2020 Styrian GP Preview and Tips by James Punt

by | Jul 9, 2020

2020 Styrian GP Preview and Tips

The F1 season returned with a bang last weekend with the Austrian GP. James Punt has taken a look back at that race and he also previews this weekend’s Grand Prix in Syria. Hopefully he has uncovered some value bets, check out his 2020 Styrian GP preview and tips below…

2020 Austrian GP Review

The post mortem from Sundays Austrian GP is a complicated one but there were some lessons to learn and a few more questions posed.

Mercedes proved to have the fastest package with a 1-2 grid lockout. They were largely able to control the race despite its chaotic nature. Lewis Hamilton continued to have problems at this venue. He didn’t see a yellow flag in Q3, ironically caused by his teammate who was supposed to have been providing Hamilton with an aerodynamic tow.

Hamilton actually got away with that incredible defence until Red Bull got new camera footage which showed categorically that Hamilton had failed to slow down under a brief yellow flag. The correct penalty was then applied shortly before the start of the race.

Hamilton was moved back to 5th place on the grid, but he was able to quickly regain 2nd place, helped by the early demise of Verstappen’s Red Bull. He had closed in on Bottas before the team gave both drivers orders to look after their cars by staying off the kerbs. The problem was ‘critical’ and there was no doubt that multiple safety car period helped Mercedes keep their cars intact.

Tactical Error

Mercedes seemed to make a mistake by not pitting under the second safety car along with Racing Points Sergio Perez. Red Bull took the chance to pit Alex Albon and put him on the quicker soft tyres. That allowed him to pass Perez and close down rapidly on Hamilton. He had passed Hamilton on the outside of Schlossgold corner. However, the Mercedes driver drifted to the outside and tagged Albon’s rear tyre. That spun the Red Bull out. The stewards gave Hamilton a 5 second penalty, his second of the day.

The quickest car yes, but it was not a completely convincing performance by the Mercedes team or their number 1 driver.

No Wings For Red Bull

Red Bull had a disastrous weekend. Qualifying went OK. Verstappen was the best of the non-Mercedes cars and started from second place after Hamilton’s grid penalty. They were over 0.5 seconds slower however, and on a short lap, that’s a big gap. Verstappen’s race didn’t last long, and he retired with an electrical problem on lap 11. We never got to see if his different tyre strategy would have paid off. However, he said that ‘an easy podium’ had been lost.

Alex Albon was able to take the fight to Mercedes. Thanks to the multiple safety cars he was on a different tyre strategy to the two Mercedes ahead of him. Lewis Hamilton ended Albon’s hope of his first podium and possible race win. Albon was still running after Hamilton had spun him out. However, his Red Bull suffered an electrics problem in his power unit shortly afterwards and he retired.

Not a single point for Red Bull on their home track. They are the second best team from want we saw this weekend but they have work to do to match Mercedes. The car looks to have too much oversteer and both drivers suffered spins in practice. Hopefully they can dial this out and start to get more out of the car.

Ferrari Lack Speed

Ferrari confirmed what everyone suspected. Their car is slow, very slow, on the straights and they have lost a second in performance compared to last year. They have now dropped into the midfield pack, behind Racing Point and McLaren, and vulnerable to Renault. Charles Leclerc drove the race of a champion. He took every chance given, and there were plenty, to finish third but placed second thanks to Hamilton’s penalty. It was not where the car deserved to be, but Leclerc maximised his slim chances to great effect.

While Leclerc was excellent, Sebastian Vettel was dreadful. He failed to make Q3 and then proceeded to drive like rookie. He crashed into Carlos Sainz in turn two, going for a non-existent gap, and was spun round, dropping the Ferrari to the back of the pack. Vettel then drove an anonymous race and finished second last, enough for a totally undeserved point for 10th place. His interview afterwards saw him blame the car for his mistake. The team responded by criticising Vettel.

Ferrari and Vettel are at war with each other. It is not impossible to see an earlier divorce than was planned. Nico Hulkenberg is still available and would be a more able number two than a sulking Vettel. To openly say that the Ferrari was ‘undriveable’ when your teammate finished 2nd, was simply pathetic. A very challenging season lies ahead.

Disappointing Performance by Racing Point

Racing Point went into qualifying as the big odds on favourite to be ‘best of the rest’. However, they couldn’t quite live up to that promise. Sergio Perez qualified sixth, a good result but slower than the McLaren of Lando Norris in 4th. In the race, I expected Racing Point to be very strong and in a chaotic race they usually take advantage to maximise their points, but not this time.

Lance Stroll made Q3 but was behind both McLarens. His race didn’t last long as he lost power after 19 laps and retired. Perez looked set for a possible podium but the team missed a trick by not pitting him under the second safety car and while he was running third. He had Albon right behind him on soft compound tyres, to which he had no defence. Perez’ tyres where old and he was picked off by Carlos Sainz and the Mexican had to settle for 6th place.

