Yas!! Finally!! A race! In F1! Would you believe it? Well you better, because it happened and everything but the ending was a fantastic few hours of good racing fun.
After the worst race of F1 this year, the French GP, championship leaders Mercedes were struggling from day one at the Red Bull Ring. Problems for the silver arrows means the rest have a chance at fighting for the win and Ferrari as well as home heroes Red Bull stepped up big time. For the reds, it was Charles Leclerc and for the bulls it was last year’s winner Max Verstappen. The two youngest, most hyped-up drivers on the grid were about to go head to head. This has the makings of turning into a classic motorsport rivalry.
For Max, this is as close to a home race as he can have and the Dutch fans aka Orange Army were in full strength to support their lad. That and the fact that Red Bull and Honda were able to prepare the perfect car for the weekend had clearly put Max in best spirits. Meanwhile, Charles was acing the qualifying lap times through calm precision and blistering pace from his Ferrari SF90. In the end, it was Leclerc who took pole position, his second one ever since Bahrain. Hamilton managed to be second quickest but he was given a 3-place grid penalty for impeding Raikkonen’s hot lap and that put third-fastest Verstappen on the front row. With a few other grid penalties around, both the silver arrows were on the second row of the starting grid with Bottas in P3 and Lewis in P4. Sebastian Vettel didn’t get to set a lap in Q3 due to a technical issue and started P9 while Gasly struggled for pace and started P8.
Charles had a perfect start while Max had a nightmare when the lights went green, triggering his car’s anti-stall systems. He got off the line but was already down to P7 by the end of the first lap. The young Ferrari driver wasted no time in getting away from the pack, especially from the Mercedes cars. Verstappen had a real job on his hands but he was faster and just needed Christian Horner to get him a strategy to make up for the lost time.
Ferrari had Charles pit early and change from the soft tyres to the hard tyres after 22 laps. Meanwhile, Max was running the mediums and Red Bull switched the #33 to the hard tyres after 31 laps. Lewis’ pitstop was super long because of an unexpected front wing change while Ferrari messed up Sebastian’s stop by not having the tyres ready for him. Somehow, the mechanics were not given enough of a heads-up that their lead driver was coming into the pits. But it was around Lap 50 that Max began his final attack up the order, on fresher tyres and brilliant use of the DRS advantage around the Austrian circuit’s long straights.
First, he moved up into P3 by overtaking Vettel. About 6 laps later, he got past Bottas. On lap 68 of 71, he finally caught up Leclerc. The two young racers really went for it, with Max trying to get past down the inside but Charles driving brilliantly to defend and hold track position. Heading into the same corner on the next lap, Max was right alongside as they late-braked into Turn 3. The Dutchman saw that the Monaco-kid still wasn’t backing out so he got his elbows out, forcing Charles wide to off the track as the two banged wheels. This was the final move that let Max Verstappen take the lead, take his second consecutive race win at the Red Bull Ring and his sixth F1 career win. It was also Honda’s first F1 win in nearly 13 years. Plenty of joyful tears in the Honda camp were seen from the chequered flag until the podium ceremony. Charles crossed the line in P2, his best F1 result yet, while Bottas finished in a distant P3 behind the youngsters.
Max’s overtake on Charles has been a hotly contested debate since then. The stewards even announced they were investigating it but after 5 hours or so declared it as a racing incident. While MANY are happy that the race result has not been changed by a penalty yet again (Canada), I disagree with the stewards’ decision. In my opinion, what Max did was a technical breach of the rules, i.e., forcing another car off the track. Many have been penalised over the years for the exact same offence, often less blatant and less intentional violations. Max should have been given some form of penalty if not one that changes the result of the race. I’m not saying this as a Ferrari fan but as a fan of fair racing. The FIA has become a mockery with their situational, flip-flop decisions that make it quite murky about what drivers can do and can’t do. I want there to be more aggressive racing but if the rules remain unchanged then their application should not be circumstantial. That’s the upside and downside of rules — they are the same for everyone. Yet, this decision is anything but consistent. It may have helped the sport save face this time, but sends it into a deeper turmoil overall. Let me know in the comments where you stand on this and your reasoning for it. Or tweet it to us @autoloons with #FairRacingForAll.
