Welcome back gear-heads! What a frenetic ending to the weekend! This weekend gave
us some more layers to our ever changing storylines in what has been an action packed
season so far. Several teams have made adjustments to their cars over the last few races and it is starting to show in teams like Mercedes and Aston Martin, the ladder making more notable improvements from the terrible opening to the campaign.
This particular weekend gave us another sprint race where instead of a traditional qualification we got a shorter race that awarded the drivers their grid positions. There were some odd occurrences like Alonso and Zhou having mechanical issues with Spaniard having to start out of the pit and the Alfa Romeo driver unable to get to the grid resulting in another formation lap and him starting at the end. Though this was odd it didn’t dampen the excitement or the status quo rising to the top with Max P1, Charles P2, and rounding out at P3 Carlos Sainz.
Would this be the podium after 71 laps in the Austrian Mountains?
Now, it is on to the winners of the Austrian Grand Prix.
Another weekend of firsts again but this time it is the Ferrari number one. Charles never
won from any other position on the grid other than P1, so starting P2 behind Max would
mean that he would be playing catch up. Along with that scenario the settings of the
event was the Spielberg Mountains on a track called the Red Bull ring so you have to
imagine everything being set up for Max and Red Bull to succeed. But it was the Monegasque driver who came out swinging early and often. On lap 20 or so there was a
battle between the two where Charles looked as if he’d make his move to put pressure
and Max came out on top only for the Ferrari driver to come from the other side and power past him; brilliant stuff! Everything seemed to fall into place for Charles from pitting correctly and the tyre selection to his form on the track. P1 for LeClerc was a first for him because this is the first race he had won not being on pole position. This performance kept him close in contention but would it be enough to keep pressure on the Constructors’ championship?
Max Verstappen and Red Bull:
As expected, Max performed almost perfectly on Sunday were it not for the super human feat of LeClerc and his Ferrari. Verstappen was on pole as mentioned in the opening paragraph but because it was a sprint race points were rewarded for his P1 finish, giving Red Bull and the driver an additional 8 points. Everyone else up till 8th position would receive some points as well. Giving Max a head start and on top of it being in Red Bull’s backyard essentially it was lining up to be a fantastic day. When the lights went out it was Max out of the blocks first and seemingly out of sight rapidly. It was around the 20 lap mark when the tyre strategy came into play as the medium slicks would be changed for hard compounds. Now he had built up a decent lead but not enough for him to secure his P1 position so he came into P4 but only on fresh tyres. A few laps and he was on the fastest lap on slower tyres and this was a good sign that he would be back in first place. Ferrari would be the next to pit because they had gather so much time while Max was in the pits Carlos would be right on Max’s tail and shortly after LeClerc building up a significant lead would do the same and would end up directly behind ready to attack.
Unfortunately for Max this is where it started to slip away. Attacks by Carlos and Charles
came and he was unable to get those positions back. But the Dutchman kept on fighting
and fighting ultimately resulting in a P2 finish. Not exactly what they were hoping on the
day obviously but because of Carlos’s engine failure meant that they had a sizeable advantage in points on a day where both Ferrari’s were markedly quick.
Both Mercedes had a lot to be celebratory this weekend. Lewis raced his butt off again managing to take a sub-par Sprint race finish into a podium at P3 for a second week in a row. Clearly the car is working better for him and some of his manoeuvring was on point and crisp. It seems that the German car manufacturer is making the right adjustments to the original model specs from the start of the year. It wasn’t smooth sailing for George Russell although his finish was strong. P4 from the grid was where the Briton started but into a few turns had collided with Sergio Pérez resulting in the Mexican having to retire the race and Russell serving a 5 second penalty early on.
The team pitted him immediately serving out his five-second penalty before fitting him with hard tyres to go on the attack. And attack he did, coming from way back of the field to finish in P4. Now on the surface this looks like what is to be expected from the 8 time constructors champion but it’s the way in which this team never gives up and is always there or thereabouts when the flag is waving on the last lap. They are ever so close and primed to catch either Ferrari or Red Bull.
It is now two weeks in a row for Mick being in the points and it seems that he and his team Haas have shed the reputation of being one of worst teams over the years with strong performances this year. Other the last few years, I would argue that Haas had been the laughing stock of the rest with very sub-par performances leading to the American owner getting frustrated with his investment not performing to his standards.
Oh what a difference a year makes! Mick has been on fire over the last two races showing his quality capturing P6, his highest finish in Formula 1. It had been his teammate Kevin Magnussen who was turning in the strong performances at first but
the German has turned it on. So much so that he earned the fan vote of Driver of the Day. It feels like this is the start of many more to come. You can’t help but root for this guy.
Now gear-heads, off to the losers from the weekend!
Ferrari continue like Icarus and fly too close to the sun with similar results to the mythical god. Carlos came into this weekend on a high but again so many times this year, the car was pushed far pasted its limits. As he and his teammates were on the march to secure P1 and P2 relatively easily because their pace was clearly there, Carlos engine blew on a straight resulting in him pull over the course uphill with flames coming out of the back side. Stewards ran over to the car as the driver tried to put the clutch in before catching fire but the car was rolling backwards towards the track leading the imagination to run wild as to what could have happened. This is a major setback as Carlos and Charles were in such good positions throughout the race for only the car to let him down. This is a blown opportunity for the Scuderia as Checo was unable to finish the reach early on.
This was a day to forget from the Frenchman. Starting at P15, nothing was really expected from him but it was shocking how aggressive he was and it resulted in a few contentious moments.
Firstly, when fight for position with Alonso, Pierre squeezed to close to the edge forcing Alonso into the grass. His exploits received a wagging of the finger from the Spaniard. The second incident led to Gasly colliding with Vettel sending him into the gravel and eventually cutting the German’s day short. Terrible driving by Pierre; he just hasn’t been cutting the mustard as of late and with him just signing a new deal at Alpha Tauri we can start to understand why no other team was in for him. It’s been an underwhelming season so far for him.
Every driver who exceeded track limits!
So throughout the race this Sunday it was littered with noted infringements for leaving the track to what felt like 50 or 60 times. I am not sure if it’s the dimensions of the track or just sloppiness from the driver but it was a lot. Leaving the track is not allowed unless forced off but there were a lot of drivers getting dirty from grass or rocks. It was excessive to the point that I thought the announcers would burst into laughter if that had to speak about it again. It was a circus.
Well gear-heads there was a lot to debrief from an action packed weekend. Sprint races just bring an extra element of danger and excitement to qualification. I worry for some of the mid-level teams that have been failing to live up to expectations and I fear for a couple drivers. Firstly, Daniel Ricciardo and his spot being under threat at McLaren. He isn’t doing himself any favours with his performances lately and I suspect that just because he’s a popular figure in the sport is keeping him in his seat but how much longer with Zak Brown (team principal and CEO of McLaren) tolerate this? Lastly, Nicolas Latifi and Williams. It’s no secret that the new owners in Williams have high expectations and are keen on seeing a return on investment which is why the rumours of the team
moving on from Nicolas are building and building. He isn’t helping himself either with his performance being subpar but this is also to be expected from a team that has less financial might then the big three of Red Bull, Ferrari, or Mercedes. This is what makes this sport so interesting on and off the track. The musical chairs of Formula 1 are so vicious, there are literally only 20 seats available and if you are out there’s little chance of you coming back.
Another race weekend in the books and it’s off to France with the French Grand Prix next weekend. What racing upgrades are we going to see? Is the status quo going to be upheld or will we see a gate crashes make a move towards the top and astonish us and dare us to dream?
Until next time gear-heads!