he didn’t have the pace to keep up with the front runners and was inevitably passed by Albon and Hamilton. He held off Perez until the first round of pit stops, following which Perez used his softer tyres to get ahead.

However pitting for soft tyres during the second Safety Car period made Norris’s race. While he couldn’t contain Leclerc, Norris lunged down the inside of Perez at turn three, banging wheels with the Racing Point as he took fourth place.

Having been told Hamilton had a five-second penalty, Norris pushed hard to get within range. He was eight tenths away as the final lap began, but a scorching lap – the fastest of the race – saw him clinch his maiden podium finish by one tenth of a second.

Charles Leclerc

Leclerc wrung a superb finish out of the Ferrari
Ferrari’s severe lack of pace was illustrated for the first time during qualifying on Saturday as Leclerc couldn’t manage any better than seventh, though he left his team mate behind in Q2.

The team expected slightly better race pace, which was only slightly realised. Having been unable to clear Perez at the start he bided his time behind the Racing Point until the second Safety Car period. A switch to medium tyres helped him go on a charge: Leclerc made quick work of Norris, followed by a spectacular late-braking move on Perez. Thanks to Hamilton’s five-second penalty Leclerc was promoted to second, just 2.7 seconds behind race winner Bottas.

Valtteri Bottas

It was clear the Mercedes was the superior car in practice. Lewis Hamilton seemed was the quicker of the two, but Bottas seized his opportunity to take pole position, albeit aided by the fact he spun off, triggering the yellow flag which caught out his team mate.

With Hamilton starting fourth and Verstappen battling with Norris on the opening lap, Bottas escaped to an early lead and wasn’t pressured until the Safety Car period bunched up the pack. Bottas made three flawless restarts with a six-time world champion right behind each time, all while managing a gearbox problem from the start of the race.

Hamilton’s five-second penalty gave Bottas some breathing room for the final laps of the race, capping off an impeccable drive with a win and an early lead in the championship.

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Nicolas Latifi

Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Latifi didn’t have a smooth first weekend
Latifi’s debut weekend got off to a poor start after the rookie spun on the exit of turn one during practice three and collided with the barriers. Due to the compact schedule and ongoing tripleheader, parts can be scarce so each shunt has a much larger impact than ever before, especially on a smaller team like Williams.

His mechanics were able to get the car repaired in time for qualifying but the limited track time on his first race weekend cost him dearly when it boiled down to pure pace and Latifi ended up six-tenths behind team mate George Russell, who demonstrated the car could outpace the Alfa Romeos.

In the race, Latifi was unable to fight with any of the cars around him while Russell battled with the Alfa Rome and Haas drivers. His race wasn’t helped by the team bringing him in on the second lap of the first Safety Car period, or by leaving him out during the second. Among the 11 cars running at the end, only Latifi failed to score.

Romain Grosjean

Although he beat Kevin Magnussen into Q2, by less than a tenth of a second, Grosjean’s race was much rougher. He slipped backwards from the start, passed by both Renault drivers and his team mate. After a spin and an excursion through the grass at turn four, and three warnings for track limits violations, he retired with brake problems.

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And the rest

Lewis Hamilton, Alexander Albon, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Contact with Hamilton cost Albon a shot at victory
Hamilton appeared to be the man to beat throughout practice, but was unable to capitalise on Bottas’ spin in Q3 to take pole due to the yellow flags, and was penalised for failing to slow in response to them. After picking off Albon and Norris, Hamilton closed on Bottas. The first Safety Car eliminated his opportunity to jump ahead through the pits, but put him on Bottas’s tail. But by this point the gearbox situation was growing serious and both drivers were unable to push flat out.

With ten laps to go Hamilton tagged Albon’s right rear tyre and was quickly given a five-second penalty for causing a collision. This was enough to cost Hamilton a podium finish.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was outshone by his team mate: out-qualified and not quite on Norris’s race pace. In the beginning of the race, Sainz was stuck behind Leclerc but he delivered more points for Mclaren by picking off Perez for fifth.

Racing Point looked like the midfield leaders during practice, but neither driver qualified at the expected level, Perez starting sixth and Lance Stroll ninth. Engine problems forced Stroll to retire early on while Perez battled within the top five. After opting not to pit during the second Safety Car period, he was overtaken by Leclerc, Norris, and Sainz before finishing sixth.

Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat lined their AlphaTauris up 12th and 13th respectively. Both cars were running in the points for much of the race until Kvyat was involved in a wheel-to-wheel battle with Ocon and suffered a left-rear puncture and suspension failure with two laps to go. Gasly kept out of trouble and crossed the line seventh.

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Esteban Ocon was unhappy at the amount of time he lost on the straights by not having a tow in qualifying. Ricciardo made it to Q3 but his final run was ruined by Bottas’s yellow flags. Engine problems took Ricciardo out of the race early on after being passed by Vettel, while Ocon delivered points for eighth on his F1 return.

Sebastian Vettel, Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Vettel salvaged a point from rough day
Alfa Romeo struggled as all the Ferrari-powered cars did and both drivers were eliminated in Q1. Both benefitted from retirements ahead to move up the order until a cross-threaded wheel nut caused Kimi Raikkonen to lose his front right wheel. Giovinazzi finished ninth.

Vettel was unhappy with the balance of his car all weekend and failed to advance out of Q2 on Saturday. On Sunday he described his car as almost undriveable, and it looked it. He spun while trying a speculative move on Sainz, and recovered to finish tenth.

Max Verstappen started alongside Bottas on harder tyres but an engine issue halted his race on lap 12 as the car kept going into anti-stall mode. Albon settled into third after starting fifth and used his softer, newer tyres to go around the outside of Hamilton, who spun him out. “Sore loser,” was Albon’s verdict on the radio.

Russell showed encouraging signs in the Williams during qualifying after coming less than a tenth shy of making it out of Q1. He got as high as 12th in the race before an engine problem ended a promising day.

Magnussen had the best opening lap on the grid, rising from 16th to 11th. He was able to hold his position until his brake problems intensified in the Austrian heat and he eventually spun into turn three, bringing out the first Safety Car of the race.

Over to you

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2020 Austrian Grand Prix

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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39 comments on “2020 Austrian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Kvyat was pushed off the track by Vettel just before he has his failure. Ocon’s clash took place a lap or so earlier.

  2. Stars are spot on but Ocon should really be a struggler. Perhaps also Giovinazzi who again seemed very slow on Sunday.

    1. ColdFly (@)
      8th July 2020, 9:15

      Not sure if BOT was a real Star.
      Winning a race in a Merc seems to be a 50/50 chance, and I’m not sure he would have prevailed without Hamilton’s penalties.

      And indeed Latifi seemed to be closer to Russell than Ocon ever was to Ricciardo.

      1. It’s simply not a 50-50 chance against Lewis Hamilton.

      2. I even think Albon had a shot at victory before he was clipped by Hamilton. He was faster than both Hamilton and Bottas after the second safety car.

        1. Hos PU gave up so how was he going to win the race with dead PU?

  3. Stars: BOT, LEC, NOR.
    Strugglers: HAM, VET, Haas, Alfa Romeo.

  4. I don’t see Grosjean as a struggler. His start was dreadful but he did out qualify his team mate and then I won’t hold anything to someone who has a car with shody brakes.

    1. I agree there. All the stranger when obvious struggler Vettel is not mentioned there @tango.

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th July 2020, 10:13


      I don’t see Grosjean as a struggler either. He made the same mistake as bottas in qualifying, but the car was so twitchy that it resulted in a spin. He commented after this that this didn’t feel like the same car as friday. Then very soon after he said that, Magnussen had break problems. I think the reason why Grosjean will have exceeded track limits will have been to do with problems personally as it looked an absolute handful to drive. Then just a bit later, he had an identical issue to magnussen. Grosjean also missed one practice session due to break problems which should be taken into account.

      Magnussen also had break problems in the USA last year and the retirement looked to be exactly the same as the two this weekend. Hass have serious brake issues.

      Magnussen had a very good start, though in fact did hit the back of Vettel at one point which easily could have either broken his front wing or given Vettel a puncture. Grosjean slipped back a bit, but to be fair he qualified a bit further ahead than the cars pace is IMO. He did make a mistake but the rest of the race IMO was just an example of how awful that car was to handle – i think this was the reason for track limits. There is no way he would do this deliberately on so many occasions surely? This was only just before he also had to retire suggesting his car was poor before hand. Magnussen made the most of others getting worse starts than him, but it was clear that other teams had better pace than him. Any slim reason to put Grosjean as a struggler seems to be the case now.

