2019 Austrian Grand Prix: The Rookie Report

by Aaron Gillard
Norris - Hamilton - Austria

The 2019 Austrian Grand Prix saw a thrilling race at the Red Bull Ring filled with overtakes, tyre degradation and on-track battles. Excellent performances from two rookie drivers in Lando Norris and Antonio Giovinazzi saw them score points finishes, with the Italian at Alfa Romeo Racing claiming his first ever F1 points.

Norris for McLaren F1 Team once again excelled with their race pace to be the best of the rest. Even having the opportunity to fight alongside reigning and five-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton at the beginning of the race.


LANDO NORRIS (MCLAREN F1 Team)

QUALIFIED: FIFTH, RACE FINISH: SIXTH


Credit: McLaren Media Centre

Norris continued McLaren’s strong pace from Circuit Paul Ricard a week later by producing quick times during practice, that transferred into qualifying with an impressive sixth place.

Both Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen (who qualified in fifth) and Mercedes AMG Motorsport‘s Hamilton faced provisional grid penalties, Norris was set for a career best fourth place grid slot, in only his eighth race in Formula 1.

But after some confusion and later, clarification from the FIA, Norris started the race from fifth place – the same grid slot he started a week ago in France.

The launch from the McLaren was superb and by Turn 1, Norris was up to third place; But in the race towards Turn 3, Norris found himself duelling against his fellow countryman Hamilton. The two British drivers fought valiantly against one another, but Norris had to conceive the position to the five-time champ.

Norris lost further ground to Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen in the opening laps, but soon found rhythm and kept to within the point scoring positions as the race progressed. After his pit stop on Lap 25, switching from the soft compound tyres to the medium compound tyres, Norris was able to continue displaying his quick pace and battled with Pierre Gasly and Kimi Räikkönen, who were both in the points.

A noticeable stand-out moment came when Norris passed Daniel Ricciardo, allowing him to break away from Gasly. A team radio message soon followed by Norris’ race engineer praising for the great job he was doing. He soon followed up a tactic by telling Norris to keep Ricciardo within DRS distance, so that he can keep Gasly occupied. Norris’ reaction to the call was comedic. “You mean like, forever?” replied Norris.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzV6s6lHMU0/

His race concluded with an impressive sixth place, ahead of Gasly and team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr., who started the race from the back of the grid.

Both Norris and Sainz’s efforts in the race continue McLaren’s surge up the pecking order and continue to create a gap to Renault F1 Team in the constructors’ championship.

The next race, the British Grand Prix, will be a special moment for McLaren and Norris as the pair head to their home race at Silverstone on a high.


ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI (ALFA ROMEO RACING)

QUALIFIED: SEVENTH, RACE FINISH: TENTH


Credit: Sauber Motorsports AG

It has been a while since an Italian last scored an F1 point – dating back to Vitatonio Liuzzi with Force India in 2010. Now, Antonio Giovinazzi has ended that long wait, by capturing his first F1 points at the Red Bull Ring.

Continuing on from his strong qualifying result at Paul Ricard, Giovinazzi made another appearance in qualifying 3, partnering alongside team-mate Räikkönen. The two would find themselves seventh and eighth, with the Italian following behind his experienced team-mate. Thanks to grid penalties to Magnussen, the two Alfa Romeo’s were promoted one spot, giving Giovinazzi a seventh place starting slot for the race.

Starting on the soft compound tyres, the Italian kept his cool and paced himself well throughout the Grand Prix. Whilst team-mate Räikkönen was contending with the likes of Norris and Gasly, Giovinazzi was making sure to extend his tyre life until the pit window, something he struggled to do at the last race in France which proved to be costly.

After 24 laps, Giovinazzi was in and with track position behind his team-mate, he would find himself following the Finn home, achieving Alfa Romeo’s first double points finish of the season and also his first points in F1.

The moment has long been coming, and Italy’s long wait for an Italian to return to a point scoring finish is over. Giovinazzi is now on the board, leaving both Williams Racing drivers still pick up points.

The only downside for Giovinazzi in scoring points, is that he had to forfeit a promise to Alfa Romeo team principal Frédéric Vasseur. If he scored points, Vasseur was allowed to cut off a bit of Giovinazzi’s hair – the impressive mane the Italian has. Vassuer delivered the goods with a pair of scissors and cut a bit of his hair in the team’s motorhome.

Video footage of Vasseur chasing down Giovinazzi with a pair of scissors circulated the internet, showcasing a funny but warming moment for the Italian, who finally grabbed his first points after a shaky start to his rookie season.


ALEXANDER ALBON (TORO ROSSO HONDA)

QUALIFIED: EIGHTEENTH, RACE FINISH: FIFTEENTH


Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

It was set to be a difficult weekend for Alexander Albon from the word go. Prior to the weekend it was announced that he would have to start the race from the back of the grid for exceeding the amount of power-unit components. This left Toro Rosso Honda to focus solely on planning for the race for Albon, as qualifying wasn’t worth competing in with the pending penalties looming for the Thai-Anglo driver.

Throughout practice, the Italian team focused on long runs and showed promise that Albon may perform well in the race. Albon eventually qualified in thirteenth place but with the penalties, fell to the back of the grid in eighteenth place ahead of Carols Sainz Jr. and George Russell.

Albon’s race was challenging as he couldn’t produce the pace needed to make a fight through the field, leaving him down at the lower end of the pecking order alongside team-mate Daniil Kvyat. After his pit stop, Albon found more speed, but the damage was done. He couldn’t recover the time lost from the first stint and came home down in fifteenth place.

The penalties occurred thanks to Honda introducing a new upgrade to the rookie, but it would mean that he would have to lose places in front of Red Bull’s home crowd.

Albon’s pace from his long runs couldn’t be replicated in the race and leaves the team scratching their heads as they head to Albon’s home race next at Silverstone.


GEORGE RUSSELL (WILLIAMS RACING)

QUALIFIED: PIT LANE START, RACE FINISH: EIGHTEENTH


Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

George Russell entered the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday once again, out qualifying his team-mate Robert Kubica.

Unfortunately during qualifying 1, Russell impeded Kvyat at Turn 9 whilst the Russian was on a flying lap, leading to Kvyat taking to the run-off and ruining his lap. Russell and Kubica once again rounded off the bottom of qualifying but with rejoice that they will be not starting there thanks to grid penalties.

Russell would be handed a three-place grid penalty as a result of the incident and moments before the race start, the Williams team changed his front wing. As the wing did not meet the same specification as a the previous one that entered Parc fermé, he was forced to start the race from the pit lane.

Despite getting away from the start after everyone else due to the penalty, Russell soon caught up with the rest of the field and began making passes. First on team-mate Kubica, and then on the Toro Rosso drivers in the opening laps. Russell’s quick pace at the rear end of the field was picked up on FOM‘s broadcast of the race, giving the Brit some rare coverage on what he can do on track.

The 2018 FIA Formula 2 champion made his only pit stop for the hard compound tyres on Lap 28, and found himself with the Haas of Magnussen. The Dane struggled with his tyres giving the opportunity for Russell to jump ahead and hold off Magnussen in the closing stages.

Russell rounded off the Austrian Grand Prix eighteenth ahead of both Magnussen and team-mate Kubica.

The Brit will now look ahead to his home Grand Prix at Silverstone, hoping to keep finding positives with the Williams team.

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