Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Hamilton fighting for more than the title as he claims first win of 2020

2020 Styrian Grand Prix review

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Having stumbled twice in the season-opener at the Red Bull Ring last week, Lewis Hamilton made no such mistakes in Formula 1’s unprecedented return to the second venue for two races in a row.

He took his first victory of the season comfortably ahead of team mate Valtteri Bottas, the distant Red Bulls, and everyone else at least a minute behind. Following the long delay to the start of the 2020 season, the reigning champion’s pursuit of a record-equalling seventh title is on.

Hamilton romps home

The Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s first pandemic-era race, had gone remarkably well. To increase the chance of a smooth start to the season, the championship organisers had decided to stay at the Red Bull Ring for a second race.

The name ‘Styrian Grand Prix’ was settled on. Curiously-named races are going to be a feature of this heavily disrupted championship – we already have the ’70th Anniversary Grand Prix’ (a.k.a. British Grand Prix II) to look forward to, and the Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000. That may be a clumsy moniker, but forgive them, for it means we will get to see F1 cars screaming around the superb Mugello course.

Start, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Hamilton led the field to turn one, and was never seriously threatened
Ahead of another 71 tours of Red Bull’s home track, Hamilton dominated qualifying, leading the field by well over a second on a drenched track. For the second weekend in a row, however, Max Verstappen had planted his Red Bull on the front row.

The rain-hit session meant F1’s usual rule that the top 10 had to start on old tyres didn’t apply. Everyone got a free choice, as they should do at every race. However with the track washed clean by Saturday’s deluge, and several of the quicker cars ‘out of position’, soft tyres remained a logical choice for most.

Hamilton put the outcome of the race beyond doubt quickly. Following an early Safety Car period (more on that later), he scampered out of DRS range from Verstappen, and steadily increased his lead to 3.7 seconds by lap 18. Then he increased his pace, putting up to seven tenths a lap on Verstappen, whose car was tending to oversteer and increasingly had to worry about the other Mercedes behind him.

“The Mercedes drivers have been instructed to push,” Verstappen was told. “What do you want me to do?” he asked. “As you are. I know you’re pushing.”

By lap 23, with Hamilton now 5.6 seconds up the road and Bottas two seconds behind, Red Bull pulled Verstappen in. Tellingly, Mercedes didn’t bother summoning Hamilton the next time around, but were secure in his margin over Verstappen to wait three laps before responding, and still had him back on track the best part of five seconds ahead of the Red Bull.

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Bottas deprives Verstappen of second

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Verstappen tried to bag fastest lap after Bottas passed him
Verstappen’s pit stop was a reaction to Bottas, not Hamilton, who was long gone. Now Mercedes could afford to leave Bottas out front, reduce the length of his second stint, and give him the chance to attack Verstappen at the end.

Sure enough, by lap 58 Verstappen’s lap times had risen into the 1’08s and never got back down. Bottas teed him up in the DRS zone heading to turn four but Verstappen responded with a gem of a re-pass on the outside of the corner, cautiously staying wide, minimise the chance of a Hamilton/Albon-style tangle.

In a just world, second place would have been Verstappen’s reward for such a move. Instead we have DRS. As the next lap began, Bottas was fractionally closer to Verstappen, the pass was a mathematical inevitability, and when it happened it was every bit as exciting as that sounds.

(The powers-that-be originally hoped to add variety to this second race at the same track through the gimmick of a reverse-grid qualifying race, a proposal panned by drivers. Happily, because this needed to be approved by the teams, wiser minds prevailed. If only they’d instead taken advantage of the opportunity to experiment with a DRS-free race by simply not designating any zones for it, a change would not have needed the teams’ approval.)

Hamilton, therefore, took a straightforward but no less impressive victory. The Red Bull Ring is something of a bogey track for him, which is to say this was ‘only’ his second win on the circuit. Throughout his run to the flag he was requesting feedback on whether he was losing time, working away on his driving. He had a near-15-second lead over his team mate, last week’s winner, when he began stroking the Mercedes home.

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Norris prevails in last-lap drama

Perez lost fifth at the final corner
The race came alive in the midfield where Sergio Perez, after struggling in the wet qualifying, was carving his way to the front in a blur of pink. He dispensed with his team mate with little difficulty, and no obvious sign of interference by the team, and then began an incursion deeper in to the top 10.

While Perez relieved Daniel Ricciardo of fifth place with little difficulty, Lance Stroll found it harder going in the second RP20. “I just can’t get by, Brad,” said Stroll, finding less bite from tyres that were five laps older than his team mate’s.

