The 2019 Austrian Grand Prix, officially called Formula One Großer Preis von Österreich 2019, proved to be the shot in the arm that F1 needed to dispel the seeming monotony that has recently enveloped the race. The aggressive driving style of Max Verstappen on Red Bull’s high-speed home track ended Mercedes’ unbeaten streak and the spectators’ boredom.
On June 30, 2019, Max Verstappen made a repeat victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, which he also won in 2018 by beating Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. This time, he won over another Ferrari flag bearer Charles Leclerc who, for the most part of the race, looked like victory belonged to him. This round is the 33rd running of the Austrian GP since 1963 and the 32nd time that it has been a part of the FIA Formula One World Championship.
The game-changing race circuit
The host race circuit—the Red Bull Ring—seemed the fitting setting for the exciting turn of events that favoured the Red Bull team in the 9th round of F1, which consists of 71 laps. The heart-pumping circuit, which is also called Österreichring is set below the scenic Styrian Mountains in Spielberg, Austria. It is a 2.683-mile course consisting of three fast and flowing long straight sections, alternating uphill and downhill terrains, and a series of ten turns including high-speed tight corners.
The original Österreichring was longer and considered very dangerous. The track had since been shortened and redesigned though still retaining its challenging and tyre-punishing quality. It is worth noting that the first turn of the circuit was named Niki Lauda Kurve, after Austria’s three-time world champion who died in May this year.
The fastest lap recorded for this track was set at 1:06.957 by Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen in 2018. The power-sensitive Red Bull Ring would normally benefit Ferrari and Mercedes. Ironically, Ferrari has not won a single race since the return of the Austrian Grand Prix to the F1 calendar in 2014. Mercedes won all first four races from 2014 to 2017, but was thwarted by Red Bull in 2018 and this current race (2019).
Fastest qualifier and pole sitter
Leclerc registered the fastest qualifying time, clocking 1:03.003 in Q3. Lewis Hamilton was the second fastest but had to drop two places behind due to a penalty. This gave way to Verstappen who got the outer front row position and Bottas who got the inner second row. Hamilton started from the outer position of the second row. Vettel’s car suffered from an air pressure issue in Q3 and, as a result, he only qualified for the 10th position.
Grid penalties have shaken up the qualifying rounds, which pushed Hamilton to 4th, Magnussen to 10th, and Vettel to 9th.
How the race unfolded in the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix
This round had clearly been a gripping race between the F1 young blood—Leclerc and Verstappen—both 21 years old. Let’s see how the race unfolded.
- Leclerc was in top form in the qualifying rounds and grabbed the pole with his outstanding performance. He was flanked by Verstappen and Bottas on the grid. Thousands of the orange-clad spectators had bold V E R S T A P P E and N letters emblazoned on their shirts to make sure that everyone knew who they were rooting for.
- Pirelli said that the ultimate strategy for the 71-lap grand prix would be a one-stopper, starting from a medium-compound tyre for 14-20 laps and then changing to hard tyres until the finish. Verstappen, started on medium (same with the Silver Arrows), while Leclerc (and Vettel) started on soft.
- Leclerc sped away clean. Verstappen started poorly, falling from 2nd on the grid to 7th in Lap 1 with Bottas, Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen, Norris, Vettel, and speeding past him.
- In Lap 6, Vettel overtook Norris and Räikkönen.
- In Lap 7, Verstappen came from behind, overtaking Norris. He continued to charge forward to overtake the Finn and succeeded in Lap 10.
- At this point, the Dutchman only has the two Ferraris and two Mercedes cars before him. He set a fast lap in Lap 17, closing in on Vettel.
- Lap 22 is pit time for Bottas and Vettel, leaving Leclerc, Hamilton, and Verstappen in the first three. Bottas rejoined in the 4th position, while Vettel rejoined in the 8th position race with Norris and Räikkönen before him.
- It is Leclerc’s turn for a pit stop in Lap 23, rejoining later behind Hamilton and Verstappen.
