Sunday Standouts: Styrian Standoffs
The hills are alive with the roar of V6s as the F1 circus charges around the Red Bull Ring for the next two weeks. After the cancellation of Turkey (which will now be replacing the Singapore Grand Prix in October), the Styrian Grand Prix was added back to the calendar to form a double weekend in Austria. As Red Bull’s home race, team boss Christian Horner will be delighted as Max Verstappen stormed to victory with a lights-to-flag drive that Mercedes simply could not challenge. This will be Verstappen’s 14th win, and the championship tides truly seem to have changed in favour of the Bulls. On the other hand, some of the other drivers felt nowhere near the same satisfaction after the race. Here are the 5 wins and 3 misses of the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix.
————— Wins —————
5. Lance Stroll
Stroll seemed stoked as he finished his race last Sunday in P8. The Canadian would be pleased with this result as he scored points again, gaining one net position from his 9th during qualifying. Stroll actually had a great first lap, even passing Fernando Alonso for 6th. He also claimed to feel “a lot of confidence behind the wheel” of his AMR21, and it shows. Stroll will be looking to stay in the top 10 as he has seemed to fare better on average than teammate Sebastian Vettel. (though he lags behind by 16 points in the standings) This will be his 3rd P8 finish of the season, the highest he has placed all year, but can he place any higher in the Aston Martin, regarded as possibly the 5th to 6th best car on the grid?
4. Carlos Sainz
When Sainz went for his post-race interview, he likened the pace of the SF21 to the Red Bulls. After a great overcut from Ferrari and Sainz, he had the opportunity to catch up to Lando Norris if not for his position behind Lewis Hamilton when he came out of the pits. Hamilton let Sainz unlap himself in the late stages of the race, but by then Sainz had worn through his tyres a little too much to charge. But this was a great effort to put the Spaniard in the points from a slightly disappointing P12 in qualifying, and he will be pleased with this haul and the slowly shrinking gap in the drivers championship to other Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.
3. Valtteri Bottas
Bottas is back on the podium after three races, which will surely come as a relief to him. The Mercedes driver will need to be on his best form for the rest of the season, especially after Lewis Hamilton’s two-year contract extension was just announced. Bottas actually had a good qualifying last Saturday when he completed the front row aside Verstappen’s pole, but a 3-place grid drop penalty for spinning in the pit lane - deemed “quite harsh” by the Finn - mean that he would start fifth. Despite that he was able to overtake Perez and Norris to comfortably take 3rd, and we will see if he can give a repeat performance in the Austrian Grand Prix.
2. Charles Leclerc
This has to be one of Leclerc’s best recovery drives in his career. The first corner saw him and Pierre Gasly collide, sending the latter back to the pits with suspension damage. Leclerc was able to get back out on track with a new front wing and hard tyres, and proceeded to fight his way from P18 to P7. Despite that Lap 1 blunder, fans awarded him with Driver of the Day, and perhaps he could have scored even more points had he not collided with Gasly. Leclerc will be eager for a do-over next week and we shall be on the edge of our seats waiting.
1. Lando Norris
The Brit is truly on a roll this season, not only racking up another P5 finish but qualifying 4th (and starting 3rd) on the grid with a supreme effort. He has been on spectacular form so far, outperforming race-winning teammate Daniel Ricciardo with his two extra years of experience with McLaren. Norris put up a bit of a fight against the faster Mercedes and Red Bull cars of bottas and Sergio Perez, but after that ran an uneventful race in 5th. With the straight line speed of the McLaren, Norris could very well clinch a second podium around the Red Bull Ring.
————— Misses —————
3. Esteban Ocon
Ocon had a brilliant start to the season, but has since seemed to drop back against teammate Fernando Alonso. He hasn’t scored a single point in the last three races, and will be hungry to achieve anything next week in the last race of the triple header. One problem he’s had is in qualifying pace, and he even failed to make it into Q2 this week. The Frenchman has deemed his performance “not acceptable” and that he and the team “need to regroup, keep analysing, keep seeing what’s going on.” Hopefully the Austrian Grand Prix will be a breath of fresh air for Ocon after that dismal period of 0 points.
2. Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly has been stellar the past few races, especially on qualifying day. The Frenchman started sixth on Sunday, but found his race cut much shorter than expected as he gained a puncture from Ferrari’s Leclerc when they came back onto the track after typical Turn 1 chaos. Viewers watched on anxiously as the Alpha Tauri limped back to the pits, but ultimately broken suspension meant that Gasly’s run ended after a single lap, and so did his points-scoring streak of six races.
1. George Russell
Everyone cheered for Russell as he got to start 10th on Sunday - at the expense of Yuki Tsunoda - and even more so when he was somehow solid in 8th. But heartbreak came again for the Briton as he was forced to retire with a mechanical issue. This was as close to a perfect weekend as Russell could have gotten apart from that power unit issue, and as he said in his post-race interview, “I was driving my heart out, driving as fast as I could.” There is hope for Russell however, as the drivers will take on the same track albeit with differing tyre compounds. Russell has shown himself as an opportunistic driver, especially with his talent in qualifying. Fans will have their fingers crossed as we return to the Red Bull Ring, but there will be no guarantees. As Russell said, ‘Racing is just brutal… it’s not meant to be easy.”
That is it for my Sunday Standouts for the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix, if you enjoyed it share it on Twitter! This a regular series for the 2021 season, so make sure follow my Twitter @castorscorner to stay updated!