Strategy games, Ferrari response and potential racing drama – 5 reasons we’re excited about the Styrian GP
After a thrilling battle for victory that unfolded until the penultimate lap at Paul Ricard, we don’t have long to wait for more excitement as the paddock heads straight to Austria for two more races. Here are some things that we are looking forward to for the next round of the Red Bull Ringâ¦
1. Dramatic race
A lot has happened in the past 12 months, and this weekend we return to the site that revived Formula 1 after the COVID-19 pandemic, with a familiar feel for the races ahead. Just like last year, there will be two consecutive weekends on the same track – the first time this has happened this season – and that’s not a bad thing.
On both occasions in 2020 we saw some drama and excitement in Austria, with the final laps often seeing something special.
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The first race saw late contact between Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon inflicting a time penalty on the defending champion and leaving him vulnerable, with Valtteri Bottas winning, Charles Leclerc being promoted to second surprise and Lando Norris completing the fastest lap in the world. the race in the final. lap to propel Hamilton to third place.
Although Hamilton responded with a superb lap in the wet to clinch pole in race two and secure the victory, another remarkable finish followed when Sergio Perez hit Albon fighting for fourth place, smashed his front wing and Norris passed Daniel Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, then Perez in the last corner to take fifth place.
WATCH: Enjoy Lando Norris’ incredible P8 to P5 charge in the last two laps of the Styrian GP
More of the same, please.
2. Mercedes vs. Red Bull strategy game
Red Bull arrives for its home race with confidence after winning the last three races, with Max Verstappen victorious in Monaco and France and Perez in Azerbaijan. These were three different victories, but this last one is the one that interests us the most.
That’s because Paul Ricard saw Red Bull turn the tide on Mercedes, learning from recent defeats in Hungary (2019) and Spain this year to deliver what Christian Horner called a ‘payback’. Verstappen opted for the two-stop strategy despite relinquishing the lead, and stumbled in Hamilton as Mercedes seemed to have the wrong strategy in the first set of stops.
Red Bull may have won the last battle, but Mercedes came out on top in Bahrain earlier this year when Verstappen had a faster car, and in such a close fight between the top two teams, the strategic aspect becomes more in addition crucial.
3. Ferrari’s response
After consecutive pole positions for Charles Leclerc in Monaco and Baku, it was down to earth with a bump for Ferrari after having really struggled in France.
There was really no sign of what was to come when Carlos Sainz qualified fifth and Leclerc seventh on Saturday, as both predicted they could no longer threaten for pole but still ensured they were leading. the midfielder. It didn’t last long on Sunday as the tire issues made them go away and the two ended up out of the points.
READ MORE: Ferrari has always struggled at Paul Ricard – and here’s why
It was the front tires that particularly hurt Ferrari in France, so the lack of long and fast corners in Austria could play more on their strengths, but they will be worried how hard they suddenly struggled because even the testing of the Friday at Paul Ricard looked good for the team.
Ferrari thinks they have a particularly small performance window with the Pirelli tires on their car, and with three races in a row they don’t have much time to figure out how to fix it.
4. More than two teams fighting for pole
But if Ferrari can find a solution for Austria, they could aim particularly high on Saturday. That’s because 2021 saw the midfielder move closer to the top two teams, and this was especially evident in qualifying.
Norris looked like a pole threat for McLaren at Imola, while Leclerc duly took the two back-to-back poles we mentioned on city circuits, where low speed corners and traction were crucial. In Austria it’s a slightly similar picture, with long straights and a few medium to low speed corners to manage, although there are a few sections faster than those seen on a temporary track.
READ MORE: 6 French GP winners and 5 losers – Who brought their A-game to Paul Ricard?
Alpine has also been quick in qualifying at times in places like Portimao and Spain, and AlphaTauri also tends to be in the mix with Pierre Gasly threatening to take pole in Baku.
Considering the short round in Austria, there’s a good chance Mercedes and Red Bull will keep an eye on the other teams in qualifying, and predicting the top 10 on the grid this weekend seems more difficult than ever.
5. Chances for Williams and Haas
If you add all of the above together you can see that the potential for drama in Austria is even higher than last year, when we saw a remarkable opening race that only had 11 finishers. And in 11th place was Nicholas Latifi for Williams.
It turned out as close as Williams would come to scoring points last year, but this season they’re more competitive and George Russell’s 12th in France brought them back to Haas in ninth in the Constructors’ Championship.
READ MORE: Russell says French Grand Prix was “best race I have ever had with Williams”
Russell was actually frustrated that such a performance came in a race without quitting, but it’s a sign of Williams’ strength.
They probably can’t count on as many retirements in Austria this year as they did last year – the opening race of a season tends to see a higher attrition rate – but they won’t. maybe not needed considering their recent performance.
And Haas will love his chances, too. Fewer turns and more straights should bring them a bit closer to the rest of the midfield, and Mick Schumacher was particularly quick in qualifying in France, reaching Q2, although he was helped by his own crash at the end. of Q1.
Guenther Steiner sees Russell’s performance in the last race as a source of motivation for Haas as it shows the opportunities that can present themselves for the slower teams, and they clinched 12th and 13th place in the second race. of the Red Bull Ring last year. They might have some rookies in the car this year, but back-to-back events on the same circuit should help their development and improve their chances as well.