A 3-place grid penalty hit Lewis Hamilton earlier today, after he unnecessarily impeded Kimi Raikkonen during qualifying. As a result, the Briton will be starting from the 3rd row, unintentionally promoting teammate Valtteri Bottas to P3. Mixed feelings are perceived within the Ferrari garage, as Charles Leclerc snatched pole position in dominating fashion, while Vettel hit trouble in Q3.
Number 2 drivers on a roll
Hence, the Austrian Grand Prix might have been turned into a great opportunity for the number two drivers to get their payback. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had made victory a two-way business, but the Austrian round might flip the whole picture. Although Ferrari still has to sort Vettel’s reliability problem, which must not be underestimated, the two top teams are competing on an even playing field at Spielberg.
To what extent is Ferrari superior?
The Maranello-based team seems to hold a comfortable advantage so far, as Lewis Hamilton outlined: “Congratulations to Charles, he's been quick all weekend and we've just not really been able to keep up with the Ferraris so far this weekend. They've got the power advantage on the straights, but also seem to have figured out the medium and high-speed corners. For us, the car has been feeling good, but we can't do much more on the straights and that's something we'll continue to work towards.”
Ferrari has emerged as the team to beat, as the opponents confirmed its superiority on most of the areas. Two top contenders will need to recover tomorrow, for two different reasons. And Hamilton’s penalty actually raises a very pesky and uneasy question: did the stewards want to alleviate the pressure on their shoulders following the aftermath of the Canadian GP?
The penalty appears coherent with the follow-up of last year’s episode between Vettel and Sainz, and does not seem excessively harsh either. The impeding did happen from Hamilton’s side in qualifying, hence the sanction is totally understandable. Certainly, the stewards might have taken the chance to show that Mercedes is not immune to penalties, which is a healthy sign for the sport following the animosity that characterised the past few weeks. Moreover, the whole race will benefit from it, since there will be more drivers and factors to pay attention to, from the two world champions in unusual spots to Leclerc and Bottas trying to capitalise on an alluring opportunity.
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