The Styrian Grand Prix provided no respite for Formula 1’s most storied team as Ferrari endured another dismal day in Austria that it will want and need to forget straight away.

Ferrari’s dire start to the delayed 2020 season continued at the second round of the campaign, after witnessing both its scarlet-red cars retire early in the race after colliding with each other on the first lap. 

Despite successfully managing to bring forward an upgraded aerodynamic package - originally intended for the Hungarian Grand Prix - in the short turnaround between consecutive races in Austria, Ferrari was once again woefully uncompetitive at the Red Bull Ring

A dismal showing at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix last week was followed up with more struggles. At no point during the weekend did Ferrari finish a session with either of its cars inside the top eight positions. 

Heavy rain in qualifying failed to help Ferrari turnaround its fortunes as its one-lap struggles continued amid torrential conditions, with Sebastian Vettel restricted to 10th place on the grid. 

Things were no better for Charles Leclerc, who qualified one position behind his four-time world champion teammate after being eliminated in Q2. He was then slapped with a three-place grid penalty for impending another driver that ultimately subjected him to a 14th-place starting berth.  

A fast start enabled Leclerc to catch up to the pack that included Vettel on the run up the hill to Turn 3, but an over-ambitious late-braking move failed to pay off and ended with the two Ferrari cars hitting one another. 

Vettel’s rear-wing was left hanging by a thread after Leclerc mounted the rear of his SF1000, while the Monegasque suffered floor damage that forced both drivers into retirement after just two laps. 

It marked the second time in four races that the Ferrari duo have crashed into each other, following on from their collision during the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. 

Leclerc apologised for his part in the clash and conceded he had “let the team down” with the reckless manoeuvre. 

“I apologised,” Leclerc said. "Excuses are not enough in a time like this. 

“I did a very bad job today, I let the team down. I can only be sorry even though I let the team down.

“The team don’t need that and I put all the hopes of the team in the bin. I’m very sorry, but it’s not enough, again.”

Ferrari F1 team boss Mattia Binotto reacted by saying there were “no excuses” for the incident but stressed his side must remain united in its bid to progress. 

“It’s not only a shame but I would say it’s a pain to see the two cars retire after only two laps,” Binotto said. 

“I think when you are starting in the midfield it may happen, but there are no excuses and I don’t think we need to tell who is responsible or not. I think it’s quite obvious but that’s not the point. 

“It's been a disappointing weekend, and that’s the worst conclusion for a bad weekend for us. 

“It’s no time to find who's at fault - it’s time to react. We need to make sure that as a team we are working united and progressing as soon as possible.” 

It rounded out another awful weekend for the Scuderia which had started with both its drivers getting warned for disobeying F1’s strict COVID protocols. 

Leclerc received a letter from the FIA after he was pictured on social media in Monaco with friends in the days between the two races at the Red Bull Ring.

Meanwhile, Vettel was cautioned for breaking the team ‘bubble’ restrictions by talking to Red Bull bosses Helmut Marko and Christian Horner without wearing face masks during the Austrian Grand Prix. 

After its woeful qualifying performance, both drivers were forced to take an early bath on Sunday after their latest coming together. 

While hopes of securing a strong result from its lowly starting positions always seemed unlikely, the bigger disappointment for Ferrari will have been the missed opportunity to evaluate its updated package over the course of a full race distance, which could have provided the team with some much-needed valuable data. 

“It is a shame because we got to come back to the same track and also similar conditions, but we would not get that answer,” Vettel summarised. 

"The car felt a lot better on Friday and back to where it was last week, but it is a shame because with the update we wanted to get the race on the line and get some laps.”

Hamilton bounces back at ‘weaker’ circuit 

While Ferrari’s season continues to spiral downwards, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton bounced back in emphatic style by delivering a masterclass performance to grab his first victory of the year. 

Hamilton did much of the hard work in Saturday’s downpour as he claimed a dominant pole position for the ages, before going on to convert his 85th career grand prix win with a controlled drive in the race. 

The Briton’s victory has clawed back some of the deficit to Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and narrowed the Finn’s early championship lead down to six points after the latter drew first blood by winning the first race in Austria. 

Hamilton labelled his penalty-strewn Austrian Grand Prix weekend as a “psychological challenge”, but he delivered the perfect response just days later to claim what is just his second-ever victory at the Red Bull Ring. 

“Honestly this is a track which is one of my weaker circuits, so to get a performance like this, I’m over the moon,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.

“I’m so happy, but I do also know that there’s a long way to go.”

Hamilton’s recovery from a difficult weekend will serve as a reminder of the scale of the challenge Bottas faces this year if he is to secure his maiden F1 title. 

Thrilling midfield battle gets spicier 

Lando Norris may not have been able to repeat his podium heroics from the Austrian Grand Prix but he is fast earning himself a reputation as ‘Last Lap Lando’ having saved his best right until the end once again.  

In a late race rise, Norris overtook the squabbling Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll, before snatching fifth place away from the lead Racing Point of Sergio Perez - running with a broken front wing - at the penultimate corner. 

Perez hung on in a drag race to the line to pip Stroll in a photo finish that crowned a phenomenal recovery drive by the Mexican from 17th on the grid. His charge through the field was only slightly blemished by light contact with Red Bull’s Alex Albon while fighting over fourth place which led to his front-wing damage. 

After its struggles in the wet on Saturday, the Racing Point’s both flew in dry conditions in the race in what marked another impressive performance that highlighted its rivals worries about the Silverstone-based outfit’s pace this season. 

The midfield scrap heated up as Stroll engaged in a tussle over seventh on the final tour with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was left unhappy that the Canadian avoided punishment for pushing him wide at Turn 3. 

And after the race, there was another twist with the news that Renault had decided to protest both Racing Point cars over doubts regarding the legality of its dubbed ‘Pink Mercedes’. This is one particular debate which looks set to rumble on…

 

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