Styrian Grand Prix: Hamilton secures first win of the new season
By Aniket Panja
- Lando Norris blazes through the track on the last two laps to finish fifth
- Ferrari’s race was over after five laps
Lewis Hamilton crossed the line comfortably, well ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, to win his 85th Grand Prix. After last week’s blunder right at the end, a tough qualifying session under a heavy downpour proved that Hamilton was ready for race day.
And as soon as the lights went out, Hamilton raced ahead to take the lead and to be honest, never looked troubled. There were very few untoward incidents and while the safety car was deployed in the first lap itself owing to a collision between the Ferrari’s Hamilton never lost his focus.
Another good news for Mercedes was that they seemed to have solved the reliability issues and both drivers did not face any problem delivering their best performances. If it was all about race management for Hamilton, then patience was the keyword for Bottas.
Starting behind Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, Bottas drove his car to perfection. The pit stops were well-coordinated and his strategy was spot on. He got past Sainz early on and had to bide his time chipping away at Verstappen in the Red Bull. Verstappen for his part did well to stay ahead right until the end till his rear tires could not hold on any longer.
Bottas finished second and Verstappen finished a well-deserved third having to run a tough race, sandwiched between the two Mercedes. It was clear early on that Red Bull did not have the pace to challenge the Silver Arrows and it was only a question of when not if, both the Mercedes cars would pull away.
Lower down the field however several interesting battles played out between the Racing Point and McLaren and it went right down to the wire ending in a photo finish. Lando Norris scythed his way through the track in the last two laps and got past Lance Stroll to hunt down his teammate Sergio Perez.
Meanwhile, as soon as Norris overtook Stroll, Ricciardo seized his chance and pounced. Sergio Perez who was losing pace drastically due to a damaged front wing failed to deny Norris the gap and last week’s podium finisher grabbed the opportunity with both hands. And mounting Perez’s problems, Stroll and Ricciardo were right on top of him and as they neared the chequered flag all three cars were right beside each other.
Perez did manage to stay ahead finishing sixth while his teammate Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault finished seventh and eighth respectively. The talk of the tracks, however, was the crash heading into turn one between the two Ferrari’s. As four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel headed into turn one, Charles Leclerc who started on eleventh tried a silly manoeuvre that ultimately left Vettel sandwiched between two cars.
He lost his rear wing and had to retire while Leclerc followed suit just four laps later. What is worse for Ferrari is that they had brought in some upgrades to better their race pace but the Scuderia needed their drivers to complete all 71 laps to better understand if there was any improvement. Now, they have no chance of knowing.
Not only are they miles behind Mercedes, but Ferrari are finding it difficult to match Red Bull, Renault, McLaren and Racing Point. If things continue in much the same vein, then Ferrari will have to battle it out in the midfield with no way to go up and a dangerous drop down below.
We move to the Hungarian Grand Prix next and it is to be seen whether anyone can challenge Mercedes which seems highly unlikely. Valtteri Bottas leads the standings for now but there is no doubt that Hamilton is the prime contender to win his seventh world championship.
In all probability, it is going to be a race between the two Mercedes drivers to see who comes out on top. As for the rest, unless there are some major improvements, they can only see the silver arrows speeding away.