Mercedes is favorite for victory in the second of two back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria at this weekend’s Formula One Styrian Grand Prix 2020 (Race: Sunday, 9:10am ET).
The first race of the delayed F1 2020 season was run in abnormal circumstances, but there was nothing out of the ordinary about the result. As has primarily been the case in the hybrid era, it was a Mercedes that topped the podium.
Valtteri Bottas had stolen a march on teammate Lewis Hamilton by taking pole position on the Saturday, and as everyone else squabbled away behind him, he drove a calm and controlled race to take a relatively comfortable victory. Only relatively, because a gearbox sensor problem, an issue too on Hamilton’s car, came close to halting his race.
On the evidence of the opening weekend of the season, Mercedes have a substantial outright pace advantage over their competitors. Before Hamilton was demoted to fifth by a penalty for ignoring yellow flags, they had qualified first and second on the grid, with a half second gap to their closest challenger.
They should really have finished one-two in the race, too, but a series of safety car periods provided opportunities for others to stay close and in the case of Alexander Albon’s Red Bull, move onto better strategies. Hamilton clashed with Albon following the last of the restarts, sending Albon to the back of the pack and resulting in a five-second penalty for Hamilton. That saw both Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and McLaren’s Lando Norris pip Hamilton to the podium.
It is quite possible that this weekend’s race at the circuit will be just as frantic and action-packed. There is also the very real possibility that things run a lot smoother, and Mercedes can derive full benefit from their pace advantage over the field. In that latter case, Hamilton can be fancied to strike back with victory on Sunday.
Red Bull came away disappointed from last weekend’s race after an early retirement for Max Verstappen and Albon’s clash with Hamilton prevented them from securing the podium place they felt they were in line for. They did look to have the second quickest car and can be expected to be up there near the front on Sunday.
Ferrari were hugely down on straight-line speed compared to last year, a difference that some had pegged as high as 10 or 11km/h, and were not at all competitive for much of the weekend. They qualified seventh and 11th, and Sebastian Vettel was only able to finish down in 10th. Leclerc drove well, kept his nose clean and benefited from some of the craziness around him to take a superb second place.
Norris claimed the first podium of his career at the end of an impressive weekend that had seen him qualify fourth on Saturday, ahead of the second Red Bull of Albon, before nudging Hamilton off the podium on race day with the fastest lap of the race. Sergio Perez had also been in that fight for Racing Point before a penalty for speeding in the pit lane dropped him back to sixth at the finish, behind Hamilton and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz.
Sainz didn’t perform as well as his teammate Norris, but did enough to get himself in the top six. McLaren look to have similar pace to Racing Point, making them the third, fourth or fifth quickest team depending on where you rank Ferrari. That is a good platform, and one that Sainz can be fancied to convert into another top six finish on Sunday.
In a race with a very high attrition rate that saw only 11 cars actually make the finish line, and just 13 of 20 classified, the final points paying positions were filled by Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri, the Renault of Esteban Ocon, Antonio Giovanazzi’s Alfa Romeo and Vettel’s Ferrari.
The high number of retirements obviously casts a degree of doubt over the repeatability of Gasly’s points-scoring finish, but the truth is that he had close to top-10 pace all weekend. He qualified 12th and while it is true that there were at least four cars who failed to make the finish that would have expected to finish ahead of him, he was still able to come home ahead of a Renault and a Ferrari.
The odds available on him are attractive enough to suggest backing Gasly for a second consecutive points finish on Sunday. So, hoping to get the better of the USA online betting sites, these are our F1 Styrian Grand Prix predictions and picks for this preview: