A Casual Sunday Drive for Verstappen! F1 2021 Season Review: Austria
Max Verstappen cruised to victory at the recent Austrian Grand Prix.
Welcome back to (a slightly delayed) F1 2021 season review! Max Verstappen recently won the second Grand Prix held in Austria this year, extending his championship lead to 32 points ahead of Mercedes rival, Lewis Hamilton and this article is going to show exactly what unfolded during the race weekend. Let's get started with qualifying:
Starting out with Q1, it was another disappointing weekend for Esteban Ocon, who once again would see him fail to make it through to Q2 in his Alpine car. The Frenchman would start in 17th place, alongside Kimi Raikkonen who was also knocked out for finishing in 16th place. Latifi would line up behind Ocon in 18th place, followed by Schumacher in 19th and Mazepin in 20th place.
Q2 was a disaster for a handful of drivers, who really should have made it through to the final session. The two Ferrari drivers of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were amongst this handful, who were unable to extract the most out of their car and only qualify 11th and 12th respectively - with the former being only six-thousandths of a second short of tenth place. It was also a disappointing session for Daniel Ricciardo, who would qualify behind the Ferraris in 13th. It seems Ricciardo still isn't totally there with his McLaren car, and needs to work on his qualifying pace.
Fernando Alonso would only finish in 14th place after a communication issue on Vettel's radio saw the Spaniard get held up by the Aston Martin driver. Alonso would have likely made it through to the final session if he didn't get held up at the final corner. Antonio Giovinazzi would set the slowest time of Q2, starting in fifteenth, while George Russell made it through to Q3 for Williams!
The third and final session of qualifying would see Max Verstappen take pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix by half-a -tenth to the second place man, Lando Norris. The McLaren driver put a phenomenal effort to put his papaya-coloured car onto the front row in what was a very strong lap for the Briton. Sergio Perez would beat both Mercedes drivers to third place, while Hamilton and Bottas would only set times good enough for fourth and fifth respectively. The Alpha Tauri duo of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda would start sixth and seventh in what was a strong start for them, followed by Vettel in eighth, Russell in ninth and Lance Stroll in tenth.
Now that we are all caught up with qualifying, let's move on to the race!
As the five red lights went out for the Austrian Grand Prix, it was a clean start for the field as Verstappen retains the lead into Turn 1, and Perez holds off Hamilton, who was having a little look at taking third place. On the run up the hill, Pierre Gasly draws along the outside of Valtteri Bottas, but is unable to make the move stick at the slow Turn 3 right-hander.
Hamilton tucks into the slipstream of Sergio Perez and attempts a move around the outside of Turn 4, but the Mexican uses as much road as possible and is able to keep the position. The Safety Car is deployed shortly after as a result of Ocon being squeezed at the back of the field and pulling over as a result of suspension damage.
The Safety Car pits at the end of lap 3 and Perez gets a good run on Norris on the pit-straight, and runs off the track at Turn 1 following some aggressive defending. Perez remains alongside Norris on the run up the hill and pulls to the outside to try and make the move. Hamilton tucks into Norris' slipstream while Bottas uses that of Perez's, though the Finn is able to gain a position on his teammate as a result of taking a faster line through the corner.
Perez starts another attack on Norris on the back straight and attempts a move around the outside of Norris going into Turn 4, which resulted in the Red Bull driver being forced into the gravel in a very similar way to the Hamilton and Albon clash twelve months ago. While Perez didn't spin and was able to re-join the track in tenth, Norris received a five second penalty for the incident, which he served at his first pitstop. Giovinazzi also receives a five second penalty for overtaking before the Safety Car line at the restart.
Hamilton, who was promoted to third following Perez's trip into the gravel causing Bottas to slow down, starts attacking Norris, but struggles to find a way past. The McLaren driver's car was set up to be fast on the straights, and Norris would always get a better exit from the corners before straights, preventing Hamilton from being able to move. Hamilton finally dives down the inside of Norris at Turn 4 to take second place on lap 20, but found himself a long way behind Verstappen, who was consistently setting fastest laps and pulling away.
Hamilton also complimented Norris on the radio after his move, saying "He's such a great driver, Lando" following his ten lap battle to take second place.
The drivers on the Soft tyres started to pit around lap 18, with Tsunoda and Vettel pitting in this window. Tsunoda would receive a five second penalty for crossing the white line on pit entry for his stop.
On lap 30, Daniel Ricciardo pits to exchange his set of Medium tyres for a set of Hards, and McLaren opt to pit Norris a lap later to serve his penalty too. Bottas was ordered to follow Norris into the pits as he was guaranteed to jump the Briton during his slow stop. Both drivers would fit the Hard tyre, while Hamilton would make the same stop a lap later, followed by Verstappen and Perez on lap 33.
Charles Leclerc pits on lap 35 and emerges behind Sergio Perez, who he started to apply pressure to. On lap 42, Leclerc tries a move around the outside the Red Bull driver, but is forced into the gravel much like Perez was on lap one. Perez received a five second penalty for this, but would receive another when pushing Leclerc into the gravel a second time at Turn 7 on lap 47 of 71.
On lap 47, Bottas is asked to hold position and let Hamilton remain in second, while Verstappen takes off into the distance. This was likely a result of trying to protect the second and third place positions from Norris, who was catching up. It was also made clear that Hamilton had damage at the rear of his car due to track limits at Turn 9, meaning he was losing a lot of time.
Four laps later, Bottas is told he is free to race his teammate as Mercedes come up with an alternative strategy for the seven-time world champion. Bottas makes a move on Hamilton on lap 53, with the latter not putting up much of a fight, while Norris makes a quick move down the inside of Turn 6 a lap later.
Hamilton, after being overtaken by Norris, instantly pits for a second set of Hard tyres to take him to the end of the race. The number 44 driver would remain in a rather lonely fourth for the rest of the race, while Norris attempted to catch Bottas for second place. Stroll also receives a five second penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
On lap 66, Ferrari order Leclerc to let Sainz past to help try and make a move on Ricciardo for sixth place. On top of this, Alonso is rapidly catching Russell for the final points paying position. Sainz is able to make his way past Ricciardo on the penultimate lap of the race, while Alonso passes Russell on lap 67. It was once again another fantastic performance by Russell to almost score his first points for Williams, but it was not to be. Furthermore, it was a great effort by Ricciardo to bring his McLaren from thirteenth place to seventh.
On the final lap of the race, while Verstappen is crossing the line to take his fourth consecutive win, there is contact in the middle sector between Raikkonen and Vettel, with the Alfa Romeo driver catching the back wheel of the German and spinning the pair into the gravel and dropping them down the order.
You can see the full race results below:
Overall, I would rate the Austrian Grand Prix a seven out of ten. While there wasn't the fight for the lead we were hoping to see, it was great to see Norris bringing the fight to the front of the field! What did you think of the Austrian Grand Prix? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
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