Further back Lando Norris was waved through into eighth place by McLaren when he caught team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr. “Don’t fight him, he’ll get out of your way,” said the pit wall. “He’ll let you past into turn four.”

Perez was flying: For six laps in a row he set the fastest lap time of anyone on the track. He was taking up to a second per lap out of fourth-placed Alexander Albon. With two laps remaining he got down the inside of the Red Bull at turn three, and the pair touched. It looked like a replay of Albon’s tangle with Hamilton a week earlier, but this time the Red Bull emerged unscathed, while Perez’s front wing mountings fractured.

Perez lost three seconds that lap and six the next time around. Norris was alerted to the unfolding opportunity ahead. On the penultimate lap, Stroll made a do-or-die bid to take Ricciardo, throwing it down the inside of turn three. Stroll went off the track completely, taking Ricciardo with him.

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Ricciardo came under attack from Stroll
As they rejoined, Norris arrived on the scene, slipstreaming past Ricciardo on the straight and coming close to getting Stroll on the outside of turn six. DRS got the job done the next time around.

Meanwhile Perez, who’d started the last lap eight seconds ahead of them, was coming into view. His front wing had now folded backwards, yet remarkably hadn’t detached and gone underneath the car, which might have caused a substantial crash. However in the quick corners at the end of the lap he was woefully slow.

Norris pounced on him for fifth place between turns nine and 10, where passes are rarely made. Luckily for Perez the finishing line is close enough to the exit of the final corner at the Red Bull Ring that he pipped Stroll and Ricciardo to it by two tenths of a second.

The drama didn’t stop there, as Renault lodged an official protest against both Racing Point cars for a technical infringement after the race. Would they have bothered had Ricciardo found the extra 0.204s he needed to finish ahead of Perez and Stroll?

Disaster strikes Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Vettel’s Ferrari was mauled by Leclerc’s
Carlos Sainz Jnr and Daniil Kvyat completed the points scorers, the former’s race spoiled by a slow pit stop, though he took the bonus point for fastest lap by fitting a fresh set of tyres at the end of the race. Verstappen tried the same, but lost time in traffic, capping a disappointing day, though at least he scored his first points.

Romain Grosjean let Kevin Magnussen past when ordered to, then the pair demoted Antonio Giovinazzi, who had likewise been instructed to let Kimi Raikkonen by. Pierre Gasly fell from seventh on the grid to a disappointed 15th at the chequered flag, a switch to hard tyres having backfired badly. George Russell, who fell from 11th to 16th, was similarly disappointed with his day, spoiled by an off-track excursion following the Safety Car period.

The Safety Car had been needed because on the first lap of the race Ferrari’s season went from dreadful to worse. Charles Leclerc, the hero of the season-opener with his excellent drive to second, went to zero less than half a minute after round two started. Venturing an optimistic move on his team mate at turn three on the first lap, the back end of his car snapped sideways, and he wiped both of them out.

Surely things can only improve for Ferrari from here.

Hamilton seeks more than a title

For years it was taken as read that the only way to achieve consistent success in Formula 1 was with a single-mindedness that excluded all else. Drivers who won multiple titles did so not merely because they were talented and worked hard, but because they shut out anything that might distract them from their goal.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Hamilton is keeping the spotlight on racism fight
Hamilton has proved that wrong before. He is already a six-times champion despite filling his non-race weekends with any number of other interests in recent years, such as his fashion line or musical aspirations.

As the 35-year-old six-times champion progresses into the autumn of his career, his concern for the wider world has made him increasingly outspoken. His interests in environmentalism and veganism have prompted him to launch a meat-free restaurant chain and declare he will go carbon neutral.

But even these have been outstripped by the passion with which he has brought to the fight against racism and the drive to promote diversity. Who else on the grid would or could have the power to convince his team to re-paint their cars black as a gesture of their commitment to ending racism?

“I think ultimately Formula 1, yes they’ve taken a step forward, but there’s absolutely more they can do,” he said in the aftermath of his 85th career win yesterday. “Formula 1 has come forward and said that they are supporting ‘end racism’ and it’s amazing to see Mercedes doing the same thing. But no other team has said a single thing.”

More than any other driver, Hamilton has been at the forefront of pushing, urging and demanding Formula 1 and its teams do more to promote diversity.

Can a driver do all these things and still win a world championship? On Sunday, Hamilton took the first step towards proving that yes, you can.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Hamilton fighting for more than the title as he claims first win of 2020”

  1. “In a just world, second place would have been Verstappen’s reward for such a move.”

