Start as you mean to go on, Formula 1. The Austrian Grand Prix provided more than a generous portion of drama as the 2020 F1 season finally kicked into action in Spielberg.
Drivers and teams will remain in Austria for another blast around the Red Bull Ring under the guise of the Styrian Grand Prix as the F1 2020 calendar begins to find its rhythm.
And we’ve chatted to Sky Sports F1 expert David Croft as part of our In The Pit Lane series full of the big talking points ahead of every race this season.
Crofty talks up what Lando Norris’ podium place could do for his season, how Alex Albon has impressed him so much, and why Ferrari should be worried after just one race of the season.
Pressure off Lando Norris’ shoulders
DC: McLaren saw it coming and knew that if he put in a couple of really good laps he had half a chance. It was phenomenal for him.
Look, if others hadn’t retired, if Mercedes hadn’t got the problems they were suffering, if Lewis hadn’t got the five-second penalty, Lando wouldn’t have got on the podium, but quite frankly… who cares at this moment in time? The record books say Lando Norris has been on the podium at the start of his second season in Formula 1 and it’s absolutely superb for the young man because he’s really talented and at McLaren at the right time – a team on the up. It wasn’t just good for Lando, this was great for McLaren.
We saw Jenson [Button] yesterday and said, ‘He’s done better than you because you were the last person from McLaren to qualify third, Lando’s done it, and his finished on the podium, Jenson! So he’s done better than you, mate.’ We were teasing him about that.
It just shows, never give up and put yourself in a position where you can take advantage if others around you are having troubles. It’s superb for him. And we’ll see this week what difference that makes with the pressure of his shoulders a bit, as it always is with any young driver.
Red Bull aiming for a resurgence
DC: Red Bull would like to get back on this track very quickly. They’re still a bit sore they came away with no points when they could have had a one-two. On a dry qualifying, you expect Mercedes to lock out the front row, but qualifying is apparently going to be very wet and that could mix things up completely.
Both Alex [Albon] and Max [Verstappen] have proven they’re no slouches in the wet at all. I think Red Bull have got a better than even chance of doing well this weekend.
Alex should have two podiums, he could have had a race win by now. But it’s not gone right for him. It’s gone right for Lando, he’s got the rub of the green. Alex is now thinking, ‘When am I going to get this podium?’
I have to say, speaking to Alex yesterday, the pressure didn’t seem to be on his shoulders much and he was just as happy, chatty and smiley as he always is. I like the fact that he’s turning around to say, ‘I’m not going to change my approach just because it hasn’t paid off a couple of times, I’m still going to go for it.’
That’s fantastic, that’s the talent that’s brought him this far. Albon would like a second stab at overtaking Lewis Hamilton! Or a third stab in four races, only this one goes right. The fact that he doesn’t have long to wait for the race can only be a help. You don’t want to be brooding on a mistake for too long.
‘Happier’ Bottas to lay down marker for Hamilton in 2020
DC: Here’s Valtteri Bottas, three poles here and the only track he’s won multiple times at on the Formula 1 calendar. He likes it here, but he’s never won back-to-back races in Formula 1. Now’s his chance.
What impressed me about him is that Lewis dominated the three practice sessions and then bang, Valtteri’s hit the ground running in Q1 and he’s ahead of his team-mates and it stayed like that. It was really good to see. Personally he’s in a much better space than last year. We didn’t realise he was going through a divorce, he split from his wife – he’s found new love and seems much happier than he may have been last year.
He had his best season on track last season even though he was 87 points off Lewis, but now comes the hard work. He’s beaten Lewis in the first race for the second year running, now he’s got to make sure that he continues that forward momentum.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Lewis is going to come back even harder at Valtteri this weekend because the one thing that gets him going is knowing that he’s been beaten by his team-mate and he’s got a point to prove.
If Mercedes are well clear of the field – and on last week’s evidence they are – we need a really good scrap between the Mercedes drivers. I firmly believe we might just have that between the two drivers this year.
Ferrari need a change, and they need it now
DC: Ferrari. Really struggled. They brought upgrades, they fast-tracked upgrades, but they were such a long way off, you can’t expect them to be on the same pace with Mercedes this weekend.
They say a big upgraded car comes in Hungary, they need that to work. On first looking Ferrari weren’t even the second best car, and probably weren’t the third best car last weekend.
How to watch the Styrian Grand Prix
The race starts at 2:10pm on Sunday 12th July live on Sky Sports F1.
For full TV details as well as timings of practice, qualifying and the race itself, check out our comprehensive guide to the Styrian Grand Prix.
For the full breakdown of F1 races coming up check out our F1 2020 race calendar guide.
If you’re looking for something else to watch check out our TV guide.