It was a messy, slightly disappointing performance from a team which is usually very adept at taking advantage in races with multiple safety cars.

Gains For McLaren

McLaren came out of the race in second place in the constructors table thanks to a third place for Lando Norris, who was excellent through the whole weekend. He was supported by Carlos Sainz finishing fifth, despite struggling with his car’s set up. McLaren finished the 2019 season in good form, and they have continued to improve both their car and their whole operation. Now that their financial worries are behind them, they can continue to move forward.

McLaren may not be ‘best of the rest’ at every venue but they will not be far away. With Ferrari in a mess they can realistically aim for podium finishes on a more regular basis.

Renault where ultimately disappointing. Ricciardo slowed flashes of speed and was sounding positive, but while his Q3 lap was compromised by the yellow flag incident, he was never on the same pace as McLaren or Racing Point. That he had to retire on early on with overheating problems was more worrying. Esteban Ocon’s return to F1 was less than glorious. He only qualified 14th, slower than both Alpha Tauri’s. He finished the race and that was enough to get 8th place, but it is more telling that he had just three cars behind him. There is a great chance for Renault to score good points with Ferrari struggling, but they are behind McLaren and Racing Point so far.

No Surprises From Alpha Tauri

Alpha Tauri qualified 12th and 13th and that is an accurate assessment of where they stand in the pecking order. A double points finish was on the menu with so many retirements, but a puncture on the penultimate lap ended Kvyats race. Pierre Gasly had been the better of the two Alpha Tauri drivers all weekend and he finished 7th, not entirely on merit, but the team did what they always do, take advantage of other misfortunes.

Alfa Romeo picked up two points with Giovinazzi finishing 9th. He only qualified 18th (Raikkonen 19th) and that tells us that they have a poor car and an even poorer power unit. They can’t rely on every race having nine retirements however and that 9th place might be as good as it gets for Alfa Romeo.

Haas Struggled On Straights

Haas are also handicapped by the Ferrari power unit making them slow on straights. It isn’t a great chassis in any case, so they are going to struggle. Their long run pace appeared to be reasonable in a lower midfield way, but both cars retired with brake failure. They came to the first race ill prepared and it showed. There were many points up for grabs in a chaotic race but a double DNF meant they missed out. A challenging season lies ahead. They are ahead of Williams and Alfa Romeo but not by much.

Williams also failed to score a point but at least they came close. George Russell only just missed out on reaching Q2 by less than a 10th of a second. He was running in 13th place when he had to retire with a fuel pressure problem. That left Nicolas Latifi plodding along in last place praying that there would be one more retirement, but there wasn’t and he finished 11th and last. It is hardly a new dawn for Williams but at least they have arrested their decline. Russell will do a good job, but he is wasted in a Williams.

2020 Styrian GP Preview

We now have the unprecedented situation where we have the second race of the season being held on exactly the same circuit as the first just a week before. There is fresh form to go on and we should be in clover. Unfortunately, the chaotic nature of the race has messed up the picture somewhat.

Want we do know is that Mercedes remain the team to beat. However, it was not a perfect weekend for them. That the cars where on the verge of suffering gearbox failures from the mid-race onwards will be a concern for this race. This is a track with a lot of fast corners where you need to drive on the kerbs to get the best lap time. With the short track requiring 71 laps, that is a heavy pounding over the kerbs and asking the drivers to avoid them is asking them to be slower.

Gearbox Concerns For Mercedes

Mercedes remain concerned that they will see a repeat of the gearbox issue. It is caused by ‘electrical noise’ which builds up and interferes with various systems in the gearbox. Modifications are being attempted.

With Verstappen out early, we never got to see how things would have panned out with a quick Red Bull attacking the Mercedes late in the race. We did see Albon having a go and he certainly had the pace to get between the two Black Arrows, but Hamilton denied the youngster once again. There must be a question mark over the Mercedes given this weakness. Seven days is not a lot of time to find a fix, even for the mighty Mercedes. Favourites? Yes, invincible? No.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: Red Bull must Improve

Red Bull can and have to do better. No points on one of their strongest tracks means that the World Championships are further away than a week ago. The drivers did their job but ultimately it was unreliability that cost them dear. Like Mercedes, only having a week to fault find and fix is a big ask but they are confident that they will have improved the balance of the car for this second race. The team want to have both drivers using the latest specification of car this weekend. Albon had the spec that was used in testing while Verstappen ran an updated package. Which spec they will run hasn’t been decided as yet, but it sounds like it will be better for Albon this weekend. Second favourites? Yes. Nailed on podium? No, but they do remain in the frame for a win.

