The 2021 Austrian GP was an exciting one, with a fair bit of action to keep us viewers entertained all throughout the race. Max Verstappen won in dominant fashion, followed distantly by Valtteri Bottas in 2nd, and a underwhelmed Lando Norris in 3rd. The Dutchman classed the field yet again, while the Englishman had a stellar qualifying session, only 0.048 seconds off pole position. An unfortunate penalty in the race added 5 seconds to his race time, and cost him what would have been a certain 2nd place, something he was quite upset about post-race.
Lewis Hamilton suffered floor damage, and slowly fell down the order. Sergio Perez had a series of incidents, firstly going wide onto the gravel while racing with Norris in the early laps, then having a scruffy afternoon, where 2 incidents with Charles Leclerc gave him 10 seconds worth of penalties in total, which eventually meant that he finished in 6th place. Both had a difficult Sunday, and will certainly be hoping to bounce back in Silverstone.
Ferrari: The Strongest Lineup on the Grid?
Across all 10 teams, Ferrari are the only competitive team with both drivers so incredibly close to each other’s points tally. Be it McLaren, Mercedes, Aston Martin, or even Red Bull, no team has 2 drivers so incredibly close on points as Ferrari. They may not have a very competitive car, but it has to be said that, without doubt, their driver pairing is the strongest on the grid right now in terms of teamwork and harmony. Carlos Sainz is able to match Charles Leclerc, occasionally even out-qualifying him on Saturdays, and has hence proved that he is the perfect choice that Ferrari could have taken.
Mattia Binotto stated that Ferrari’s focus is no longer on ensuring 3rd place in the Constructor’s championship, and rather is completely on 2022, where Ferrari are hoping to bring back the crown to Maranello, which they have been longing for since 2007. With the current strongest driver line-up on the grid, and an emphasized focus on 2022, it is not out of the question that Ferrari will be unleashing everything in their arsenal to challenge for what has to be their strongest challenge for a title since 2018.
George Russell: What Should Mercedes Do?
George Russell has shown, time and time again, that he is one of the best in the sport. His performances in the uncompetitive Williams have been remarkable, and for the first time in his career driving for Williams, he managed to qualify in 9th place, and being promoted to 8th following Sebastian Vettel’s penalty for a qualifying incident. In the race, George drove magnificently, staying in the points-paying positions for many laps until, towards the end, he was being trailed by a much quicker Fernando Alonso. The two had a titanic battle for many laps, with Alonso in the clearly faster car eventually getting past George, and it eventually resulted in George finishing in 11th, his and Williams’ best finish of the season.
This final result must not, however take away from the fact that George drove a stellar race. Being consistently quick all throughout the race, and a fantabulous qualifying performace proved his mettle. It must also be noted that the battle between him and Fernando was the only multi-lap battle to not end in tears, showing immense maturity and racing spirit. The two battled lap, after lap, after lap, leaving just enough space for one another, and giving each other enough respect. Post-race, Fernando even hugged George, showing the respect they have for one another. This will certainly be a difficulty for Mercedes moving forward, as they have such an incredible talent waiting in the wings for almost 3 years now, and he will certainly be getting frustrated that his talent is being wasted in uncompetitive machinery. It is crucial decision time at Mercedes, as unless George gets a call-up to the senior outfit soon, he will start looking for other opportunities to showcase his talents.
Rest of the grid: What Happened?
Esteban Ocon retired on the very first lap of the race, after contact broke his suspension. The Frenchman, who has been struggling ever since his 3-year contract extension was announced at the French GP, has to start sorting both his qualifying as well as race performances moving forward. Nikita Mazepin finished in 19th, a disastrous Sunday for the Russian driver, who struggled with blue flags, and got a 30-second penalty post-race for a yellow flag infringement. Mick Schumacher finished in 18th, a quiet weekend for the German. Sebastian Vettel had a coming-together with Kimi Raikkonen on the last lap of the race, which resulted in him retiring from the race. As he was one lap ahead of the Haas duo, he was classified 17th despite not finishing the race. Nicholas Latifi finished in 16th after a quiet race, also getting a 30-second penalty just like Mazepin.
Kimi Raikkonen had a decent race up until the last lap, where he tangled with his ex-teammate and good friend Sebastian Vettel. The Iceman was given a penalty post-race for causing the collision, a difficult end to the weekend for him. Antonio Giovinazzi finished 14th, a quiet race for the Italian. Lance Stroll could not get into the points like last weekend, finishing a distant 13th. Yuki Tsunoda also had a quiet race, finishing 12th. George Russell had a great weekend, dragging uncompetitive machinery into places it doesn’t deserve to be. Finishing just one place outside the points, his quest for his maiden points for Williams continues on.
Fernando Alonso had a scary moment with Sebastian Vettel in qualifying, which relegated him to a starting position of 14th. The Spaniard did well to recover to 10th by the end of the race, following a great battle with Russell for the final point. Pierre Gasly finished in 9th, the Frenchman upset that the last-lap collision between Kimi and Seb made it so that he could not grab 8th place. 8th place, instead went to Charles Leclerc, after a race riddled with incidents for the Monegasque. Two off-track excursions while battling with Sergio Perez ruined his race, and he eventually ran out of tyres as well. Daniel Ricciardo finished in 7th, a quiet race yielding good points for the Aussie. Sergio Perez had a very scruffy afternoon, being involved in multiple incidents all throughout the race. A early incident with Norris saw the Mexican fall down the order, then two 5-second penalties given after he forced Leclerc off ruined his afternoon. He did finish 5th on-track, but his penalty demoted him to 6th.
Carlos Sainz finished P5, making up one place following Perez’s penalty. The Spaniard drove very well, and Ferrari’s decision to swap positions to give Carlos, who was on fresher tyres an advantage, paid off. Lewis Hamilton had floor damage, and slipped down the order. He looked set for a P2 finish until this issue ruined any hope for a podium- not the race he’d have wanted after signing a new 2-year deal with Mercedes. Lando Norris finished in 3rd place and won Driver of The Day, but he rued the penalty given after the Perez incident. He said that the pace was clearly there to battle the Mercedes cars, and that without the penalty, he’d have finished 2nd. Valtteri Bottas finished 2nd, benefitting from his teammate’s troubles and Norris’ penalty. Max Verstappen though, classed the field yet again. The Dutchman drove such a dominant race, he took his first F1 Grand Slam (Pole, Fastest Lap, Led Every Lap, Race Win), the only time apart from the start he was seen on TV was during his pitstops and at the end of the race! Max is truly in form right now, and Red Bull are giving him every opportunity to claim what seems to be an obvious first F1 title.
Who Shone, Who Sunk?
Who Shone: Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and George Russell were my stand-out performers for this race. All 3 drove amazing races, with mature and calm driving seeing them all achieve great results.
Who Sunk: Nikita Mazepin and Nicholas Latifi were well off their teammate’s performances in the race. Although Mick finished just one place ahead of Nikita, he outperformed the Russian all throughout the weekend, while in Latifi’s case, he just could not match Russell at any point in the weekend.
The next race in Silverstone will be the first time we see the new “Sprint Qualifying” format in F1. Wether it will give us good racing, or wether it will be devoid of too much action remains to be seen, as F1 is embarking on its first change to the weekend format in a long time. Here’s to hoping that we see some exciting and close racing!
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