Formula 1

PREVIEW: 2020 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring

7 Mins read
Credit: Octane Photographic LTD.

The 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will finally begin this weekend at the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix. After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport will return for the first time since testing in February.

The Red Bull Ring will play host to two race weekends on the reduced schedule for this season, while next weekend will see the second race at the track.

This will be the thirty-third running of the Austrian Grand Prix, which first debuted back in 1964. Since then the Grand Prix has been held at several different tracks including the Zeltweg Airfield and Österreichring (a previous guise of the current Red Bull Ring); Formula 1 returned in 2014 at the Red Bull Ring and has been part of the regular calendar since.

What happened at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix

The 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, was a hard-fought battle that saw Max Verstappen take his second win at the circuit back to back. This also marked the first Honda-powered win since Jenson Button in 2006. Second, belonged to Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas came home in third place.

Leclerc started strongly from pole position as Verstappen struggled with issues on his RB15, as an anti-stall issue saw him drop down the grid at the start to eighth place. During the start, World Champion Lewis Hamilton briefly battled with McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris for third place while Kimi Räikkönen managed to hold fourth place for several laps.

Verstappen quickly recovered from his start and managed to pass several drivers, as he got back up to pace with the battle at the front. Sebastian Vettel also started well from down in ninth place.

Kevin Magnussen in the Haas was handed a drive-through penalty by the stewards for being over the grid line at the start of the race. He had already dropped back due to pitting but the penalty meant he could not recover and finished in nineteenth place.

The top six started pitting around lap 22 and saw a battle between Bottas and Vettel. Bottas pitted and so did Vettel, but the German got stuck behind the McLaren of Lando Norris. Pierre Gasly dropped down the order as he had an issue with his pitstop.

The Mercedes cars started struggling with the high track and air temperatures, and Hamilton ran wide over a kerb and damaged his front wing, leaving him to pit for a new one. Verstappen then led the race but pitted the following lap, handing the lead back to Leclerc.

Verstappen fell back to fourth place after pitting but began a charge towards the leaders of the race. He quickly passed Vettel and Bottas with a new tyre advantage, meaning he was up to second place and only had Leclerc to pass. The Dutchman caught up with Leclerc and on lap 68 he passed him into turn two. Verstappen took a wide line a lap later causing contact between Leclerc and Verstappen, which led to Leclerc being forced off of the circuit and on to a kerb.

Verstappen held onto first place and took the checkered flag, which secured the first non-Mercedes win of the 2019 season. Leclerc home in second place and Bottas rounded off the podium. It saw also Antonio Giovinazzi take his first points-scoring position of the season.

The race was the first race since the 2016 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix were all the drivers finished the race.

The Circuit

The Red Bull Ring is 4.318 km and the race has seventy-one laps. The circuit has the fewest corners on the circuit with one ten corners. The track consists of four long straights, which end with some tight corners. The Red Bull Ring is a medium downforce circuit which puts a need for straight-line speed.

The engines can often be more stressed at the track due to the track being 680 meters above sea level. The cars are at full throttle for around 65% of the lap and it also is a high-break wear track. This is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar with Leclerc’s pole lap being a 1:03.003, making it the circuit with the shortest lap time.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1, this is turn one to turn two, the track starts with a 216.94m drive to turn one which is a right-hander. To turn into one of the four long straights on the track, the first straight being a uphill climb to turn two.

Sector 2 (Turn 3 to Turn 6), starts with a heavy breaking zone at turn three, but it offers good opportunities for overtaking. The corner which is nearly a ninety degree turn, forms into a long straight. This sector end with one of the more demanding left-hander turns, at turn six.

Sector 3, this is from turn seven to the final turn at turn 10. This sector begins with a left-hander at turn seven, this turn surround and makes the drivers pass the “Bull of Spielberg”. The sector features two long straights and is comprised of a series of right-hand corners. Sector Three contains the fastest corner on the track with the Jochen Rindt Kurve at Turn nine, which is at the top of the crest and then drops downhill after the apex.

The track contains three DRS Zones, the first DRS zone has a detection point just after turn 10, with the activation zone coming after turn one. The second DRS zone, has a detection point slightly before turn three and the activation zone comes after the corner down the long straight. The third DRS zone, was new for last season race, and the detection point is found after turn 9, and the activation point is after turn ten down the start-finish straight.

The circuit offers several opportunities for overtaking and is enhanced by the three DRS zones, which have allowed for better racing at the track.

Tyre Strategy

Credit: Pirelli Media

The white-striped hard tyres (C2), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C3) and the red-stripped soft tyres (C4) are the nominated compounds for the two weekends at the Red Bull Ring.

Pirelli has announced all of the drivers will receive the same tyre allocation for the weekend. The teams will all have two-sets of the hard-specification tyre, three sets of the medium-specification tyre and eight sets of the soft-specification tyre.

The teams will also be supplied with wet and intermediate tyres if needed.

The race is historically a one-stop race, due to the track being a smooth asphalt track and it typically leads to low degradation on the tyres. Similar to years before, last year there was a high track temperature which can lead to blistering on the tyres. However, this year there is a higher chance of rain than years pervious, with rain forecast for the first two session on Friday. But temperatures seem to be suggested to be lower than pervious years so blistering may not be a big worry for teams.

What should we look out for this year?

This sees the Red Bull Ring open the season, as the sport has been on a prolonged hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has lead to the delayed start to the season behind-closed-doors. This means, that drivers could find the weekend harder than usual due to seven months without any racing.

Verstappen is likely the favourite to take a race win at the Red Bull Ring despite his orange army not being there to support him this year. However, he will be a key driver to watch during all the sessions as he will be aiming to take a third win at the circuit. The track is a great place to start for the Dutchman, who will be aiming to challenge for the title this season with Red Bull.

For Ferrari, it will be a moment of truth to see if they were sandbagging in pre-season testing or if they really did not design a good car. The team brings no new updates to the car and will bring the same SF1000 which was at pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The team will bring an updated car to the Hungarian Grand Prix. However, Leclerc and Vettel will still be ones to watch, as Leclerc will be aiming to improve on last year’s results. While Vettel will want to aim to get his final season with Ferrari off to a good start as well.

Mercedes will be aiming to start their campaign for a seventh World Championship title in a row in a positive way. The Red Bull Ring has not suited them in the past with the weather often affecting their car. But they will be hoping the W11 will perform well and prove they are on their way to another title. Hamilton will also want to put on a strong display as he now sits only seven wins from Micheal Schumacher’s win record and a title away from equalling him.

The midfield is looking to be an intense fight, so prepare for an interesting battle this weekend. BWT Racing Point F1 Team looked fast in testing, as their car was dubbed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ because of it’s the resemblance to last season’s Mercedes car. Austria will allow everyone to see whether they really have developed a fast car, and are ready to take back fourth in the championship table.

Renault and McLaren had a pretty quiet testing, but both still showed their cars are clearly in the fight for the “best of the rest” spot in the championship. McLaren F1 Team’s MCL35 is the first car designed by James Key, so they will be keen to prove they have designed a good car and repeat what they did last season. Renault got on with testing and produced some of the best race pace in the field with the R.S.20, they will want to show that off this weekend, with new driver line up Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon.

What’s the schedule?

Friday 3 July

10:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
14:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 4 July

11:00 GMT / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
14:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 30 June

14:10 GMT / 15:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

You can keep up with all the weekend’s action here at the Checkered Flag. We have coverage throughout the weekend with quotes from all the drivers and analysis of each session over the weekend.

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