Words by Tony Robertson (Twitter: @TonyRob84).
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s weekly F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
This week saw round two of Austria (aka the Styrian Grand Prix) as a number of teams looked to build upon last weeks thrilling Grand Prix.
We also saw another seat get taken for 2021 and another pair of races get added to the 2020 calendar.
Now let’s get underway.
Alonso returns to F1:
As I mentioned before, Renault had a plethora of options to fill their vacant driver seat going into next season including current drivers, former drivers and drivers from within the Renault academy.
But in the end, Renault has opted to go for former World Champion Fernando Alonso, somewhat bucking the trend of teams signing on younger blood.Embed from Getty Images
This means Alonso will join Esteban Ocon at Renault, with the French constructor likely looking to use the Spaniard’s vast experience to help them develop their car going into the new generation which will come into play from 2022.
That being said, two years away from F1 is a long time and Alonso, 38, will be hard pushed to ensure he doesn’t get left behind by the younger generation.
While the details of contract length haven’t been released, most journalists and pundits believe it will last for two years.
http://gty.im/1283005224 Y http://gty.im/1226489627 http://gty.im/1226347296 es . Vamossss!! 💙💛 https://t.co/7jkvyGac76
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) July 8, 2020
Tuscany and Sochi races added to calendar:
This week we also got an update for future races this season.
We’re now up to 10 races for the season after two more races were announced to follow up the Italian Grand Prix.
The first sees a new race make its F1 debut. Mugello in Tuscany, Italy will host race nine of the season on September 13 while two weeks later will see Sochi, the Russian Grand Prix bring the number of races into double figures.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 10, 2020
Styrian Grand Prix:
This week things went a little bit more by the book for most. But once again not for Ferrari.
This Saturdays qualifying almost didn’t happen because of the heavy rain which threatened to wash out the day with FP3 being cancelled earlier in the day.
In qualifying Ferrari once again had a car knocked out in Q2 while the one who did make it through, this time Sebastien Vettel, only made it to P10.
Despite this, Williams and George Russell showed much how they have improved since last season, making it into Q2 for the first time since Brazil 2018 and even qualifying in P11 after Charles Leclerc grid penalty.
While Williams were on a high, Racing Point had a nightmare session, struggling in wet conditions with Sergio Perez not even making it out of Q3.
The highlight of qualifying though has got to be Lewis Hamilton who finished an entire second quicker than the next best driver, Max Verstappen. It is often said that wet conditions separate the real drivers from the pretenders and that was certainly the case with Hamilton, who had complete control of the session.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 11, 2020
As the lights went out and we got underway Perez started brilliantly while Vettel fell down the order going up into turn three. But that Ferrari seem to have a knack of sabotaging themselves as Charles Leclerc tried to divebomb the inside line where his teammate was.
Leclerc hit the curb and lifted off the floor with his rear left wheel taking off Vettel’s rear wing forcing the former world champion to retire on lap one. Leclerc pitted at the end of the lap but was also forced to retire a few laps later, capping off another terrible day for Ferrari.
After that, it was pretty clean racing with not much happening in the following laps. Ocon disappointingly retired from the race with a cooling issue though, he and Daniel Ricciardo will be looking forward to future races if they can fix the reliability issues as they were racing at P6 and P7 for the majority of their time on track together actually fighting one another for position.
Russell was giving a good account of himself and the new Williams car, fighting Kevin Magnussen for P11 before losing the car and going into the gravel trap forcing him back into last in the running.
A double disaster for Ferrari on Lap 1 of the Styrian Grand Prix 💥
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 12, 2020
Meanwhile at the top of the field the two Silver Ar… ahem excuse me… the two Black Arrows bolted away from the rest of the order with Max Verstappen in P2 unable to catch Hamilton and eventually being overtaken by Valtteri Bottas towards the end of the race.
Elsewhere, Perez was having a stormer of a race scything his way through the field and eventually finding himself all the way up in P5 approaching the race’s climax.
The Mexican even had enough pace to challenge Alex Albon’s Red Bull in the same spot where the Thai driver was spun out by Hamilton a week earlier and attempted to catch him on the inside but only ended up getting wing damage when he clipped Albon’s rear right wheel with two laps to go.
A short way behind him was the battling trio of Lance Stroll, Ricciardo and Lando Norris who were duking it out for P6. This is where the race got exciting again, whereby Stroll managed to get by the Renault on turn three but in doing so forced both wide giving Norris an opportunity to gobble up the inside line and take P7 from Ricciardo and immediately pressure Stroll.
Going into the final lap Norris managed to overtake Stroll at the same spot Perez tried to overtake Albon and since Perez was struggling badly with his wing damage even and a chance to catch him. As it so happened Norris managed to overtake Perez just before the final turn as the two ‘Pink Mercedes’ and Ricciardo went three abreast going up to the line.
Lap 69 – P8
Lap 71 – P5
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 13, 2020
Ultimately Perez managed to hold onto P6, while Ricciardo was forced to settle for P8. The podium was made up by a Mercedes one-two with Verstappen making up the numbers.
My driver of the day has to be Sergio Perez who climbed up though the field from P17 to P6, though honourable mentions should go to Lando Norris for his second bout of last lap heroics and Lewis Hamilton who dominated from lap one.
Since the race has ended, Renault has launched a protest against the legality of the Racing Point, with the FIA set to investigate it throughout this week before the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend.
You can check out last weeks column here.
See you all next time!