Red Bull began the delayed 2020 F1 season in the worst possible manner, as both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon failed to finish.
Formula One returned in Austria after 3 1/2 months waiting for a window to go racing following the coronavirus crisis. It produced a dramatic season opener, with 9 cars failing to finish after an assortment of technical failures.
But unfortunately for the Milton Keynes-based Red Bull team, two of those who failed to make the chequered flag were their cars on an afternoon when both could’ve stolen the win from Mercedes.
Verstappen had begun on the front-row after a late penalty was given to Lewis Hamilton, who originally qualified second. The Dutchman was running second after 11 laps on the medium while everyone else was using softs, only for a technical failure to see his car crawl back to the pits, where it duly failed to restart and had to be retired.
Meanwhile, his team mate Albon had a miserable ending after entering the conversation for a potential win. Having fought his way up into third place, over the two safety cars, Albon tried to overtake Hamilton only to spin after making contact with the reigning world champion.
This sent Albon tumbling to the back, repeating the Brit-Thai driver’s misfortune at the Brazilian Grand Prix last November after similar contact with Hamilton, before his afternoon got worse when his engine failed two laps from the end and he was forced to park up.
Verstappen was left in a philosophical mood. He said, “I’m not quite sure what happened yet, we’ll investigate and find out but of course that’s not how you want to start the season. I had a good start, unlike last year, and quite early on I could see that Valtteri was quick so fighting for the win was always going to be a big challenge.
“I think it would have been an easy podium and third would have been a decent start to the season but what can you do? This is racing and it is what it is, you can’t change the result now. It is a shame for everyone who worked so hard to get us here this weekend but we will just focus on the race next week and hope for something better.”
Meanwhile, Albon was left frustrated a potential win had slipped away.
He said, “It’s still quite fresh so I’ve got to be careful what I say but there’s nothing to add apart from how frustrating that is. I really think we could have easily won that race.
“We had a great strategy, the guys did a great job in the pit stops, yes we had a little bit of fortune with the safety car, but the car was feeling good. The hard tyre wasn’t very strong today and I knew the Mercedes would have cold tyres on the re-start, so I already planned to get past them within a few laps of the safety car coming in. I feel like I had completed the move on Lewis already, and I was thinking about getting Bottas on the next lap.
“The contact with Lewis was so late in the corner that it surprised me. I was right on the edge of the track and I knew if I gave him all the space I could it would be up to him if he wants to crash or not. This time I was the one on the attack and he was defending. I wouldn’t say this one hurts more than Brazil but that incident was maybe 50/50 whereas this one isn’t. Obviously we’ve got next weekend to focus on now, we’ll need a bit of luck to have the same opportunity as today, but let’s see.”
It was a frustrating day in general for Red Bull’s stable, with 1 of the 2 Alpha Tauri cars finishing on their debut after their rebrand from Toro Rosso and 1 failing to finish.
The finisher was Pierre Gasly, who just held off Renault’s Esteban Ocon to take 7th, but Daniil Kvyat suffered a combined tyre and suspension failure and was forced to park up four laps from the end while in a points paying position.