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Styrian grand prix – weekend preview

Just one week on from the surprisingly tense French Grand Prix, Formula One embarks on round two of its triple-header as it descends into the idyllic Styrian mountains of Austria for the Styrian Grand Prix. Part one of an Austrian double-header, what can fans look forward to this weekend?

Written by Aiden Hover, Edited by Andrea Teo

The RedBull Ring is one of Herman Tilke’s most loved track designs as he was tasked with turning the overly excessive Osterreichring into what was known as the A1 Ring in 1996. At first, criticised for removing the fan favourite west loop – a series of fast-flowing corners that always challenged the drivers – the new stop/start slower track has proven to provide some incredible racing even in its modern era as the RedBull Ring. Last year’s pole lap of 1:19.273 was set by Sir Lewis Hamilton in the pouring rain and with the weather forecast currently predicting rain this year, we may bear witness once again to some seriously impressive driving. The seven-time champion out-qualified the pack by a whopping 1.2 seconds around the high speed 4.318km track!

Back in 2001, after a 15 lap battle for the lead, Juan Pablo Montoya locked up and ran into the side of the overtaking Michael Schumacher at turn 3, taking both drivers off track and ruining their chances at a win. Schumacher did, however, fight back to third following an impressive drive but was controversially gifted second as his teammate, Rubens Barrichello, was ordered to let him through at the line behind McLaren’s David Coulthard. The following year, Ferrari would use team orders yet again – only this time it denied Barrichello a win as he was ordered to let his German teammate through on the last corner of the last lap. Thousands of disappointed fans began to boo as they understandably felt cheated out of a true race of which the young Brazilian should have won. 

Turn 3 became a subject of controversy once again in 2016 as title rivals, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, came together in a similar fashion to 2001. Rosberg turned as late as he possibly could to force the Brit off the track, but in doing so, destroyed his own front wing. This allowed Hamilton to limp around the remaining three-quarters of the last lap to win whilst Rosberg fell out of the podium places. More recently, in 2019, fans witnessed the coming of age of two young stars as their first taste of Formula One rivalry came to the forefront. Max Verstappen, following a terrible get away from the line, fought back through the field into the podium places. He now just had to chase down long time race leader Charles Leclerc. With time running out, Verstappen made an optimistic lunge on his opponent which was successfully defended by the Monegasque into turn four as the pair ran wheel to wheel down the hill. One lap later, Verstappen charged up the inside of turn 3 banging wheels with the Ferrari ahead as he barged his way through before going on to win the race. How are the teams looking heading into this weekend?

The entire Red Bull team will be confident heading into the first of many home races this year (seeing as it’s an Austrian team based in the United Kingdom with a Japanese engine) following an incredible double podium in France. Verstappen drove impressively to overtake Lewis Hamilton for the win on the second to last lap whilst Perez shadowed his teammate’s pace, overtaking Valtteri Bottas for third place. Mercedes lost out to their title rivals in strategy as both Hamilton and Bottas drove flawlessly to keep their one-stop hard tyres alive as long as they could – they just proved no match for the two-stopping Red Bulls. Both Mercedes drivers were frustrated following the race and tensions within the team must certainly be high.

McLaren, whilst not overly strong in qualifying, showed incredible race pace with both drivers managing to keep their tyres alive long enough to beat out their struggling opponents. Daniel Ricciardo, however, will likely have the grit between his teeth heading into Styria as he would not have enjoyed being asked to let his younger teammate of Lando Norris (who was on an alternate strategy) through – even though it was better for the team as Lando was on significantly fresher tyres at that point.

Alpha Tauri’s French Grand Prix was once again a tale of two stories. Pierre Gasly, as is becoming a constant this year, outperformed his car in qualifying and turned his great grid spot into an impressive seventh come the checkered flag and will be hoping to repeat this in Styria. Yuki Tsunoda, however, crashed on his first flying lap in Q1 and was forced to start from the back of the grid – only recovering to 13th. Alpine’s impressive eighth from Fernando Alonso showed that both he and the car have great pace that they will be looking to take into Styria, whilst Esteban Ocon seems to still be struggling to get the most out of his car.

Aston Martin rounded out the top ten with both cars scoring points following an impressive but somewhat anonymous weekend as they kept out of trouble and kept their tyres alive. Ferrari, however, seemed to be at the epicentre of trouble on Sunday, finishing with no points. Both cars struggled massively with race pace as they simply could not keep the tyres alive and were forced to switch to a botched two-stop strategy resulting in Carlos Sainz finishing 11th and Charles Leclerc finishing 16th.

Williams showed great pace in France with George Russell claiming it’s the team’s best race with him as a driver following his twelfth place finish. Whilst still not points, a twelfth pace all on merit is something for the Grove-based team to be proud of and something they will want to continue in Styria. Alfa Romeo saw a slight fall in performance in France as they were further away from the points than they traditionally have been this year, whilst Haas saw the usual poor overall pace. However, they were only lapped once – an improvement from previous races!

Be sure not to miss any of the action this weekend! Formula One is also joined by W-series for round one of their 2021 season, so be sure not to miss this incredibly talented field of young women scrap it out for victory! 

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