The Red Bull Ring hosted the ninth round of the 2018 Formula 1 Season in the picturesque countryside of Austria. I often refer to the Red Bull Ring as what Wimbledon is to the sport of tennis! Here are the main talking points from the race:
#1 Verstappen is king: The Austrian Grand Prix was the second race in the triple header of Formula 1, the first for the sport where three Grands Prix were held back-to-back to avoid clashes with the 2018 FIFA World Cup schedules. The home heroes - Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen were not favourites to win the race, but with bad luck hitting both Mercedes cars, Verstappen claimed victory with thousands of travelling Dutch fans in attendance.
#2 Misfortune for Mercedes: The reigning World Champions, Mercedes, introduced this season’s biggest upgrades to their car for this race. However, with both cars suffering from mechanical gremlins led to the team’s first double mechanical retirement since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. In the effort to keep Ferrari at bay, are Mercedes compromising reliability for speed?
#3 Raikkonen burns it up: Kimi Raikkonen, the Finnish driver and Ferrari’s last World Champion (2007), had a phenomenal opening lap in which he almost stole the lead from the two Mercedes drivers. The 2018 Austrian Grand Prix was also one of those rare races where Ferrari let their number 2 driver (Raikkonen, in this case) race their lead driver (Sebastian Vettel) and even overtake for track position. Ironically, the Austrian Grand Prix has had the history of Ferrari ordering their drivers to swap position metres before the finish line to ensure that their lead driver gets maximum championship advantage. Luckily for Raikkonen and Formula 1, 2018 was a different story.
#4 Vettel outdoes Hamilton: Sebastian Vettel’s 3rd place finish saw him leapfrog Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship by 1 point. In the Constructors’ Championship too, Ferrari’s double podium and Mercedes’ double DNF help the Italian team overtake their German rivals in the Constructors’ Championship. The other team that registered their highest tally of points from a Grand Prix was the American-owned team, Haas. Romain Grosjean finally ended his points drought by finish 4th, while his Danish team-mate Kevin Magnussen finished 5th.
#5 Force India shines: Force India scored double points too - Esteban Ocon finishing 6th; a position ahead of his much-experienced team-mate Sergio Perez. Mclaren’s Fernando Alonso finished 9th, while Ferrari’s prodigy and Sauber driver Charles Leclerc finished 10th. The key retirements from the race were Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg - all prospects of finishing in the top-10; their retirements meant that the lower mid-field teams had a chance to score points and they did.
#6 Tyre talk: The bigger story of the race were the Pirelli tyres and their inability to handle the hot track temperatures on race day. While the Ferrari seemed comfortable on their tyres, it was the Mercedes and Red Bull Racing cars that struggled with blisters; the Mercedes drivers also requiring to stop a second time for fresh rubber.
All in all, the first two races of the triple header saw Mercedes and Red Bull Racing score a win each; would Ferrari clinch top honours in the last race of this rare back-to-back race occurrence? Till then, the party continues off track!
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