Hamilton and Podium robots: The familiar and the unusual in Austria

Tuesday, Jul 14th 2020, 10:45 am | Category: Formula One

There was a deep sense of familiarity as Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag in the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday, in a dominant display starting from pole. That familiarity went right out the window, however, as F1’s new podium robots delivered trophy’s to the top three in a scene more familiar to fans of the Daleks in Dr Who. It was of course designed to facilitate social distancing and reminded viewers of the strange times we live in.

Whilst Hamilton led from start to finish, aside from a brief period in the pitstop window, his teammate took a little longer to get up to speed. Starting fourth on the grid, Bottas finally passed Max Verstappen with four laps to go, completing a one two for the reigning champions.

 


Elsewhere, the race started in dramatic for the Ferrari duo, who were desperately seeking to find some early season form after a noticeable lack of pace in the first race of the season. Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided on the very first lap leading to a double retirement for the Italian team. Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto summed up their situation neatly by saying that current performance is “not good enough for a team called Ferrari”. The Tifosi will be hoping for a swift recovery after two difficult weeks.

Red Bull seemed to be the closest team to Mercedes in overall performance, with Verstappen and Albon finishing third and fourth respectively, but some will worry about a significant gulf between Mercedes and their closest competitors so early in the season. Hopes will rely on teams bringing regular car updates in the early races of the season, to bridge that gap.

 


One major highlight of these first two races of the season has been the pace of the Racing Point cars, who had shown much promise in pre-season testing. Perez began the race from 17th after a disappointing qualifying in the wet the previous day, but sliced his way through the field to fifth, even matching the Red Bull pace of Albon towards the end. However, a daring move on Albon with two laps to go dented his chance of a top four finish, with front wing damage leaving him to finish sixth. His teammate Stroll showed similar pace finishing seventh. Since the start of the season, Racing Point has attracted the nickname ‘the Pink Mercedes’ due to its similarity to the 2019 Mercedes. Following the race, that nickname turned into something more serious, with Renault lodging a formal complaint with the FIA, claiming the cars have breached regulations on design copy. Team squabbles showing a further sense of some normality within F1.

Elsewhere in the midfield, McLaren’s legion of fans in Bahrain will be delighted with its start to the season. Norris followed up his impressive podium of last week with a fifth place finish, following a dramatic last lap where he went from seventh to fifth. There is a real sense that McLaren has found a gem in the young British driver, who many believe is set for a long and very successful F1 career. Carlos Sainz also finished in the points in ninth, with McLaren sitting second in the Constructors Championship.

 


Finally, F1 should be applauded for the way it has run and managed the first two races of this season. It was the first truly global sport to resume and its procedures and operations have been exemplary in keeping teams and operational personnel safe. Whilst no doubt there will have been some disappointment from fans who were unable to attend the race in person, F1 still managed to put on an incredible show for TV broadcast, bringing relief to many people in their homes who are yet again able to experience the pinnacle of global motorsport. With F1 again returning this weekend for its third race of the season in Hungary, the team here at the BIC will again be glued to this impressive start to the season.

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