Second Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring circuit, second victory for Max Verstappen, the fourth in five races, all five in any case won by Red Bull. A budget that leaves no way out. The team led by Horner, with its standard bearer Verstappen can no longer hide their title ambitions, leading (deservedly) both rankings with what is becoming an almost comfortable margin. In turn, Mercedes and Hamilton cannot hide their moment of difficulty, aware that the risk of dethronement is absolutely real.
The domination of Verstappen in the race is impressive, he goes away in the first stint, he stretches with incredible comfort in the second, so much so that he can afford an extra pit stop 10 laps from the end, coming back with more than 7 seconds ahead of Bottas, second. Certain performances are born only when you give the best car of the lot to the driver in the best shape of the grid. The Austrian track, ideal for the characteristics of the RB16B and less suitable for the W12, enhances the characteristics of a fast straight-line car with powerful traction, together with an extraordinarily efficient aerodynamic package and obviously a power unit that certainly has nothing to envy to the competition. Verstappen for his part is perfect, he flies away from the start, manages with a very high pace but without making mistakes and giving theimpression of not pushing even to the maximum for much of the race. Little to say about him except that he is deservedly leading the world championship and that he is continuing to ride in a stellar way.
Behind Verstappen there is a good Bottas who this time makes a good race, capitalizing on the errors and problems of all those in front of him (Perez’s off-piste, Hamilton’s problems and Norris’s penalty). Seeing how Hamilton was still opening the gap with the Finn at the end of the first stint, one would think that the W12 probably had a slightly higher potential than what the number 77 expressed, but the result counts and Bottas took home a good second place.
Norris with the same pace as Bottas
He was deservedly the driver of the day though Lando Norris. We had already noticed the combination of maturity and speed that characterize the young Briton’s driving, but yesterday we saw a real little great masterpiece. Norris kept behind Hamilton intelligently without ever exaggerating, and without seriously compromising the tires. When Hamilton passed he was able to read the situation without risky moves and in the second part of the race he was able to hang up and overtake Hamilton in a clean and precise way, and kept a pace exactly on par with Bottas’ Mercedes. The episode with Perez probably makes him lose the second place, but it is the opinion of the writer that the episode was far from being punishable. However, Norris’ pace and Ricciardo’s decent race show that in the second Austrian round the Woking team was absolutely the third force in the race, with a significant improvement compared to the previous week, also confirmed by Norris himself in the post-race interviews. The slight increase in downforce, a mechanical set-up more focused on tire management, a very fast straight-line car and a truly perfect drive in Norris’ combination of speed and tire management made the difference, together with a first lap after Safety Car that allowed Ricciardo to gain many positions, becoming a nightmare for those who followed him who could not find a way to pass given the great speed in the straight of McLaren. The graph clearly shows how Ricciardo’s line keeps Perez first and then Leclerc blocked for the entire second half of the race.
Is exactly Perez deserves the black jersey of the day yesterday. Regardless of Norris’ responsibility or not in the close situation between the two, the risk taken by the Mexican on the first lap after the restart is unjustifiable, considering that he had behind the two Mercedes and in front only his captain. With that episode Perez ends up in tenth position, leaves only Verstappen and ends up behind both Mercedes, throwing away a potential one-two for his team. Just as in our opinion the episode with Norris was not to be punished, even those of Perez with Leclerc are at least doubtful to us, with the first perhaps a bit clearer given the contact between the cars, but remaining questionable situations. The impression is that having exaggerated with the episode of Norris then “harnessed” the judges, forcing them to give penalties even on subsequent occasions for consistency. The second penalty imposed on Perez, identical to the previous one, is a symptom of a behavior not necessarily considered dangerous (otherwise it is not clear why a drive through was not imposed to remove Perez from the position) as much as an almost “bureaucratic” need to confirm the same penalty as for similar situations. Finally, there is much discussion on the subject about the uniformity of the judgments, but it seems that in this case too much uniformity was the problem: last year in that corner Albon tried to overtake on the outside and touched with Hamilton when the maneuver was almost complete. Hamilton was penalized by 5 seconds (already very dubious penalty) and that seems to be the main precedent that referred to the marshals in the race for the Norris-Perez situation, which is then dragged behind those with Leclerc. A “year zero” with new, clear and definitive guidelines for all these episodes would be truly desirable for the Formula 1 to come.
Ferrari good pace, but Leclerc always blocked
The two Ferraris finish in fifth and eighth place with the two drivers having done two races both good but completely different from each other. On the one hand Carlos Sainz after starting with a hard tire he suffers significantly in the first few laps, but he holds on and manages to manage his tires and take them almost to the 50th lap. The last stint with the average of the Spaniard is arrembante and gives him fifth place. The average of the second stint and the second overall time on the fastest lap are good signs, but partly altered by a contingent situation all in favor of these numbers, Sainz being the only driver on the track on medium tires (apart from Raikkonen), mounted among the last and with a very light machine. Leclerc makes an attacking race, but after passing Perez he comes back after the pit stops and is no longer able to show the real pace of the SF21, with Ricciardo who, as mentioned, was almost impossible to overcome and blocked everyone behind him. The only real flaw of Leclerc’s race is probably having lost the position from Ricciardo on the first lap after the Safety Car, and perhaps the only shortcoming that the Monegasque now has in racing situations is when he starts again with the return of the safety car, given that on more than one occasion we have seen him undergo overtaking at that juncture. Ferrari, however, which also appeared good on the race pace despite the lower load on the car, probably compensated by a correct mechanical set-up, even if it is difficult to judge the tire degradation given that Leclerc, the only one of the two Ferrari drivers to have a strategy aligned with the other teams , he was unable to express his pace for most of the race.
The race of Silverstone will become an important barometer for the fate of this world championship: the English track forces the front of the car to do an important job, with fast and leaning corners, lower temperatures, and a practically zero altitude that allows the Power Units to work with more ease. It is reasonable to expect a very strong Mercedes, but if it does not dominate the title it could begin to take the Austro-Dutch road more seriously. For Ferrari, Silverstone will be an important testing ground because it represents a configuration that should be particularly difficult and therefore an opportunity to try to make the car work at its best even in those areas that are currently particularly problematic.