    I think the praising of Verstappen’s move is a bit overblown. In reality, he held the place on that lap mostly because Bottas knew that he’d pass Verstappen eventually. Bottas was smart and didn’t risk anything in that fight, as he was going to finish second nevertheless.

    1. @hotbottoms I like to see skilful driving rewarded. Nothing against Bottas at all. He knew DRS would eventually make for an easy pass providing he got close enough, he was smart not to risk anything.

      I’m just bored of seeing DRS ruin fights for position by allowing drivers to blast past other cars on the straights (and equally bored of complaining about it, but it looks like that isn’t going to stop). When it came in nine years ago everyone talked about how it would be ‘fine-tuned’ to prevent that kind of thing. That never seemed realistic at the time and so it has proved nearly a decade later, as we’re still seeing battles spoiled this way. Of course there are other factors – tyre wear, engine performance – but those are natural differences in how a car performs in a race. DRS is just a push-button gimmick.

      1. Yes, but you’ve been very passionate about your dislike of DRS for years– While I agree the third zone at Austria is “a bit much”, I’d also have been in favor of a race without DRS– Just to demonstrate how god-awfully boring the current rules would make racing without it.

      2. “DRS is just a push-button gimmick.”
        Yes, but it’s actually much worse than that. Despite a somewhat mixed up quali, after Max pitted there was only 1 car out of position from their teammate: Norris. The rest of the grid was 2 by 2 by 2, teammates racing teammates. This speaks to 2 things: 1. F1 is all about the car, and 2. DRS is a tool that reinforces 1. It’s not just a racing gimmick, but also a mechanism to reinforce the order of the cars. It diminishes the impact of errors, especially when committed by a top team.

      3. @keithcollantine +1
        It was seeing the difference between a brilliant defense and the fly-squashing level of effort needed by Bottas to regain the position second time round.

      4. What made me think about DRS was Norris said post race that being stuck in a DRS train of cars neutralised his pace for most of the race. This needs to be looked at too, DRS actually stopping overtakes.

      5. Because we love DRS we now have a generation of lesser drivers who are sure to find themselves not understanding how to pass like the greats before them did. They made it to Formula One but only know artificial means to conclude the act of the pass.

      6. if (when) you @keithcollantine or @dieterrencken eventually get another chance to talk to the big heads of F1, I hope you will support and push my idea of having DRS deactivate as soon as the front tires of the overtaking car get aligned with the rear tires of the overtaken car. I’ve thought about this solution a number of times, and every time I convince myself more that it is a better solution of this overkill DRS that we have now.

        1. Haha we think alike!

      7. I completely agree, would love to hear your thoughts on an idea ive had for some time to prevent the push to pass overtakes.

        It’s pretty simple really, that instead drs shutting when a driver hits the brakes.. it instead shuts off once the chasing driver is significantly in the slipstream of the lead driver.

        Wether that’s less than a tenth of a second or two I dont know, but it could also shut off when the front wing of the chase car meets parallel with the lead cars rear axle

        That way it should hopefully create battles rather overtakes, which is what we want

        Hope that makes sense!

    2. @hotbottoms
      “I think the praising of Verstappen’s move is a bit overblown.”

      Some people like McDonalds.
      Other people like Noma.

      If can’t appreciate racing poetry, why watch?

  2. As a Black man and as a Ferrari fan feeling very let down by their silence on black lives matter all i can say is thank you to our most fierce rival on track, thank you for giving us a voice within the F1 community Lewis.

  3. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    13th July 2020, 17:57

    The swing from the unreliability of last week’s race to just Ocon’s retirement from the Styrian GP was remarkable. The subsequent lack of safety cars and strategy gambles made this race less entertaining but I still enjoyed it. It was a shame George Russell’s long awaited foray into the midfield was so brief.

    1. Jeffrey Powell
      14th July 2020, 8:52

      Before DRS in the long ago when there was effective slip streaming ,the idea was to force a car with similar performance into driver error ,not really possible now as the following car ends up with four ten quid remoulds after more than a couple of laps.. Now of course you may as a commentator not wish to be heralding the idea as it may be seen as wishing the early demise of both car and driver , maybe permanently ! . DRS is a sought of Super P.C. ovetaking device , designed to make F1 seem to have a degree of excitment , whilst removing those death encouraging previous events. I tend to try not to think about during the race as it ecourages me to fall asleep or tun over and watch a cookery programme ,the chief might burn or cut themselves.

  4. On the penultimate lap, Stroll made a do-or-die bid to take Ricciardo, throwing it down the inside of turn three. Stroll went off the track completely, taking Ricciardo with him.