      1. Good comment but it’s “brake” :)

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          8th July 2020, 17:19

          Spelling is not my strength. Sorry for that!

  5. How is Vettel not a struggler?

    1. ColdFly (@)
      8th July 2020, 9:16

      good question.

      1. very good question.

    2. Indeed. Vettel ought to be on this.

      Also, don’t think Bottas is a star. He was solid sure, but he didn’t beat Lewis convincingly enough to be classied as a star.

    3. Indeed. He belongs there far more than Grosjean who at least managed to outqualify his teammate significantly, and can partly be excused for erronous driving by those brake issue

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        8th July 2020, 10:56


        Even though I can’t stand the hate Grosjean gets by some and respect that it looks like you respect him a bit more, he most certainly didn’t outqualify magnussen significantly. The difference in Q1 was 0.070. If you are comparing Grosjean’s Q2 time compared to Magnussen’s in Q1, this isn’t really fair.

        1. Ah, yes, you are right there @thegianthogweed the comparison Q2 from Grosjean vs. Q1 time from Magnussen cought me out there. But he still did manage to get ahead, if not by a large margin.

  6. Dan Rooke (@geekzilla9000)
    8th July 2020, 9:27

    “Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat lined their AlphaTauris up 12th and 132th respectively.”

    Wow – Kvyat must’ve had a massive grid penalty to start so far back!

    In all seriousness, I can’t disagree with the star performers here, but I’d also put Vettel in with the strugglers. It’s a shame Russell went out as I wanted to see if he had the pace to ‘race’ – he strikes me as someone who could be a star performer but it’s difficult to benchmark him when his team-mates don’t seem to be strong performers, please – let’s see him in a competitive car at some point, I’m sure his talents go beyond the virtual.

  7. It was a weird race where even the star performers lucked into their results a little bit to be honest. I doubt Bottas would have maintained the lead without the safety car at his pit stop which neutralised the opportunity Hamilton had on tyres which he’d looked after better.

    Norris had a great race but a second was on the cards had it been perfect and the result was mainly thanks to the 2 Red Bulls and a Mercedes falling back. Still he did take the opportunity for a podium which someone held in high regard like Hulkenberg never did.

    LeClerc did the best with his machinery but again he was quite lucky with the circumstances. He probably was the only one that did actually drive a stellar race and took every opportunity he had though.

    Struggler wise this weekend I think Vettel should be in the list.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th July 2020, 10:50

      I don’t know what confirmation we have that confirms hamilton looked after his tryes better? Bottas has been in clean air the entire time and Hamilton had been right behind Bottas a great deal of it which will not have helped. We also don’t know how long Bottas will have gone on his first stint. Hamilton looking after his tyres better? – i’m not so sure. He just had better pace to me. We also can’t confirm that once the mercedes orders had been given to manage the car that Bottas wasn’t doing just that and that was the reason that Hamilton was so close. He looked to be closing quite fast in the early stage, but most of the 2nd stint mercedes had issues so we don’t really know what will have happened if both drivers will have been allowed to push to the limits. It is very hard for the same car to over take. Bottas managed to keep hamilton behind in Baku last year as well as Vettel who was clearly faster (and in a different car) at the end of Austria in 2017. Basically we have nothing to prove that Hamilton will have got by if the race had been safety car and problem free for Mercedes.

      1. @thegianthogweed Hamilton’s pace was growing to 3-5 tenths better per lap at the point the safety car came out. Bottas was at real risk of falling into the clutches of car behind if he had to stop because his pace fell further. At the end of the day it’s just an opinion and mine is that Bottas lucked into the result that weekend. We didn’t even cover his spin in qualifying that ruined the runs for most of the drivers and resulted in his own teammates penalty (yes that was Hamilton’s fault but Bottas error was the trigger).

        There is no guarantees when it comes to opinions but while Bottas has kept Hamilton behind at times, he has also been blown away on race pace a few times too so it’s not unthinkable that he could have been passed by Hamilton during the stops had they progressed. I guess this weekends race may give us a picture of how much extra race pace Hamilton had that was never shown due to circumstances.