Racing Point will have been a little disappointed with the opening race. They were beaten as Best of the Rest by McLaren and on merit. They didn’t play a great strategic game which cost Perez a potential podium and Lance Stroll still looks the weak link. A mechanical failure on his car is another worry. Good, but can do better.

McLaren where the big winners in the opening race. They earned their points, admittedly helped by Verstappen’s DNF but they were best of the rest by a margin. If they can sort out Sainz’ set up for this weekend than they should be in line for another big helping of points. Norris was faultless all weekend and he clearly performs well on this circuit. Sainz made the best of a car he wasn’t happy with and while another podium is still a tall order, it’s not out of the question.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: Problems For Ferrari

Ferrari, where do you start? A team in disarray and ill equipped to get back on the right path. Internal squabbles, a power deficit to Mercedes, Renault and Honda. They have also built a poor chassis. They have a revised design coming for the Hungaroring race and perhaps rushing it in for this weekend, but there is no silver bullet for their problems. Vettel looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but driving for Ferrari and you can hardly blame him. Ferrari have said that he is not good enough to drive for the team and then they design a piece of shit for his final season with them? Minor points only look realistic unless we have more mass retirements. On a positive note, at least they were reliable, and Leclerc was excellent.

Renault were underwhelming in the opener. Flashes of promise but ultimately  disappointing. Ricciardo was unfortunate with the yellow flag in qualifying but that he retired with an overheating problem is a concern. Ocon looks out of sorts. Minor points should be on the menu but there are no guarantees. The team are optimistic that they can address the overheating problem which ended Ricciardo’s race early.

Alpha Tauri where one of the few teams to perform pretty much as expected. To have the two cars qualify 12th and 13th  shows where they are pace wise. They nearly landed a double points finish thanks to the huge retirement rate. If the same thing happens than they can grab more points but not purely on merit.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: Haas Moving In Right Direction

Haas look to have improved their car compared to last year’s horror show but just as they have done so, Ferrari have given them a poor power unit. The team’s financial problems meant that they came here underprepared and it showed. A double retirement with brake failure at least means they know what they have to fix.

Whether they can do so in a week is the question. The problem was said to be caused by the brakes overheating and eventually failing. The high track temperature will not have helped and they didn’t have any problems on Friday and Saturday where the weather was cooler. It will be hot and Sunny for Friday’s free practice so they will have the perfect conditions in which to find a solution.

Alfa Romeo are in the same boat as Haas. Qualifying just 18th and 19th highlights where they stand performance wise. They are unlikely to see many more races with nearly half the field failing to finish and that looks like the only way they can score points at the moment.

Williams at least have some company at the back of the pack. With the Ferrari supplied customer teams struggling for power, Williams, or at least George Russell, can mix it with the Haas and Alfa Romeo. That he had to retire in a race where points where up for grabs is a concern, and not just for Williams. A slow car at least needs to be reliable if you are to pick up scraps. Nicolas Latifi has only had the one race, but he wasn’t showing anything to get excited about.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: Form Should Hold Up

With this race coming just a week on form the season opener and on exactly the same track, we should expect the form to hold up well. The one big issue that is still an unknown is reliability. Last year the Austrian GP saw every car finish, the first time that had happened for years. This year the Austrian GP saw nine cars fail to reach the chequered flag and that hadn’t happened for years either.

The first race of the season can see unusually high rates of attrition but what we saw last weekend was some of that first race syndrome combined with a track that can be a car breaker if you let it be. The kerbs are not unusually harsh, but to put in quick lap a driver has to attack those kerbs and clearly some of the cars were not up to that level of punishment.

The teams will be looking at ways to improve reliability and that may involve asking drivers to avoid the kerbs as much as possible but let them attack in qualifying and at vital periods of the race.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: Rain On the way

The weather forecast for the weekend is for hot and sunny conditions for Friday’s free practice, but heavy rain is in forecast for Saturday. There will be a 80% chance of rain in FP3 and a 90% chance for the qualifying session, with a real chance of it being very heavy at times. The forecast for race day is that it will be dry and significantly cooler than last Sunday and that should help keep the retirement rate lower.

It was Saturday’s forecast which is the interesting one. It now looks highly likely that it will be properly wet for qualifying. We haven’t seen much rain in recent seasons. Last year’s German GP was largely wet and that was won by Verstappen. Vettel came from the back of the grid to finish second and Daniil Kvyat was third.

We know that Verstappen is very good in the wet, as is Hamilton, Bottas used to be regarded as mint in the wet before he joined F1 and Vettel is wet weather proven. I am not sure about Leclerc, he spun out in Germany last year and that is all we have seen of his wet abilities. However, great drivers tend to thrive in the wet.