    I still can’t believe they allowed that overtake. It completely ruined Ricciardo’s exit out of that corner, and Stroll was also outside of the track limits. It was a move that was never going to stick within track limits.

  5. Hamilton outspoken attitude is rubbing me the wrong way. I know he has the right to express his opinions and he is speaking up about an important issue but at some point people are going to tune the message out of he continues his intensity and volume. Perhaps there’s no other way but I can’t really warm up to his persona even if he’s speaking indirectly on my behalf (I’m of mixed race background)

    1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
      13th July 2020, 18:39

      As winning races in 14 consecutive seasons goes to show, he’s phenomenal. A fabulous talent underwritten by a relentless work ethic and he richly deserves the success he is enjoying. However, that doesn’t justify calling out fellow drivers, other teams and the sport itself for not doing enough to support a cause he’s championing.

      Does he really care about the issue at large or is it just another vanity project? Whenever he speaks about it there is an awful lot of “I” and “me” involved. It all seems rather crass when the motorsport industry and rest of the world is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic.

      1. Given he has been involved in these issues at various levels for the last decade whilst chasing down titles, poles and wins; I would say its a bit more than a vanity project. Particularly as this particularly vanity project is not that ‘sexy’; will cost him a lot of money and will not show any results for 5 to 10 years.
        As for calling out others. Anyone who watched the ‘Sky supports BLM’ coverage this weekend will have noticed it has been them calling out F1/Carey/Wolff/Hamilton constantly throughout the weekend with their theme that the other big sports are doing a fine job on BLM, whilst F1 is falling short. So how come they get a bye? Seems people are content for Kravitz and co to demand from Hamilton explanations on why F1 is not doing enough, but woe betide Hamilton for trying to answer that.

        1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
          13th July 2020, 20:12

          Far more so regarding Sky. The only thing they are passionate about, quite rightly, is revenue from subscribers and advertising. To be seen as the biggest supporter of BLM, ocean plastic, the LGBT community and so on is very important to them. They’re so false you come to expect it from them whether it’s the SKY!!! supports BLM advert before the race or Simon Lazenby trying to be the Kay Burley of the F1 paddock, holding the sport to account. It insults the viewers intelligence to such an extent it’s laughable.

          Lazenby even said after the taking the knee ceremony “How can we get it so wrong while football gets it so right?”. Firstly “We”? You don’t speak for F1, you’re just a presenter and why is it a competition over which sport can do the best job of virtue signalling. It’s bonkers!

          As it happens this race was the first time I listened to the race live with the BBC sport app then watched the Sky coverage in the evening. It was excellent (apart from a late start) I didn’t realise how good Jolyon Palmer was. Just listening might be the way forward, although I would miss Martin Brundle.

          1. @jack
            I’ve have Sky for 24 years and cancelled my account as of yesterday following Lazenby’s comments.
            I’m not paying £90 a month to listen to this, will watch highlights on channel 4 instead.

          2. Good for you. As the saying goes ‘get woke go broke!’ They’ll learn when the money drops.

            F1 has always been inclusive and hugely diverse and theres never been a hint of racism that I’ve ever seen in over 30 years.

            It’s a sport where talent and personality has trumped skin colour and nationality every time!

    2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      13th July 2020, 19:03

      I think what it is @olivier (certainly from my point of view). I’m a huge admirer of Hamilton’s talents and I think he’s top 3 of all time comfortably. But he’s the biggest narcissist the sport has ever seen. It isn’t about culture, it isn’t about not agreeing with the message it isn’t about his ability, it’s about the fact everything feels like a egotistical exercise and always has a feel of insincerity about it. It’s preachy, it’s holier than though and there is no opening dialogue, it’s agree with me or be ignorant. And that’s what’s rubbing people up the wrong way.

  6. I think Lewis could win all the fights. Casually won the WDC. Changed Mercedes name to sound more diverse. And became the first non white Pope.

    1. Well he has won 6 world championships, gets paid $8 million to design clothes, co written a hit song for Christina Aquilera, sung on a hit record as XNDA, designed 3 limited editions of the Moto Guzzi 44 motorbike which have all sold out, and can ride a unicycle and MotoGP bike. And the only driver in F1 history to win the Styrian GP! So yea, prob needs a weekend or two spare to accomplish whats on your list. :)

      1. That’s MV Agusta 44, they have a Moto2 team at the moment, hopefully a stepping stone to where they belong, MotoGP… With Lewis on board :)

  7. Hamilton, hate or love him, puts a lot of energy to what he believes in. Others might be doing that, but his outspokennes rubs a lot of people the wrong way, saying more about how polarising these subjects are than anything. For me personally, I support him 100%, but if there are people who disagree with what he says or does, they are entitled to their stands on these absolutely. What I dont like is people just bashing and abusing others just because they don’t buy into their line of thought and opinions.

