Austrian GP driver ratings

July 06, 2020

Valtteri Bottas
Qualified 1st, Finished 1st

Valtteri Bottas couldn't have asked for a much better opening weekend than this. Not only did the Finn convert pole - which would have been even more comfortable if not for his last-lap off - into a victory, but his six-time title-winning team-mate finished with 13 fewer points, despite Mercedes having by far the fastest car in Austria.

In a sure-to-be shortened 2020 season, any unexpected buffer like that could be crucial.

Bottas' race was about keeping a cool head throughout. Hearing that he had a critical gearbox issue, worse than Lewis Hamilton's, while the world champion was firmly in DRS range couldn't have been easy to deal with, nor the three Safety Car restarts. As Bottas said, "it felt more like dodging bullets". But dodge them he did, and while you could argue that Hamilton actually had better race pace here when running in clear air, Bottas didn't put a foot wrong throughout.
Rating out of ten: 9.5

Charles Leclerc
Qualified 7th, Finished 2nd

Given how the build-up to the race had gone for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc's second place was the most unlikely result of the season-opener.

The Monegasque certainly enjoyed a fair douse of good fortune, including retirements for both Red Bulls and a time penalty for initial second-place finisher Hamilton, but Leclerc made his own luck too, particularly with a brilliant move on Lando Norris at Turns Four-Six amid a late charge that also took him past Sergio Perez.

A "champion's drive" said Martin Brundle afterwards for the man already effectively anointed as Ferrari's best hope of a title-winning future.
Rating out of ten: 9

Lando Norris
Qualified 4th (Started 3rd), Finished 3rd

Take a bow, Lando Norris. The McLaren protege becomes the youngest British driver to ever set foot on the podium with a drive that his rookie season in 2019 hinted he was very much capable of. And that first top-three finish was sealed with a first F1 fastest lap, in extraordinary circumstances.

Trailing Hamilton by 5.6s starting Lap 71 of 71, Norris out-paced the Mercedes by almost a second when it mattered most to rise ahead of his countryman. And after an exhausting race which saw Norris defend and attack admirably, with his overtake on Perez particularly feisty.

Team-mate Carlos Sainz captured the headlines in the off-season, but Norris had the better of the impending Ferrari driver in the F1 opener.
Rating out of ten: 9.5

Lewis Hamilton
Qualified 2nd (Started 5th), Finished 4th

Rather like the man whose biggest records he's chasing this year, Michael Schumacher, the Austrian GP has not always been the kindest to Lewis Hamilton.

Still, the world champion looked to have hit the new season absolutely running by topping all three practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning. Yet Bottas edged the pole battle in qualifying with Hamilton - eventually, once the stewards viewed the conclusive evidence - dropping down to fifth on the grid for not slowing for yellow lights. He was up to second by the race's 11th lap and fast-catching Bottas, but the first Safety Car cut down his strategy options considerably.

Mercedes' subsequent reliability worries, two more quick-fire Safety Cars, and a tangle with Alex Albon which he was penalised for meant that the opening weekend ultimately just didn't quite work out for the six-time champion. "I drove my heart out in the race, I did everything I could - but it was just one of those weekends. There are lots of areas where I can improve," concluded Hamilton, who is again playing points catch-up after race one of a shortened season.
Rating out of ten: 7.5

Carlos Sainz
Qualified 8th, Finished 5th

Carlos Sainz would certainly have taken fifth place heading into the F1 opener, and the Spaniard's characteristically strong and consistent Sunday showed why Ferrari came calling for 2021. But he will perhaps be ruing his qualifying given he seemed to have similar pace to podium-sitting Norris in the race.

Sainz was three-tenths off his team-mate on Saturday, which meant he started Sunday down in eighth compared to Norris in third. A great race performance followed, and he very nearly got ahead of Norris before the Briton's late charge.
Rating out of ten: 7.5

Sergio Perez
Qualified 6th, Finished 6th

Sixth place represents the best start to a season for both Sergio Perez in F1 but the Mexican was still understandably a little frustrated not to achieve more than that having run third into the race's final stages.

But trying to hold off the fresher-tyred Leclerc, Norris and Sainz was understandably a challenge too far. In any case, a five-second penalty for pit-lane speeding at Perez's sole stop would still have been costly with the field finishing so close. But the good news for Perez and Racing Point is they can attempt to go several steps better this week - in Austria, Part Two.
Rating out of ten: 7

Pierre Gasly
Qualified 12th, Finished 7th

With McLaren and Racing Point seemingly leading the midfield, Pierre Gasly was an alternative 'best of the rest' in Austria by taking a surprise seventh for AlphaTauri. Gasly's impressive display - holding off Esteban Ocon in a Renault which really should have been challenging further up - was even more admirable considering this post-race assertion:

"We were that close to retiring the car," he said. "They actually asked me to box on lap 10 because my brake pedal was completely flat and the temperature was going through the roof. But I just asked for one lap. We stayed out, things got better and I finished P7."