  8. Hm, Curious you mention Grosjean as a struggler, despite clearly outqualifying Magnussen. And I think we should take into account those brake issues, since it’s quite likely that was what caused his struggle from early on in the race.

    At the same time, why isn’t Vettel mentined there? Dropping out at the Q2 hurdle, clearly slower than Charles. And dropping the ball with an ill judged and badly executed maneuvre, and adding a spin later in the race meaning he only managed to get 1 single point vs. Charles pushing the car onto the podium?

    1. My reasoning behind it was that Vettel’s car appeared nearly undrivable if you watched his onboard. Any driver would have spun in a car that handled like that in my opinion. Totally different driveability compared to Leclerc.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        8th July 2020, 20:19


        But I also think there are some points that should remove Grosjean from being a struggler in that case. He missed a practice session due to brake problems. After his mistake in the race (which didn’t look as clumsy as Vettel’s), he commented that his car didn’t feel like friday (referring to practice 2). Then very soon after this, Magnussen’s breaks fail. Then Grosjean admittedly does get a black and white flag, but as he wasn’t doing this earlier at all, it is unlikely to suddenly be the case that he exceeds track limits deliberately multiple times. It looked like his car was a total handful as he pretty much commented, then he had the identical problem to Magnussen.

        Grosjean also did manage to get through to Q2, which I think was an achievement for the car, so it isn’t really a surprise if he falls back a little in the race the start of the race. Magnussen just happened to have an exceptionable start (other than making slight contact with Vettel which potentially may not turned out well). But once Magnussen had done this, he clearly didn’t have the pace of those behind and this pretty much showed that the car was really poor. Magnussen performed a bit better than expected. But I’d say Grosjean’s only mistake was going wide at the same place Bottas did in qualifying. Other than that, for the ability of the car, I think it was a reasonable weekend. I’m not sure anything else could be helped. Once Magnussen retired, they should have looked at Grosjean’s car given the handling difficulties and retired him sooner before the breaks had the same issue IMO.

  9. HAAS was definitely a struggler for me, both of their cars ran out of brakes mid-race.
    McLaren’s performance was a positive surprise and I hope they can maintain it for the remaining season.

    Ferrari’s pace was a depressing confirmation of the suspected midfield performance. I wonder how long the prestige of red paint is enough to keep Leclerc at peak motivation. Vettel certainly has been disillusioned for a number of years now.

  10. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    8th July 2020, 10:41

    I think Vettel should replace with Grosjean without question. Ferrari’s pace was slow, but their car was not dangerous to drive and Vettel’s mistake looked far more clumsy. Vettel was not far off Leclerc in qualifying at all in fact. And also in the race, Vettel for the tyres he was on had good pace vs leclerc for how bad the car was. It was only from the incident onwards that things turned bad for Vettel.

    There seems to be a few mentions implying Bottas spinning aided him pole. I’m not sure. It also mentions that hamilton failed to slow. Well, if he failed to slow and set a slower lap, Bottas was not aided by his spin and he still would have got pole. Even hamilton admitted right after he took 2nd that Bottas’s off didn’t effect his time. Even if Bottas hadn’t spun, his 2nd attempt was also initially faster than Hamilton so given what happened, it was unlikely that Bottas’s spin actually compromised Hamilton’s chances of getting pole. What it will have done if he had slowed under yellows is made him qualify 8 – 10th. There were only 2 drivers who hadn’t set a decent time and they may or may not have been able to set one. While Hamilton had his first time deleted due to track limits. What is interesting is that if he didn’t do what he did and push through the yellows, he will have started further down the grid anyway. This is where penalties get confusing sometimes. He was in this instance better off giving himself a grid penalty than not setting a lap. But watching Hamilton’s onboard, I think the penalty was possibly a little harsh.

    I’m not sure I would agree with Lafiti as a struggler either. It is the first race – and his first race. We can’t really judge how capable williams are and I don’t think he was that bad. If anything I would possibly replace him with Giovinazzi. He may have outqualified Kimi, but Kimi got past just before he pitted. Then kimi pitted and then a lap later giovinazzi got a free pit stop, which made kimi lose out badly. Despite this, he caught right up later on, then pitted during the next safety car and lost a place to kvyat then lost his wheel. Despite all kimi’s bad luck, he managed to close the gap and regain the positions lost to his team mate. Kimi looked decent and Giovinazzi looked poor.