  8. If not you Lewis then who? Who knows if you were born for such a time as this? Follow your heart and your calling. Im sure you must have read that at some point, people like Nelson Mandela were once called terrorists, but that did not stop them from fighting an immoral system. Racism surely doesn’t affect you as much because of your wealth and status in motorsport, but you have chosen to be the voice of the voiceless. The people who feel you shouldn’t be doing so need to be honest with themselves, truly truly honest with themselves as to why they feel so uncomfortable with you or anyone contributing to such a noble cause of the marginalized? Salute!!!

    1. I almost shed a tear.

  9. They missed a fantastic opportunity with the naming of this GP would have been really cool had they named it in honour of Niki Lauda, couldn’t have been more perfect. .. but yeah Styria…meh.

    1. Good call, why didn’t they think of that?

  10. I think the situation is F1 currently is not good. Covid has had a big impact, luckily we are racing again. But the Mercedes domination is becoming very frustrating, sure there have been more dominant teams in the past, but for six years now there is hardly any competition, only Rosberg could beat Hamilton and at the moment Bottas is the only driver that gets even close.
    I have nothing against Lewis, I may not always like his way of ‘politicizing’ the sport, but I understand his reasons, he is a exceptional driver, who fully deserves to be champion. But I wonder if teams, organizations and fans are not bored by the complete predictability of the seasons? Teams in the ‘midfield’ are closing in, and it is really great to see RP and McLaren getting quicker, but Ferrari and Red Bull are only there to pick up the scraps, Max is the reason I watch F1 again, but he can only do so much. Where does this Mercedes domination come from? Do they spend more than the others, are they magicians? I truly hope that we get more ‘diverse’ podiums after ’22, but for now it looks like another very predictable season, although I hope that Max can win a few races, and we get some nice podiums for other teams too.

  11. https://twitter.com/SheffieldUnited/status/1282588575272501249?s=19 . This is how racism is. It comes in all shapes and forms. Am sure if one hasn’t experienced this, they dont know how it feels to be abused so bad just because of the colour of your skin. Hamilton is fighting for change with the privileged platform he has to effect change, and how so nice to see his racing isn’t being affected by it.

    1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      14th July 2020, 9:23

      That message is enough to make you feel sick. Unfortunately there are scum who will always stoop to the lowest point they can for a reaction. Football’s tribal nature is definitely the worst breeding ground for these cretins.

  12. As an engineer who has always harboured dreams of working in F1, time to dust my CV off. Since I’m of East Indian ethnicity or Australian nationality, I may be able to qualify as a diversity hire under the new up coming programs.

    hahaha.

    1. Sorry didn’t you get the memo?, only black lives matter at the moment, you’ll have to wait your turn!

  13. Can a driver do all these things and still win a world championship? On Sunday, Hamilton took the first step towards proving that yes, you can.

    Not particularly hard to indulge in a monumental effort when the only man you have to beat is your decisively average teammate.

    1. There is no doubt that Max is an amazing talent…..but he spun in final quali.
      Lewis didn’t.
      In Germany Lewis spun when on the wrong tyres. At the time I think he was 8 sec ahead of everyone.
      Max would give Lewis a real hard time in the same car and most probably beat him more than Rosberg did but I think Lewis would still come out on top. Just my opinion.

      On the race thing.. to all who have commented…..unless you are black or asian, you can never understand. Sympathise maybe, but never understand.

      When a white woman gets out of a lift (apartheid SA) and says Jim pick up that box and take it to my office although you have not met her before and she does not know who you are.
      I simply said sorry Mary you will have to carry it yourself.
      I could have been arrested on a trumped up charge and I would have ended up in jail.
      PPerhaps it never went any further because I’m not black but asian. Who knows.

      This is not in some peoples imagination. This happened and is happenning.

      For Lewis though I really wish that for now he would just focus on racing and not create enemies more than he can handle.

      No establishment likes being rocked and he may find there are unforseen hurdles thrown his way.
      Racism is a human failing and we are all guilty of it to some extent or the other.

      As for Merc, I salute them even if their stance is a marketing ploy to some extent.
      I just admire Toto more and more. A really smart guy!

  14. I don’t recall anyone bending the knee at the Russian GP when 298 passengers were slaughtered on flight MH-17 by the Russian military. F1 has even talked about going to Saudi Arabia. Give me a break!!!

  15. How inappropriate to do a black power salute in the anti-racist times.

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