By Juan Garcia
Station Manager and Sports Guest Writer
The long wait is finally over, and Formula One came out of the gate swinging in their first on-track action since winter testing in Spain. Multiple safety cars brought out due to reliability issues and rust up and down the grid led to one of the most memorable endings in recent memory.
Formula One is back at the Red Bull Ring this weekend for the Styrian Grand Prix, making this the only track to host back-to-back weekends in history.
A lot of retirements
Round one saw nine cars retire for various reasons. Red Bull dropped the ball at their home circuit, with a double mechanical retirement, ending their shot at a strong start to the season.
Max Verstappen retired on lap 11, while Alex Albon retired after a late scrap with Lewis Hamilton ended with him in the gravel and gave Hamilton a five-second time penalty.
Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo and George Russel retired with engine issues, both Haas drivers had brake failure, and Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat had their race ended due to tire issues, with Raikkonen’s left front tire flying off his car in the final sector.
The inflated number of retirees is even more surprising considering all 20 cars finished last year’s race at the same venue.
Ferrari: a tale of two cars
Outgoing Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel had an abysmal weekend. He was eliminated in the second round of qualifying by both McLarens, both Racing Points, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who was on the slower medium tire for his qualifying run that session.
During the race, the car looked unstable, Vettel couldn’t find any confidence in braking zones and locked up his front tires while sending an overtake attempt on Carlos Sainz’s McLaren that caused him to spin out early in the race.
Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc stayed out of trouble and was much happier with the setup on his SF1000. He qualified out of position, starting the race from seventh on the grid, but he calmly guided his Ferrari through the field and staying out of trouble to finish third on the road.
He was promoted to second following Hamiltons penalty at the end of the race.
A memorable finish
With 10 laps to the end and the safety car bunching up the field, following Raikkonen’s wheel flying off, Albon made a move around the outside of turn four on Hamilton.
With the Red Bull down in 13th place and Hamilton receiving a five-second penalty, the race for the podium was on for the top ten.
Charles Leclerc muscled his way past his nearest rivals to chase down the Mercedes of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, both of whom had to nurse a fragile gearbox to the finish.
Lando Norris scrapped with his teammate Sainz and Sergio Perez’s Racing Point to put himself up into fourth. On the last lap, Norris was told to push as hard as he could, with Hamilton’s gearbox and penalty making a podium possible for the midfield team.
Norris managed to close the gap to 4.8 seconds at the line by setting the fastest lap of the race and securing his maiden podium in Formula One.
It was a tricky race for the young Englishman, but he found himself with an opportunity that he didn’t waste, and he became the third-youngest podium finisher in the history of the sport.
This weekend, the Red Bull Ring hosts the Styrian Grand Prix in the first back-to-back race weekend of the season.
Featured image by Aidil V. Nino.