In case you still doubt it: Max Verstappen is in the shape of his life. The Dutchman with Flemish roots has now also won the GP of Styria, nota bene a home race for his Red Bull team, and is thus again a firmer leader in the World Cup. Lewis Hamilton minimized the damage by finishing second and setting the fastest lap, Valtteri Bottas was third in the other Mercedes.
Chapter eight of the 2021 Formula 1 season brought the drivers to the Red Bull Ring for the Styrian GP. No Austrian Grand Prix, you wonder? That’s right: it will be driven on the same circuit in one week. After all, for the second consecutive year it was decided to have the Red Bull Ring organize two races. Everything is possible because of corona.
With a double home race ahead of them, Red Bull sensed an opportunity to once again extend its lead in both world championships. Max Verstappen has already won at the Red Bull Ring in 2018 and 2019 and took a step towards a third victory on Saturday by scoring his third consecutive pole position. Great rival Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) started immediately behind him in second place.
How did the start go?
Verstappen kept his lead ahead of Hamilton, Lando Norris, Sergio Pérez and Valtteri Bottas, but things went wrong behind that five. Charles Leclerc briefly touched Pierre Gasly on the straight after the first corner. The result: a damaged nose for Leclerc and a flat left rear tire for Gasly, who also collided with Antonio Giovinazzi and Nicholas Latifi.
After the hectic first lap, Verstappen drove away from Hamilton little by little, while both gentlemen let the chasers on the spot. Norris was able to hold onto third place for several laps, but soon had to pass Pérez and Bottas.
Meanwhile, outside the top six, an interesting little train emerged: Fernando Alonso was the locomotive in seventh place, followed by the amazing George Russell (Williams), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri), Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin), Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren).
How did the victory come about?
Through sheer speed: the Verstappen-Red Bull combination just proved unbearable during the Styrian GP. Lewis Hamilton was still somewhat close, but he could not threaten the Dutchman for a moment.
Mercedes did manage to finish on the podium with two cars. It needed a mistake by Red Bull during the pit stops, something we are not used to from the Austrian team. When Sergio Pérez came for fresh rubber, the left rear tire didn’t go on too smoothly: that cost the Mexican valuable time, because when Valtteri Bottas made his pit stop a lap later, he came out in third place.
Verstappen thus drove unthreatened to the victory for Hamilton, who did take the point for the fastest lap in the final. Red Bull tried an alternative strategy with Perez in the final phase, but the Mexican was unable to wrest third place from Valtteri Bottas. Lando Norris finished best of the rest in fifth place, ahead of both Carlos Sainz Jr’s Ferraris. and Charles Leclerc – who made up for his mistake from the first lap with a very clever catch-up race. Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda took the last points.
Who distinguished himself?
Max Verstappen drove the perfect race and won by a huge lead. Not much more needs to be said about that: the Dutchman is currently the man to beat, and they know that at reigning world champion Mercedes too. An eighth consecutive World Cup will not be an easy task for the German formation.
Hears Charles Leclerc in this row? After all, the young Monegask smashed his own windows in the opening round by clumsily breaking his nose on Pierre Gasly’s nose. With his tough catch-up race, he proved once again that he is cut from the right racing cloth. It ultimately gave Leclerc a seventh place: there might not have been much more than that, but he will still look back on this race with mixed feelings.
In the meantime, too Lando Norris emerging as one of this season’s stars. The McLaren driver logically had no answer to the pace of the two Red Bulls and both Mercedes’, but fifth place was never in trouble. The McLaren driver has now finished in the top five in seven of eight races this year: impressive.
Who didn’t have their day?
What will George Russell and Williams are disappointed after the GP of Styria. The young Briton qualified eleventh, was allowed to start tenth due to Yuki Tsunoda’s grid penalty, and finished eighth in the first half of the race. His first points for Williams, and their first in nearly two years, finally seemed to be coming. Until technical malheur threw a spanner in the works. Russell and the British team deserved better today.
He did great again on Saturday, but Pierre GaslyHis chances of a good race result had already started flying after a few hundred meters when he suffered a flat tire and his suspension was also damaged. The Frenchman’s match was immediately over.
Daniel Ricciardo is currently in the corner where the blows fall. The Australian qualified only 13th, looked to be in full swing for the points after a great start, but was then knocked back by a short-lived loss of power. The strategy also didn’t work in Ricciardo’s favor, who eventually only finished thirteenth. And that while team mate Lando Norris drives the stars from the sky: 2021 is not yet the year of the honey badger.
How high was the spectacle value?
The Formula 1 public has already been spoiled this year, but there was never any real tension in Austria. Verstappen won the race with ease and the fight for the remaining podium places was also lacking in tension. Fortunately, the pilots in the midfield still provided entertainment, with Charles Leclerc in the lead.
What do we remember from this race?
That Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have once again taken a hit in the World Cup: it is already the fourth consecutive victory for Red Bull, and the third in four races for Verstappen. He now leads the championship with 18 points ahead of Hamilton. Can the Briton make up for points at the second race at the Red Bull Ring next week?