2021 Austrian Grand Prix Review
By Jim K. July 5. 2021
Image: Scuderia Ferrari
Image: Mercedes AMG F1
Image: Red Bull Content Pool
F1 held another race at the Red Bull Ring and witnessed another win for Max Verstappen as the Dutch driver controlled the field once again. The victory marks the end of a triple-header of races where Verstappen has pushed the advantage the Red Bull team hold on Mercedes to the maximum. Three pole positions and three wins have helped Max extend his lead over Lewis Hamilton to 32 points. With the form he is in, there appears to be nothing in sight that will end Verstappen's impressive streak.
The weekend got off to a terrific start for Verstappen, with neither Mercedes making the top three in qualifying. The Silver Arrows pose the only serious challenge to Verstappen's championship campaign this year. The Red Bull Ring has not been overly kind to Hamilton, in particular, compared to other circuits. Since its return to F1 in 2014, the Brit has won just twice in the nine events held before this weekend. A perfect venue, then, for Verstappen to turn the screw.
Lando Norris joined the Dutch driver on the front row to serve as an early-race buffer between the race leader and the chasing pack. With Sergio Perez lining up in P3, Max had plenty of help in ruining the weekend for Mercedes. After an early safety car triggered by Esteban Ocon being sandwiched and breaking his front right wheel lower down the order, Norris held his nerve to keep P2.
Sergio Perez was in no mood to be left behind the McLaren, though, and immediately piled the pressure on Norris down the three DRS straights. The side-by-side racing between Norris and Perez continued until the downhill Turn 4, where Norris left no room for Red Bull's number two on the outside. After sliding across the gravel but making it back on track, Perez re-emerged in tenth place and unable to play the rear gunner for Red Bull.
That Perez assistance wasn't required, however. Norris had enough speed to keep ahead of the Mercedes duo behind him. Lewis Hamilton led Valtteri Bottas as the front four streaked clear of the pack. Although the McLaren had made great strides forwards in pace, challenging for the podium places appeared to surprise the team as much as the onlookers. Norris's engineer informed his driver of Pierre Gasly's lap times, but there was no need to worry about the AlphaTauris behind – Lando kept up with the Mercs on merit.
Fortune wasn't smiling on Perez further back, though. Following his earlier troubles, the Mexican hadn't found any way to push back through the order. Instead, the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz honed in on him, with the Scuderia again being a quicker car on Sunday than Saturday. Fresh from an overtaking masterclass one week earlier, Leclerc edged past Perez thanks to intelligent driving down at the bottom of the hill.
Image: Red Bull Content Pool
Image: Williams Racing