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2021 Austrian Grand Prix Blog

Maybe it was a case that the drivers have become a bit too familiar with the Red Bull Ring circuit, but it seemed to us that a few of them ‘had their elbows out’ more than normal in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

At the start of the race, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez were battling for second place. The Red Bull tried to pass the McLaren around the outside of Turn 4 but the Brit wouldn’t give up any track space, forcing the Mexican off the track and into the gravel. For what it is worth, we felt that the cars were pretty much level at the time, so this should have gone down as a racing incident. It did not, with the stewards handing Norris a 5-second time penalty. But that was nothing compared to Perez’ predicament, who re-joined the race down in P10.

What goes around comes around and Perez himself was handed a 5-second time penalty on Lap 41 in a near carbon copy of the Lando Norris incident, however, this time it was he who forced the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc off the track. It seems that the ‘red mist’ had got to Perez by this stage and before he could even serve this penalty, he shoved Leclerc into the gravel again, this time around Turn 6, meaning the Mexican was hit with yet another 5-second time penalty.

It’s fair to say that Checo didn’t make any new friends in yesterday’s race but he was quick to apologise for the Leclerc incidents, saying: “With Charles I’m extremely sorry because that’s not the way I like to be racing, in both occasions I just tried to brake as late as possible, ended up without road.” Perez was less remorseful about Lando Norris, complaining: “It was a disaster, my race… First with Lando, I think it wasn’t fair racing there. He was lucky not to have any damage but next time it can be different. Anyway, my race was ruined after that.”

In the end, it was a messy race all round. Kimi Raikkonen was involved in a bizarre last lap crash with Sebastian Vettel. The pair were out of the points and disputing P12 when Vettel made a move down the inside of Turn 4. Their cars drifted towards each other and the front right of the Alpha Romeo tagged the left rear of the Aston Martin, sending both spinning into the gravel. Vettel retired but Raikkonen was able to nurse his car home in P16, only to be handed a further 20-second time penalty by the stewards, plus two penalty points on his super licence.

Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin also attracted the attention of race officials for failing to slow under double yellows. Both were given 10-second stop-and-go penalties, which equates to c. 30 seconds added to their race times, plus three penalty points on their licences. A host of other drivers were investigated for the same offence with Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Daniel Ricciardo all being cleared without further punishment.

One driver who managed to steer clear of any such incidents was Max Verstappen. All around the circuit there were armies of Dutch fans in orange shirts who had come to support their hero, and he never gave them a moment to worry about. This was Verstappen’s fourth win out of the last five races and surely one of the most straightforward of his career. Lewis Hamilton maybe summed up his performance best, saying: “Max is walking away with it right now and there is not really much we can do about it.”

It has been a tough few weeks for Mercedes but perhaps things are not as bleak as Lewis suggests. Yes, they’ve been outclassed in the two races in Austria, but this is a circuit which was always going to play to Red Bull’s strengths. Let’s not forget that Hamilton would have won in France two weeks ago but for a strategy error from his team.

Silverstone is another high-speed circuit and is somewhere that Mercedes will be hoping to utilise the strengths of their car to full advantage. Can they claim a much-needed victory?

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