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Assessing The Grid – 2021 Austrian Grand Prix

5 Mins read
Credit: Red Bull Racing Content Pool

The Austrian Grand Prix produced a comfortable win for Max Verstappen as he recorded his third consecutive win and extended his lead at the top of the 2021 FIA World Drivers’ Championship.

Lando Norris took another step forward in a stellar season as he clinched his third podium of the season. There was more frantic action in the midfield at the ninth race of the season at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Top of the class…

Max Verstappen – Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.270s | Race margin to team-mate: -57.915s

Max Verstappen had a race weekend he could savour for the second week in a row at the Red Bull Ring circuit. The Dutchman in front of a sea of fans clad in orange simply ran away with the race victory.

Verstappen was not happy with his pole lap and was almost eclipsed by the final flying lap of Norris. But after that he simply sailed to his fifth win of the season. It was his first grand slam win with pole position, all laps lead, fastest lap and the win.

Verstappen has now extended his lead in the drivers’ championship to thirty-two points over Lewis Hamilton and seems unbeatable at the moment.

Lando Norris – McLaren F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.304s (Q2) | Race margin to team-mate: -40.376s

Lando Norris is having a stellar season and sits in fourth position in the drivers’ championship. The young Briton has simply obliterated his experienced team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the intra-team rivalry.

In a stunning flying lap he fell short of Verstappen’s pole lap by just 0.048 seconds. In the race he held his own against Hamilton until lap 19.

If not for a harsh 5-seconds penalty for his tough wheel-to-wheel battle with Sergio Pérez, the young Briton could have taken second position.

Norris is regularly competing with the drivers of the two lead teams and in this race eclipsed the Mercedes drivers in qualification.

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes AMG Petronas Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.035s | Race margin to team-mate: -28.479s

Valtteri Bottas finished in a creditable second position on merit in the race. This was the first time since the season started that the Finn finished ahead of Hamilton in a point scoring position.

Bottas has struggled in the races and has also been dogged by bad luck as with the pit stop mishap in Monaco. He is under immense pressure to retain his drive for 2022.

Races like this with a struggling Mercedes team could help him stay in contention for a drive next season.

Fernando Alonso – Alpine Renault F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.579s (Q1) | Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Fernando Alonso has outqualified his young team-mate in recent races and has been at his combative best. The Spaniard seemed to be on his way to another top 10 position in qualification before he was impeded by Sebastian Vettel in qualification.

In the race, after starting in fourteenth position he worked his way up the grid. In the end he was engaged in an almighty tussle with George Russell to clinch tenth position and the final solitary point.

The veteran driver has lost none of his appetite to race hard and is finally coming to terms with the car and the Pirelli tyres.

Homework to do…

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.035s | Race margin to team-mate: +28.479s

Lewis Hamilton qualified in fourth position and finished in the same position in the race. The Briton was running in second position when floor damage led to a loss of downforce and he had to be content with fourth position.

In the early part of the season, Hamilton was able to extract maximum performance from the W12 and manage three wins in the first four races. But he has been winless in the last five races.

The RBR16B has taken a decisive step in performance in the last three races and Verstappen has outclassed the reigning world champion.

Hamilton trails by 32-points in the drivers’ championship and is up against a faster car and a rock solid rival. Can he fight back from this position in the next race at the British Grand Prix in front of his adoring home crowd?

Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin F1 Cognizant Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.048s | Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Sebastian Vettel has fought back after a miserable start to the season. The German qualified in eighth position but started in eleventh position after a three-place grid penalty.

Vettel was unaware of Alonso behind him on his flying lap even as he was stuck behind a queue of cars in the dying minutes of the second qualification session.

The penalty put Vettel in eleventh position on the soft compound tyres and he never recovered from there. In the final lap, as he was running outside the points a collision with Kimi Räikkönen ended his race. A race to forget and more work to do for Vettel.

Sergio Pérez – Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.270s | Race margin to team-mate: +57.915s

Sergio Pérez qualified well in third position after being off the pace in the practice sessions. The Mexican has a good start and was engaged in a hard duel with Norris for second position.

In the duel, Pérez fell to tenth position as he went off the track and into the gravel as he tried to overtake Norris on the outside. In further duels with Charles Leclerc, the Mexican received two 5-second penalties for forcing another driver off the track.

With patience, Pérez could have finished on the podium instead of sixth position.

Esteban Ocon – Alpine Renault F1 team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.579s (Q1) | Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Esteban Ocon has endured a miserable run since he signed a long term contract with the Alpine F1 Team. At his home race in France, he was outqualified and outraced by team-mate Alonso.

In both races at the Red Bull Ring, the same pattern has followed. The Frenchman has not scored a point in the last four races.

In contrast, Alonso has scored points in all four races. Ocon needs to turn around his form quickly or he will be eclipsed by the wily veteran Alonso.

The rest…

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc after qualifying outside the top ten positions recovered to finish in fifth and eighth positions respectively. Daniel Ricciardo after another miserable qualification recovered in the race to finish in seventh position.

Pierre Gasly finished in ninth position even as team-mate Yuki Tsunoda threw away points with an unnecessary penalty for pit lane entry violation.

George Russell after another stellar weekend for the Williams Racing Team was edged by Alonso in the final laps and lost out on scoring points for his team.

The Uralkali Haas F1 Team, Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN team, Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, Williams Racing F1 team endured through a pointless race.

All the teams will assemble for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in two weeks time (July 16-18 2021)

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