A great decision, and a great drive from the Frenchman who appears to save his best for Red Bull's junior team.
Rating out of ten: 7.5

Esteban Ocon
Qualified 14th, Finished 8th

588 days after his last Formula 1 race, Esteban Ocon enjoyed a points-scoring return in the Renault. The Frenchman was very happy with his race pace, although he will be disappointed to have finished behind the AlphaTauri after a late battle.

A below-par qualifying cost him here, with Ocon only 14th on Saturday, four-tenths off team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. He'll need to improve that as he looks to show Renault he can be a team leader over the season.
Rating out of ten: 6.5

Antonio Giovinazzi
Qualified 18th, Finished 9th

In a race of unlikely stories, Antonio Giovinazzi's ninth-place should be one of the bigger surprises. Driving a car which appears to be the second-slowest on the grid, Giovinazzi rose nine places in the race - more than any other driver - to secure two points for Alfa Romeo.

"I think this was the maximum," said the Italian, who led Kimi Raikkonen throughout and held off Sebastian Vettel at the end.
Rating out of ten: 7

Sebastian Vettel
Qualified 11th, Finished 10th

Oh, Seb. After an elongated pre-season which saw his departure from Ferrari confirmed, this was not the performance the German needed on F1's return. Particularly as he looks to convince leading teams that he deserves a drive for 2021.

Vettel struggled compared to Leclerc in qualifying - knocked out in Q2 - and throughout the race, which was summed up by his poor decision to try to overtake Sainz, the man who is replacing him at Ferrari, when he was battling Leclerc into Turn Three. A lock-up, contact and spin followed, and Vettel was lucky to score a point here.

"To be honest, I'm happy that I spun only once," said a struggling Vettel. "It was very difficult."
Rating out of ten: 6

Outside the points

"Most of the race was unfortunately done by myself," admitted Nicholas Latifi on his F1 debut. The Williams driver had a challenging weekend - not helped by a Practice Three smash - and was more than half a second slower than George Russell in qualifying, and well behind him in the race before his retirement. Still, one place off a point in the Williams? The rookie would have taken that.
Rating out of ten: 6

Did Not Finish

Daniil Kvyat was running in the points before a costly battle with Ocon late in the race as he tried to overtake the Renault on fresh tyres. AlphaTauri claim Kvyat being forced wide led to a suspension failure, which subsequently became a tyre explosion and forced him to retire.
Rating out of ten: 6.5

"I felt Brazil was a bit more 50/50, this one I felt like I did the move already," reflected Alexander Albon after his hopes of a maiden F1 podium were dashed in a collision with Hamilton for the second time in three grands prix. The stewards' agreed the Mercedes had got it wrong - again - but it was already game over for Albon. It was then conclusively game over a few laps later when a power unit problem struck, which may at least be some consolation to know that it probably would have happened anyway even if he had escaped contact with Hamilton.
Rating out of ten: 8

Kimi Raikkonen has just about seen it all in his long F1 career but having your front wheel fall off in one of the fastest and trickiest points of the Red Bull Ring would have certainly caught even the easy-going Finn's attention. Giovinazzi's handy points aside, it has been a tough start to F1 2020 for Alfa Romeo.
Rating out of ten: 6

The champion of F1's lockdown virtual world, George Russell underlined his promise in the real one in Austria by qualifying ahead of both Alfa Romeo cars as Williams showed signs of much-needed improvement over 2019. Russell admitted the FW43's race pace was a heavier going before he was forced to stop on lap 24 of the race.
Rating out of ten: 7.5

Overheating brakes on both Haas cars made it a hard and uncomfortable afternoon for Romain Grosjean, who twice went off the track at Turn Four before being forced into retirement. Plenty of work to do then for the team, but Grosjean can at least point to being one up on Magnussen in qualifying.
Rating out of ten: 6

Kevin Magnussen says he could have scored points in a "raceable" Haas if not for the "big problems" with the brakes, which saw him exit the race on Lap 24 as he failed to stop heading into Turn Three while battling Ocon. Magnussen was 11th at the time, so he probably has a point.
Rating out of ten: 6

Lance Stroll would have been very handily placed to take advantage of the unpredictable goings on in the top 10 had a loss of power not struck his Mercedes-engined Racing Point. But making Q3 and being within two tenths of team-mate Perez on Saturday bodes well for the forthcoming weeks with the team looking so quick.
Rating out of ten: 6.5

The second of the race's nine retirees, Daniel Ricciardo was forced out of 10th and a brewing battle with Vettel when a cooling issue hit his Renault inside 20 laps. Up until then, the Australian had held a decent advantage against new team-mate Ocon.
Rating out of ten: 7

While a 0.5s gap to pole was more than expected, Red Bull couldn't have asked much more from Max Verstappen over the weekend, who was running second and on an alternate tyre to race leader Bottas when his car suffered an electrical failure. The supposed main threat to Mercedes' title challenge has some F1 2020 catching up to do already.
Rating out of ten: 8

The new Formula 1 season is underway in dramatic style on Sky Sports F1 and continues this coming week with the second race at the Red Bull Ring - the Styrian GP. Find out more & subscribe.

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