Onto the rest of the grid and the final results of the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel finished P4 after they Ferrari pitted him again to change to Soft tyres for the final stint. As a result, he was able to get ahead of Lewis Hamilton who finished a rather lonely P5. Meanwhile, Max’s teammate Pierre Gasly’s poor form continues as he finished P7.
The best-of-the-rest, or winner of Formula 1-B as some jokingly call it, was Lando Norris. This rookie sensation started fifth on the grid in the McLaren and was up in third at the start of the race. But in the end, he finished P6 and got some much-deserved points for himself and the team. His more experienced teammate, Carlos Sainz managed to bag a phenomenal P8 result after starting P19. The Spanish driver was impeded by all the penalties incurred for the multiple power element changes. McLaren once again outperforming their engine suppliers – Renault. Unfortunately, there’s no compilation video yet of Sainz climbing his way up the ranks.
The next best result was clinched by Alfa Romeo as Kimi Raikkonen finished P9 after starting sixth on the grid. Even his teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi had made it into Q3, started P8 and finished P10. The first double-points finish for the team this season. Just outside the points, Sergio Perez finished P11 after starting 13th on the grid. His Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll started and finished P14.
Renault couldn’t get either of their drivers into Q3 nor bag any points. Nico Hulkenberg started 15th on the grid and finished P13. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo started 12th, did the longest stint on the medium tyres of 46 laps and finished P12. Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon who started 18th on the grid due to multiple power element changes and crossed the finish line in P15. The rookie’s experienced teammate Daniil Kvyat started 16th and could only manage a P17 result.
Haas’ terrible run continues as the team could not score any points yet again. They seem to be struggling to maintain tyre temperatures which severely impact their race-trim performance despite having pace in qualifying. Kevin Magnussen was 5th fastest but started 10th on the grid because of a penalty incurred by an unscheduled gearbox change. His elation disappeared fast on Sunday and eventually finished P19. Romain Grosjean started 11th on the grid and crossed the line in P16.
Williams was bringing up the rear with Robert Kubica starting 17th on the grid and George Russell starting from the pit for changing his front wing after qualifying. Kubica finished dead last again while Russell crossed the line in P18.
That was all from the Austrian GP, the most exciting race all season. In case you were wondering where are the rest of the race reports, I didn’t write any because Mercedes kept winning and it wasn’t any fun to write those. Bahrain is still too upsetting to write about. While there is little change in the title race, it’ll be fun to see how these young racers battle it out in the races to come. The action will head to Silverstone UK two weeks from now. Reckon Ferrari or Red Bull could pull off another upset by denying Lewis a win at home? We only hope or else I probably won’t write about it. Don’t forget to subscribe for updates on the latest posts and join the tribe too on DTB.
Final race standings:
- M. Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda — 1:22:01.822
- C. Leclerc Ferrari +2.724
- V. Bottas Mercedes +18.960
- S. Vettel Ferrari +19.160
- L. Hamilton Mercedes +22.805
- L. Norris McLaren Renault +1 Lap
- P. Gasly Aston Martin Red Bul Racing Honda +1 Lap
- C. Sainz McLaren Renault +1 Lap
- K. Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari +1 Lap
- A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Sauber Ferrari +1 Lap
- S. Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes +1 Lap
- N. Hulkenberg Renault +1 Lap
- D. Ricciardo Renault +1 Lap
- L. Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes +1 Lap
- A. Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda +1 Lap
- R. Grosjean Haas Ferrari +1 Lap
- D. Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda +1 Lap
- G. Russell Williams Racing Mercedes +2 Laps
- K. Magnussen Haas Ferrari +2 Laps
- R. Kubica Williams Racing Mercedes +3 Laps