- In Lap 28, both Hamilton and Verstappen have not pitted yet, overextending their medium tyres. The Briton radioed to report a loss of downforce due to a damaged front wing and pulled in for an 11-sec stop.
- Verstappen pitted in Lap 32, rejoining with Vettel in the lead and Hamilton behind him.
- Leclerc regained lead in Lap 33, followed by Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen, and Hamilton. This sequence held until Lap 43, with the gap widening between the Dutchman and the Briton in fourth and fifth.
- Verstappen closed in on Vettel by setting another fast lap in Lap 44. Lap 47 was game time for the Red Bull, with the Ferrari putting up a solid defense on the straight section.
- In Lap 50, the Red Bull car drove the orange crowd wild with its commanding maneuver in Turn 3 as he overtook the German out of the podium.
- Verstappen’s momentum brought him 1.1s behind Bottas in Lap 53, but tension built up in Lap 55 as the Dutchman radioed that he was losing power.
- Power issues notwithstanding, Verstappen overtook the Finn at Turn 3 of Lap 56, which once again went in favour of the crowd’s favourite.
- The laps that followed were the battleground for the Monégasque and the Dutchman. It must be noted that the Red Bull car had tyres that were fresher by 9 laps than the Ferrari’s, and thus could take things harder.
- Verstappen knew the Red Bull car’s strength and once again used Turn 3 to his advantage. He stole the lead from the Ferrari in Lap 69, mounting his attack with fresher tyres, pushing Leclerc wide, and leaving him no room to take his place back.
- The Red Bull car maintained the lead up to the gripping final lap, finishing with the second win in a row in his team’s home race.
Three-hour inquiry followed exhilarating race
Once again, the Austrian Grand Prix eluded the Ferrari team though for a moment it looked like the young and fearless Monégasque succeeded in converting his pole position to a race victory. After the exhilarating race, a question was raised on Verstappen’s last maneouvre which had the wheels of the two cars touching. This prompted an FIA inquiry, and an investigation was conducted.
After three hours, a decision was made—it cleared out the issue, stating that it was a racing incident and neither driver was to blame. FIA confirmed Red Bull’s amazing win. Verstappen’s orange army went wild. It’s the Red Bull’s first win and the first race not won by Mercedes for this season.
Sadly for Ferrari, it’s the second time for Leclerc to see victory snatched from him in the final laps, the first time being the loss in Bahrain. As in all his races—both won and lost—the Monégasque has gained the admiration and respect of F1 followers for his professionalism and incredible maturity.
Final results of the Austrian GP, top 5
This race was well-fought, not only for the podium winners but also for the other racers, as well. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi won his first career points in F1 after winning 10th place. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Jr. won 8th place from his 19th grid position and Verstappen’s teammate, Pierre Gasly, won 7th place starting from 8th on the grid. The matrix below shows the top 5 result.
Team and Number
Red Bull, #33
Championship standings before and after the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix
Verstappen won a hallmark win, but did it change the bigger picture? Let’s see the top 5 championship standings.
Team and Number
Points before the 2019 F1 Austrian GP
Points after the 2019 Austrian GP
Red Bull, #33
Red Bull has stepped up their game, but will they be able to sustain it?
This was a solid performance from the young Dutchman, no doubt. It marked his 6th career win and 2nd consecutive victory in the Austrian GP. It’s an even more important win for the Red Bull constructor, this being their first win after partnering with Honda this year. Will Verstappen’s fire and Red Bull-Honda’s new partnership be able to sustain this initial success?
Red Bull advisor Dr. Helmut Marko believes that Verstappen drove sensationally and sees him winning more races for F1 2019. He also banks on Mercedes committing more mistakes when pressured properly. Many are skeptical, but like Marko said, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Verstappen snatching the title from Hamilton. With his experience and 12 races still ahead, who can question that confidence? Stay tuned and visit Carpart.com.au regularly for the latest in Formula One!
By Patrick Lumontod