A really wet session is a great leveller. Mercedes will lose the advantage of their power qualifying mode on the power units. It comes down to driver skill, bravery and fair slice of luck. It allows for the outsiders to cause a surprise and we can have a few bets at bigger odds and

The old Toro Rosso team always tended to over perform in wet conditions so we could see a good qualifying session for them.

2020 Styrian GP Tips

The odds have a very different look to them compared to last weekend. Hamilton was around 3.00 as was Verstappen but Hamilton is now the 2.00 favourite with Verstappen out to 4.50. Despite winning Sunday’s race, Bottas is the 3.50 second favourite while the unfortunate Albon is 26.00 rather than the 41.00 of seven days ago.

Bottas is 3.00 to get another pole position and he has now had three of the last four on this circuit. It is also ‘his turn’ to get a tow in Q3 from Hamilton. They take it turn a about and last week it was Bottas who was out first in Q3 with Hamilton tucked in behind him to get the benefit of a tow.

Obviously it didn’t work out as Bottas went off the track, but the Finn should have something of an advantage this weekend. He looks the obvious choice, but rain is forecast. The Mercedes advantages will be largely negated in a proper wet session and you don’t want to be lumping on short priced drivers in wet conditions, the risks are much higher.

Value In Verstappen For Pole?

Verstappen is a 6.00 shot for pole position, of no interest in the dry, but in the wet? He is very skilful in the rain. The only worry for me is the balance of the Red Bull last weekend. There was too much over steer and you don’t want that in the wet. Hopefully the team will have sorted that out, but we won’t know until after Friday’s free practice at the earliest.

Having dismissed Ferrari’s chances out of hand after last weekend’s horror show, I now have to say that they may have a chance in a wet qualifying. The design of this year’s car was aimed at putting more downforce on the car to help with their poor cornering performance last year. In that respect it worked. The real problem is that due to the FIA crack down on their power units, they are down on power. In the wet that power isn’t important, grip is. The downforce laden Ferrari might just be very useful in the wet.

Vettel is very good in the wet, but he has fallen out with the team. He is in a huff. His head is not on the job. Even with ideal conditions, will he be able to suddenly get dialled back in a find his mojo? Maybe, maybe not. Leclerc is more of an unknown in the wet, but I would expect him to be good. Ferrari can be backed to have the qualifying winning car @ 41.00 but I will back both e/w to small stakes.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: 0.5 point e/w Sebastian Vettel to qualify on pole position @ 81.00 with Sky bet and William Hill
2020 Styrian GP Preview: 0.5 point e/w Charles Leclerc to qualify on pole position @ 67.00 with BET365, Skybet

Carlos Sainz, with rally driving in his genes, knows how to drive in low grip conditions. The team are on the up and they seem to have a well-balanced chassis. He is being a bit overlooked on back of one big result by his teammate last weekend.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: 0.5 point e/w Carlos Sainz to qualify on pole position @ 151.00 with BET365, Skybet

Pierre Gasly finished seventh last Sunday having qualified a respectable 12th. The Honda powered Alpha Tauri has the upper hand on the Ferrari powered Haas and Alfa Romeo’s. Gasly was lapped by his teammate when racing for Red Bull last year. However, he is a better, happier driver out of the limelight in the Alpha Tauri team.

He did benefit from other retirements of course but his car was reliable and there are likely to be a few retirements this Sunday as well. When demoted by Red Bull last summer he finished in the top 10 in five of his nine races back at Toro Rosso, including a second place in Brazil. He is a more confident driver now and he looks a bit of value to have back to back top 10’s on a track he likes. Hopefully he can over perform in a wet qualifying session to boost his chances.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: 2 points Pierre Gasly to finish in the points @ 3.00 generally available

Carlos Sainz was out shone by Lando Norris last week, but he was struggling with his cars handling in the fast corners. I imagine he and his engineers will have worked that out based on the data gathered on Sunday. He was still not far behind Norris on the track. Sainz finished fifth in the end and his qualifying lap was hampered by the Bottas yellow flag.

Not a lot went right for him, but he was still competitive. The McLaren outperformed Racing Point fair and square, which nobody saw coming. This rapidly improving team is very much in the hunt for the Best of the Rest moniker. He finished in the top 6 eight times last year. With McLaren now having finished on the podium in two of the last three Grand Prix, another high finish is well within his grasp.

2020 Styrian GP Preview: 2 point Carlos Sainz to finish in the top 6 @ 2.25 generally available

As for the race win, it may be wiser to hold fire for now. A wet qualifying session could mix things up and the betting for race winner might be more interesting come Sunday. Remember to download the TXApp to ensure you don’t miss out on our big race preview on Sunday.

-JamesPunt

 

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