The Ross Brawn column: Great to see Norris come of age as F1 returns with a thriller in Austria

Formula 1 Managing Director, Motorsport

Ross Brawn
F1_FEATART_BRAWN_V4 Austria Norris

After a long enforced break courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 F1 season finally got going with a thrilling Austrian Grand Prix. Ross Brawn, Formula 1 Managing Director, Motorsport, casts his eye over the key talking points…

Norris comes of age

After a long break, it was great to return with a thriller of a Grand Prix, with drama throughout. And one of the key protagonists was Lando Norris, who couldn’t quite break out of Carlos Sainz’s shadow in his first year with the team last season, but he came of age in Austria on Sunday.

His last few laps, when he needed to close the gap to Lewis to ensure he could take advantage of the Briton’s five-second time penalty and snatch a maiden podium, were exceptional and simply stunning to see.

READ MORE: 'Speechless' Norris thought he'd 'fudged' chance of maiden podium finish

In McLaren, you’ve got a team in transition, who are getting stronger every race and which have a bright future with a Mercedes engine.

Carlos is leaving and you can’t help the subconscious effect that will have on him and the team. I’ve felt it before during my time working in a Formula 1 team. No matter how professional you are, when someone is leaving, the way you are with a driver who is leaving, versus a driver who is staying, is different. You can’t help it, but it happens.

WATCH: The McLaren garage reacts to Norris' first podium

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Third place Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 celebrates

Norris endeared himself to his McLaren team even more

Bottas impressed out of the box

Often a driver who starts on pole and wins the race might be perceived to have had an easy ride, but that was certainly not the case for Valtteri.

He looked very controlled throughout the weekend, and delivered when it mattered in qualifying. On race day, his performance was faultless and he managed the problems Mercedes encountered with their gearbox.

But perhaps what was most impressive was the way he withstood the pressure from Lewis and drove intelligently, keeping a consistent gap so his team mate never really threaten him.

READ MORE: Bottas says he 'dodged many bullets' to win season-opening Austrian Grand Prix

Austrian Grand Prix 2020: Bottas wins opening round of F1 season

Ferrari have work to do

It was clear Ferrari were in a difficult position after qualifying, their performance by their own admission was disappointing.

On Sunday, Charles showed what a talented driver he is, managing his chances wisely to take an opportunistic second place. It is in these difficult races where the determination and talent of a very special drivers come through.

READ MORE: ‘P2 feels like victory’ – Leclerc hails Austria recovery as one of his best races

But Ferrari have got to quickly improve the situation otherwise it they face a very difficult season. They have plans to improve the car for Hungary, which is encouraging, but the start of the year is tougher than they anticipated.

It was a difficult start to Sebastian’s final season with the team. Everything must be swirling round in his head, after he found out Ferrari did not want to renew his services for next season.

Sometimes, the things that put off a driver are quite subtle. Sebastian has appeared surprised and shocked by what has happened and it must be a distraction, understandably so.

Austrian Grand Prix 2020: Vettel spins after Sainz contact

Reliability the Achilles' heel of several teams

We are used to Formula 1 cars being bulletproof in the modern era, but there was an astonishing lack of reliability in Sunday’s race, with just 11 of the 20 drivers seeing the chequered flag.

I can’t remember the last time we saw so many mechanical problems in one race. Some of those, of course, will be down to the fact the teams have not run their cars properly since pre-season testing in February.

READ MORE: Verstappen rues loss of ‘easy podium’ in Austria season opener

We also saw a number of pit stop issues, which showed the rustiness of the teams after a long break without racing.

But the positive was we saw some great racing. Some of it was a little more robust than might be allowable, but overall some great racing.

Austrian Grand Prix 2020: Albon spins into gravel after Hamilton collision

The F1 family comes together

It was great to be back at a race track and hear the sound of a V6 hybrid turbo power unit fire up to signal that Grand Prix racing was under way once more.

This weekend in Austria was the result of three months of tremendously hard work that couldn’t have been completed without the outstanding collaboration between Formula 1, governing body the FIA, all 10 teams and the race promoters.

READ MORE: Formula 1 and FIA confirm zero positive Covid-19 tests among F1 personnel in last seven days

It was a massive team effort to get this season under way – and we are pleased with the way the race weekend came together. I feel a big relief to get to where we have got to now.

The event ran smoothly, with zero positive tests for Covid-19 in more than 4,000 tests of F1 personnel as of Saturday. The strict and rigid procedures we put in place were to ensure everyone’s safety and we’re reasonably pleased with how it went.

There are still a lot of refinements we can make after our experiences this weekend, and there’s been some small changes before next week’s race, but I think we have put down the foundations to move forward in this Covid era.

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive

A host of new safety measures were put in place

F1 unites against racism

Everyone in Formula 1 is united in a stand against racism and our pursuit of greater diversity and inclusion, as represented by the #WeRaceAsOne initiative and the projects drivers and teams are supporting.

The drivers coming together on the grid ahead of the racing was a powerful message, with people free to support this fight in their own personal way. Drivers have thrown their support behind the campaign and are open and honest about their own role in advocating for change.

WATCH: F1 drivers unite with 'End Racism' t-shirts ahead of Austrian Grand Prix

Formula 1’s position is clear. Racism has no place in our sport. We want more diversity and we want more inclusion and we are doing everything we can to facilitate that going forwards.

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Pierre Gasly of

The drivers united against racism on the grid



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