The orange tide that colored the stands of the Red Bull Ring was the setting for the double extension in orange color that characterized the Austrian weekend. While Max Verstappen extended the lead over Lewis Hamilton to 32 points, on the other hand the papaya-colored McLaren brought the margin over Ferrari to 19 points in the fight for third constructors place, driven by a simply masterful Lando Norris.
Starting with the leaders in the standings, Red Bull appeared to be technically perfect for the entire weekend, to a level that makes any further consideration unnecessary. Milton Keynes engineers did not make any significant changes to the dominating car on the same track seven days ago, managing all practice sessions, qualifying and the race with a serenity emblematic of the supremacy of the Anglo-Austrian single-seater at Zeltweg. “The car was unreal”, summed up a euphoric Max Verstappen after the race, accompanied by the words of a disconsolate Hamilton: “If you look at Red Bull it goes on the tracks “.
Dejected Hamilton: “Red Bull goes on the rails”
Mercedes has tried them all to try to get closer to Red Bull, but the RB16B was unreachable on the slopes of Styria. The determination with which the Brackely engineers attempted to close the gap from their rivals can be seen in the tests carried out in FP1 with the rear exhaust plus a single support for the rear wing, animated by the desire to reduce the delay accumulated on the long straights of the Red Bull Ring. However, the test proved inconclusive and the W12 returned to a configuration similar to that of the previous weekend.
Lewis Hamilton was slowed in the race by aerodynamic damage to the rear end remedied by a particularly aggressive pass on the curb, but the episode does not obscure the wide performance gap between the Silver Arrows and Red Bull. “We have given everything to the factory in recent weeks, trying to get the most out of the car, but the car just didn’t go well here for some reason “, Hamilton said, suggesting that part of the problems accused by Mercedes may be due to the characteristics of the circuit.
The hope for Mercedes is to get closer to rivals on other circuits, in particular with the return to a lower altitude than that of Zeltweg, which influenced the aerodynamics and performance of the power units of the individual cars. At Silverstone the W12 will be awaited by a package of updates, but the British Grand Prix promises to be the last chance for the reigning champions, not so much for the 32 points behind in the standings, still recoverable with 12 races in the program, but for the need to find a car capable of to contend for victory with Red Bull.
McLaren, which I jump in the week
The orange of the McLaren also shines in Styria, partly overshadowed by the dazzling form of Lando Norris. The young British driver has been the author of one of the best performances ever seen in Formula 1 this season, to a level that makes the search for a technical interpretation key to the third podium of the season of the Woking team reductive.
The # 4 McLaren got behind both Mercedes in qualifying, to then keep the same pace as Bottas over long distance, the only Silver Arrow free from damage in the race. Considering that McLaren and Mercedes share the same power unit, it emerges that the difficulties encountered by the world champions in Austria were not related to the engine alone.
A Lando against the sky
Back to McLaren, the Red Bull Ring was a fertile ground for the British single-seaters, which throughout the season proved to be extremely fast on the straight. Overall, however, the team has shown enormous progress compared to the Styrian Grand Prix, going from being lapped to finishing 20 seconds behind the winner, albeit with one less stop, an improvement that cannot be interpreted exclusively with the new fund that debuted on the MCL35M this week. McLaren rather highlighted the excellent ability to capitalize on the information collected over the previous weekend, refining the car’s set-up on the basis of the data collected and in anticipation of softer compounds, a quality that constitutes an excellent signal in key 2022.
The Ferrari of the Austrian Grand Prix played the role of fourth force, too far from Lando Norris ‘McLaren to hope to shorten the constructors’ standings. Considering that of those who had qualified in the top 10 with the softer compound, the only one to reach points was Gasly, the decision to try to pass the Q2 cut with the medium tire proved to be profitable, for what it cost. access to Q3.
One of the few encouraging signs for the Scuderia di Maranello coming from the second Austrian weekend is the news that both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have been testing the car for 2022 in the simulator since January, although this does not exclude that other teams may also find each other. at the same stage of the project.
Finally, it should be emphasized how AlphaTauri has confirmed to be the fifth force of this world championship, finishing with both cars ahead of the Aston Martins both in qualifying and in the race and increasing by two more points in the standings. Like McLaren, the Faenza single-seater has proved its speed skills on the straight in the past, which is why a complete track such as Silverstone will be a real test of maturity for the former Toro Rosso. Aston Martin, on the other hand, has introduced an extensive upgrade package to Zeltweg on Stroll’s car, apparently not enough to keep up with the Italian single-seaters in the curves of the Red Bull Ring.
Waiting for Silverstone
One of the themes that animated the second Austrian weekend was the FP2 test with the new rear Pirelli in view of their possible debut at Silverstone, for which the confirmation of the World Council is expected in the upcoming week. The new tires are characterized by greater stiffness to avoid any risk of a repetition of the Baku failures. Furthermore, as illustrated by Mario Isola, in order to avoid that the reduced compliance could alter the normal deformation of the tire, in that case affecting the aerodynamics of the diffuser and messing up the hierarchies between the teams, the tires tested in Austria were designed to work with two psi less pressure. Collecting the impressions of the drivers in the paddock it emerges that with the new tires a slight difference in the behavior of the single-seaters is perceptible., although not significant.
After the double trip to Austria, teams and drivers will have a weekend break before heading to Silverstone for a Grand Prix that promises to be full of topics of interest, starting with the new format of the Sprint Race. In addition to the greater variability on a sporting level deriving from one more race, the reorganization of the entire race weekend will force the teams to adapt so as not to be caught off guard and not to climb the performance hierarchies. In fact, in Great Britain there will be only one free practice session before the entry into force of the Parc Fermé, which will coincide with the start of qualifying on Friday afternoon, which is why the effectiveness of the preparation work in the factory will be crucial. The presence of two races will also push the technicians to review the philosophies for the set-up and in detail the compromise between the single lap and the long-distance pace, without neglecting that the sprint race itself will require an intermediate solution considering that the cars will start with a partial fuel load.
After a triptych of high-intensity races, enthusiasts and professionals can now take a breather, in view of the appointment in England that between the Sprint Race, the possible new Pirellis and the expected updates for Mercedes promises to be particularly rich in terms of sports. how much on the technical one.