F1 – Austrian GP – Race
Hallo, MiniFans! It’s the second race weekend hosted by the Red Bull Ring in two weeks and, so far, the script followed has mostly been the same. However, racing at the same track doesn’t mean the conditions will be the same. Will Verstappen repeat his win in front of a crowd that’s devoted to him? Let’s find out!
Softer compounds meant no one wanted the softs for the race, so most of those who could choose went with mediums and both Sainz and Raikkonen chose the hards to kick off with. A very clean start saw Pérez defending hard from Hamilton, but the race was very soon halted by a safety car. Ocon saw himself sandwiched between Schumacher and Giovinazzi in turn 3, ending the Alpine driver’s race. The restart prompted a battle between Norris and Pérez from which the former came out on top, as Pérez touched the gravel and needed to slow down in order not to lose control of his car in the outside of the track. Bottas was briefly in front of Hamilton, but he quickly regained his position to start getting close to Norris. A five-second penalty came out for Giovinazzi, not due to the collision, but rather overtaking under safety car. By this point, Russell and Sainz had gotten themselves out of the top ten, while Vettel and Ricciardo had lunched themselves in.
The incident between Norris and Pérez was finally investigated and the four cars in softs started dripping into the pits for either mediums or hards. Pérez was providing the most show, as he was climbing back up the ladder, but having a bit of a hard time doing so. When Hamilton finally overtook Norris, with a bit of praise for his fellow Brit on radio, Norris got handed five seconds for forcing Pérez off the track. Yet another five seconds were awarded to Tsunoda, this time for crossing the pit lane entry line. Once Stroll made his way into the pits, the midfield started to stretch itself, finally free of the slower car.
Ricciardo kicked off the stops for hards for those who had started on mediums, and Norris served his penalty in his visit, getting overtaken by Bottas in the process. Halfway through the race, only Sainz and Raikkonen, who had started with the white tyres, hadn’t stopped. The only battles were now in the midfield, as the top places were pretty much settled and with big enough gaps not to overtake. Egged on by his engineer, Ricciardo attacked Gasly relentlessly, trying to get rid of the Frenchman until he finally pitted, while Pérez engaged in a battle with Leclerc that cost him a five-second penalty for doing a similar action to the one he had suffered in the first lap.
Back at the front, Bottas was almost glued to Hamilton’s car, who seemed to be giving his all but it still not being enough. Ricciardo, now on clean air, began his hunt for Sainz, who was yet to pit, while Pérez and Leclerc had another incident, similar to the previous ones. Bottas got instructed not to overtake Hamilton, but McLaren quickly picked on the message and relayed it to Norris. Sainz finally pitted, fitting his car with medium tyres and becoming one of the fastest cars on track. A couple of laps later, Bottas was finally allowed to race Hamilton, but not exchange positions, until another handful of laps later it was finally confirmed the teammates were to do so.
Aerodynamics and tyres seemed to be the reason why Hamilton couldn’t match Bottas’ pace, so once Norris passed by him as if they were from two completely different classes, he went in boxes to get a brand-new set of hard tyres, having enough of a gap not to lose his position. A few more five-second penalties were handed out, including yet another one to Pérez for the same kind of incident with the same driver as the first penalty. Verstappen was so far away from everyone else at this point that he had a free stop. Red Bull took advantage of it to give him a fresh set of hard tyres in order to ensure he’d get the fastest lap and the extra point that comes with it. The last laps had all eyes focused in the battle between Ricciardo and Sainz, who had been allowed to go past by Leclerc in order to give it a try. Way behind them, Alonso finally overtook Russell, snatching the last point away from him once again. It was in the last lap that the young Spaniard copied his idol, overtaking Ricciardo and keeping his pace up to keep the gap to Pérez under ten seconds and take advantage of the Mexican’s ten seconds’ worth of penalties. A surprise yellow flag in that last lap was later shown to have been a collision between Raikkonen and Vettel, only broadcasted after Verstappen had crossed the finish line in first place.
They say history repeats itself and Formula 1 is no exception to it. Or, at least, Max Verstappen’s domineering hand in the Red Bull Ring in 2021, where even losing his teammate’s support doesn’t mean he won’t be able to command the race with an iron fist. He now leads the championship with more than a race’s worth of points over Hamilton, who has started to sound legitimately desperate on radio. It’s the fifth consecutive race win for Red Bull this season but it certainly won’t be the last.