The first weekend of this peculiar 2020 Formula 1 season is hectic for Ferrari: the Prancing Horse struggles with both engine and aerodynamics, while unreliability hits a good chunk of the grid.
Lights go out
After a disappointing qualifying session, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel line up in P7 and P11 respectively. Going for his seventh World Title, Lewis Hamilton is hit by a late grid penalty, falling from P2 to P5. When lights go out, poleman Valtteri Bottas keeps a safe distance from both Max Verstappen and Lando Norris on his tail. Ferrari's engine woes are made even more evident by the duel between Leclerc and Sergio Perez, with the latter keeping his ground.
While chasing Bottas, Verstappen's Red Bull suffers a complete system failure (engine, gearbox, electronics and brakes) and sees his hopes for a win on a favourable track vanish on Lap 12. Not long after, both Ricciardo's Renault and Stroll's Racing Point struggle with different failures and are forced to retire.
The first Safety Car follows a mid-turn brake failure for Kevin Magnussen, and pit strategies are put into action.
A game of DNFs
The battle for fourth place gets heated up in the pitlane as well. As the Safety Car joins the track, the majority of the grid pits for new tyres and Perez and Norris almost collide while exiting. Carlos Sainz, Leclerc's future teammate, attacks the Monegasque for P6 but is forced to retreat, causing Vettel to spin behind him.
Out in the front, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas duel for the win with little to no regard for the alleged gearbox sensor issue affecting both cars. A second Safety Car is prompted by yet another loss of power for a Mercedes engine: George Russell stops on track, as Grosjean suffers the same brake failure that caused his teammate's retirement. A second pit stop carousel generates very different tyre strategies: soft, medium and hard tyres are all on track. Just as the Safety Cars enters the pits, Raikkonen's unstable front right tyre flies on track and sends him in the barriers.
As the green flag is out again, Alex Albon chases Hamilton for second place, but fails to close the overtake and spins on the gravel, retiring just a couple laps later. Charles Leclerc makes good use of a hectic final stage of the race to overtake a struggling Perez (hit by a time penalty) and snatches P2 from Hamilton, penalised for the collision with Albon. At the very last lap, Daniil Kvyat is the ninth and final DNF, as Norris celebrates his maiden podium in P3.
Written by Aurora Dell'Agli