The 2021 Styrian GP was a relatively uneventful race, with not a lot in terms of action. Max Verstappen won the race, finishing a comfortable 35 seconds over Lewis Hamilton in 2nd and Valtteri Bottas in 3rd. Red Bull truly have a fantastic car around their home track, and it showed, as Max even managed to take pole position by a decent margin. A hectic start to the race saw some drivers go up and down, but once everyone settled down, it was a straightforward run to the end.
On a weekend where Mercedes boss Toto Wolff commented that for the first time in the hybrid era Mercedes are struggling, and Mercedes’ technical officer James Allison confirming that Mercedes will be bringing upgrades to the car, does it mean that this result will be indicative of the upcoming races as well? The Red Bull is a very good car, and in the hands of some very capable drivers as well, so could this result be a way of foreshadowing the upcoming races? With another race at the same track, Red Bull will have a brilliant chance to pull away from Mercedes in the Constructor’s standings, which will only strengthen their grip on what seems to be one hand on the Constructor’s crown.
Red Bull: Sacrificing future for short-term glory?
The Red Bull car in 2021 is a very quick one. In the hands of their current drivers, it has won 5 out of the 8 races this season, and 4 in a row as well- the first time they’ve achieved this since 2013. Red Bull have some great momentum, and will hence be more focussed on this year’s efforts, but at the same time it is essential that they stay aware of their future as well, as they fell prey to Mercedes’ cunning plans back in 2013, from which they only recently managed to recover their pre-hybrid era form.
Mercedes pulled a very clever trick on Red Bull back in 2013, where, during the mid-point of the season, they succeeded in making sure that Red Bull thought they might be a title contender, and hence Red Bull decided on developing an already quick car even more. The next season in 2014, with the rule changes, Mercedes aced the field, while Red Bull fell back quite a bit, and failed to build on the momentum they showed at the end of 2013, where they won 9 races in a row. Red Bull have a very crucial decision to make, and it will surely not be an easy decision to make. Do they develop the current car and risk losing out on 2022? Do they shift more focus onto 2022 and take a gamble on this car being good enough? It will remain to be seen.
Rest of the grid: what happened?
Pierre Gasly was the first to retire, after contact with Leclerc on the opening lap, which gave him significant damage, and ruined his afternoon. George Russell was the next to retire, due to a suspected pneumatic pressure problem. After a star qualifying, in which he missed out by just 8 thousandths of a second on Q3 and then having good race pace, it was a disastrous end to a great weekend for the Briton, with the only positive being that he has another shot this weekend. Nikita Mazepin finished in 18th, a quiet and uneventful race for the Russian. Nicholas Latifi had a difficult afternoon, with contact on Lap 1 giving him a puncture, which effectively ruined his race, finishing in 17th. Mick Schumacher drove consistently to finish in 16th, a decent result for the German.
Antonio Giovinazzi finished in 15th, but it was a decent recovery drive considering the fact that he was spun around on Lap 1 after contact with a damaged Gasly. Esteban Ocon finished in 14th, after a difficult weekend for the Frenchman, who struggled to extract the maximum from his car during the race and qualifying. Daniel Ricciardo finished in 13th, but it could have been a far better result for the Australian, who suffered car issues midway through the race, which halted his amazing start to the race. Sebastian Vettel finished in 12th place, struggling to maintain pace towards the end of the race. Kimi Raikkonen drove a great race to finish in P11, a good drive from the Iceman.
Yuki Tsunoda drove well to finish in P10, recovering well from an unfortunate grid penalty, and in the process grabbing a point for him and for AlphaTauri, and if he keeps this consistency up, he will no doubt be able to help his team hassle Aston Martin for 5th in the constructors. Fernando Alonso had a great race, finishing in 9th, a superb drive from the Spaniard. Lance Stroll also drove well to finish in 8th, and grab a few points for him and his team. Charles Leclerc had a up and down race, with a brilliant recovery drive and fantastic strategy from Ferrari helping him finish in P7, but contact with Pierre Gasly on the opening lap meant that he had to pit on the very first lap with front wing damage, and hence he was left pondering what could have been, considering the amazing pace he had. Carlos Sainz finished P6, after a superb strategy call from the pit wall, and some good pace management from the Spaniard.
Lando Norris, the star of the season finished in P5, after an amazing drive. The consistency he shows on Sundays is remarkable, and the fact that he is, at the moment fighting a one-horse race against the Prancing Horse duo is a brilliant indicator of his sheer skill. Sergio Perez finished in P4, after a botched pitstop and then an optimistic strategy call failed to get him onto the podium. 3rd instead went to Valtteri Bottas, who did well to recover from a 3-place grid penalty he received for a spin in the pitlane, a good drive from the Finn. Lewis Hamilton finished in 2nd, grabbing the fastest lap on the last lap of the race after a good drive. The race, however belonged to Max Verstappen. Finshing a whopping 35 seconds ahead of the next car, he had enough time to slow down on the last lap and do a celebratory burnout to the line as well, after a dominant and controlled drive from the Dutchman.
Who Shone, Who Sunk?
Who Shone: Max Verstappen and George Russell were my stand-out drivers for the weekend. Max was superb all weekend, and George performed incredibly well, only being denied a maiden points finish with Williams due to a car issue.
Who Sunk: For me, Nikita Mazepin was the only one who struggled to an extreme this weekend. Daniel Ricciardo might have finished 8 places down on teammate Lando, but he did have engine issues, while Nikita was just plain and simple off the pace of his teammate, finishing a whopping 40 seconds behind Mick.
This race was very straightforward, and with another race lined up this week at the very same venue, it remains to be seen if we are to see any sort of drama in this iteration!
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