    Ocon should probably also be considered a struggler really.

    The star performers I agree with, but I don’t think I would argue if it was just Norris and Leclerc. Bottas was solid and it was probably one of his best weekends for handling the pressure, but his pace didn’t look that amazing. But then he’s against the best driver and both cars had problems so it is a bit hard to judge.

    1. @thegianthogweed Keith should hire you to write these articles. Everything you just wrote is spot on.

    2. Actually, I misread your first sentence @thegianthogweed and thought you were saying that Vettel and Grosjean should swap cars…

      … And I kinda agreed. Surely the Ferrari was a handful but I’m pretty sure Grosjean would find it beautifully poised comparatively and at least be a benchmark in quali for Leclerc while lifting part of the expectations on the team as all subsequent problems could be blamed on him and not the team. Haas would in return get the publicity of having a 4x world champion in their car and maybe it could help with some sponsors. Now get me Steiner and Binotto on the phone !!

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        8th July 2020, 13:23

        Don’t worry, I mistyped my first sentence. It wasn’t very clear. All i mean is that Vettel should be a struggler rather than Grosjean.

        1. a Genesis fan by any chance? (I mean the real Genesis)

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            8th July 2020, 20:22


            Yea i found Bottas’s radio comments in qualifying rather amusing and it reminded me of this:

            “Me, I’m just a lawn mower – You can tell me by the way I walk”

          2. he knows what he likes

  11. Vettel and Hamilton should be strugglers. Their own errors cost them a lot of points this time.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th July 2020, 11:00

      It takes a lot for Hamilton to be a struggler. I don’t think he was this time out, but for some reason he wasn’t in Germany last year despite crashing, getting a penalty for going the wrong side of the Ballard then spinning then nearly crashing out in the same way Bottas did. He was only saved from finishing P11 by Alfa Romeo getting a massive penalty. If that doesn’t get Hamilton a struggler here, it is hard to imagine what does. I normally respect the decisions here, but certain drivers never seem to get their worse weekends highlighted.

  12. Only Facts!
    8th July 2020, 10:58

    Leclerc the real star. From 7th to 2nd, in what was supposed to be a full sec slower car. Nobody told him apparently.

    Norris brilliant last lap keeping the OT button pressed! You have to watch that onboard again if you miss that.

    Hamilton the biggest looser. Or the sore looser, as some call him. Complaining that Bottas was using more kerbs than him??? Needed James to come on the radio to reassure him of the problem?

    I’m sorry…Vettel the biggest one. From the comeback “see-what-you’ll-miss” some fans were waiting for to that “oops-I-did-it-again”.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      8th July 2020, 11:30

      I think Leclerc did very well, but remember just how much the safety car will have helped him close up on multiple occasions. Plus Verstappen retiring, Albon getting knocked back then retiring and Perez staying out on old tyres.

      Even during most of the race, Leclerc was 1 – 2.5 seconds behind Perez until the safety car messed things up for perez himself. Leclerc also only really had the opportunity to pass Norris when the safety car brought him close at the restart. By that point point, Perez also had no decent tyres left which made it easy for Leclerc.

      Leclerc race was certainly enough for him to be a star performer, but the fact the car was slower was obvious and it was virtually always others bad luck with the safety car that allowed Leclerc to get DRS and pass. Otherwise he would usually be several seconds back due to Ferrari’s lack of pace.

  13. I think that only Norris and Leclerc should be called star performers. I don’t think that Bottas performed better than Perez.

    However, it is a far greater injustice that Vettel is not called a struggler. He was more places behind his team mate in quali than Stroll, a notoriously poor qualifier. The spin in the race was a huge mistake, caused by a silly attempt to pass with no chance of being successful. He managed to pass just about no one, even though he was fighting fairly slow cars, while Leclerc was able to pass far better cars. I think that his performance is much worse than Latifi’s, who did poorly in a poor car. Vettel had a car capable of 2nd, but ended up second to last, between Giovinazzi and Latifi.

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