Formula 1 2021 Austrian Grand Prix was held at the Red Bull Ring in the hills of Styria, Austria, a circuit owned by the Red Bull Racing team. This was the ninth round of the 2021 Formula season, and a full race day crowd was allowed to attend the race. It was the 35th running of the Austrian Grand Prix and 34th time as a world championship round.
Max entered the Red Bull Ring as a heavyweight to win the second race at the same circuit and have a chance to win three consecutive Grand Prix races. After a thrashing at the hands of Red Bull in last week's race, Mercedes needed to have a much better race to stop the momentum Red Bull has gained.
Max Starts the Heat at the F1 2021 Austrian Grand Prix with a Pole Position
At the end of Qualifying, Max took yet another pole position. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a Mercedes who nearly snatched the pole from Max but Lando Norris who was behind him by a mere 0.048 sec. Max scored his first career grand slam ahead of Bottas and Norris.
Pre-Race Preparations Thursday
Pirelli brought the three softest tyre compounds for the second race at the Red Bull Ring to add excitement and variation in the race strategies. C3 (White) was the hard tyre, C4 (Yellow) was the medium and C5 (Red) was the soft tyre. This would have an effect on the race since some teams might be more capable of utilising the C5 tyre better than the others.
Max was the quickest driver in the morning session ahead of the two Ferraris (Leclerc and Sainz). Bottas was the lead Mercedes in the P4 position. Mercedes had a much better afternoon and finished 1-2 ahead of Verstappen. Even though Mercedes finished on top, number-crunching still indicated that the Red Bull was the team to beat, especially Max Verstappen. Teams were running different programs; therefore, the timing charts did not present a true picture.
McLaren was again the leading midfield team, but Lando was a slow ninth in the afternoon session. Alpine seemed quite fast in the hands of Fernando Alonso. Ferrari also showed a good race pace and looked like they had a chance for another double point finish on Sunday. Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin looked good enough for minor points.
Max Verstappen was back to the top of the timing charts after a slight dip in speed on Friday afternoon and was half a second clear of the two Mercedes cars. Pierre Gasly was the fourth quickest ahead of a surprise Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi. Sainz was 6th ahead of Perez, Alonso, Leclerc, and Vettel, completing the top 10 drivers ahead of qualifying.
Esteban Ocon was shocked by the session after failing to reach Q2, while Alonso finished P3. As expected, Raikkonen, Mazepin, Schumacher, and Latifi joined him. Max Verstappen was the fastest driver, with McLaren’s Lando Norris behind him.
George Russell was the star of the session after he qualified for Q3 for the first time as Williams’ driver, and that too on medium tyres. Daniel Ricciardo again failed to progress into Q3 and qualified P13 while the car was capable of a front-row start. Ferrari decided to qualify on medium tyres but was knocked out at the end of Q2. Alonso and Giovinazzi could not progress into the last part of qualifying.
Max Verstappen grabbed the provisional pole position ahead of a very quick Lando Norris, and the two Mercedes were within a tenth of the top two drivers. Max Verstappen went out first on the final run and was followed by Lando Norris. Norris set the purple first sector, matched him through the middle sector, and was on target to surprise the F1 world, but an understeer moment in the final corner meant he finished 0.048 sec behind Max and ahead of Perez. The quickest Mercedes was Bottas fourth, Lewis 5th ahead of Gasly, Tsunoda, Vettel, Russell and Stroll.
Sunday Race: Polesitter Verstappen Wins the Race and Snatches the Fastest Lap at the F1 2021 Austrian GP
Verstappen made a good start and maintained his P1 slot ahead of fast starting Lando Norris. Everybody behind made a good start apart from George, who fell to 12th after starting P8. Ocon got sandwiched coming out of Turn 1, and a front right broken suspension put him out of the race, and the safety car was deployed.
On lap 4, the race restarted, and Perez was quick to jump on Lando Norris in the second position. Norris kept his line while going through turn 4, and Perez eventually ran out of the road and into the gravel. He dropped to P10, and Lando was given a 5-second penalty for not leaving space for Perez.
Norris did a great job and kept Lewis behind him until lap 20. He later lost third to Bottas during pit stops due to the penalty he received earlier. Norris was the first of the front-runners to pit on lap 30 and switched to hard tyres. A lap later, Lewis pitted, and Verstappen did the same on the next.
Lewis later picked up damage to the underside of the car after running wide through turn 1 kerbs. He was struggling badly, so the team told Bottas to hold the position.
A few laps later, Mercedes realised that they might lose P2 to fast charging Norris in fourth place, so they switched the two drivers on lap 52. However, Norris overtook Lewis on the next lap and back into P3. After the first pit stops, Leclerc was much quicker than Perez and tried to overtake him on two different occasions. Perez ran him wide on both occasions and received two 5-second penalties.
Sainz was on a different strategy, pitted on lap 50 to switch from hard to medium tyres and was on a charge through the midfield cars. Ricciardo was up to P6 after starting from a lowly P13 position. Meanwhile, Perez was running 5th but with two penalties. Sainz managed to overtake Ricciardo for P6 a couple of laps before the end of the race.
At the front, Verstappen made a second stop for fresh tyres to score an extra point for the fastest lap. He won his first-ever career grand slam ahead of the Mercedes of Bottas and Lando Norris. Lewis finished a distant fourth ahead of Sainz, Perez, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly and Alonso.
F1 2021 British Grand Prix
The teams head back to England, where most of the teams have their factories. It will be the first of three races of the 2021 season where F1 will race with a new Sprint Qualifying race format.
Watch out for our special info article explaining the new F1 sprint qualifying and how it works – coming up this week!
Farruk N Kiani