Grand Prix™


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The race weekend for track limits started Friday afternoon, with the Red Bull Ring featuring no less than 1200 separate track infringements in 2023, remarkable on the shortest track on the F1® calendar in terms of time to complete a lap. Fast forward to this year and a 2.5m wide gravel strip had been added behind the kerb at the exit of the last two corners to save the stewards a busy afternoon and focus on possible driver infringements... It didn’t take long for McLaren to be in the steward’s office, with Piastri being relegated from the second row to seventh after Race Control ruled that he had transgressed track limits at Turn Six during qualifying. Piastri’s teammate, Lando Norris benefited from the infringement who started on the front row for both the sprint and Sunday’s race, next to his good friend Max Verstappen. Only 15 of the previous 38 races at the Red Bull Ring have been won from pole, offering some consolation to Piastri and the rest of the field for Sunday’s race.

Following early engine problems Friday morning, the world champion secured his 7th consecutive pole position (sprint or GP) in Austria to establish his dominance, having missed out on the last two poles by a combined difference of 0.020 seconds. Max fought off the early assault from the men in orange during the Saturday morning sprint race, who traded places to try and pass the Red Bull. Max remained quick enough to secure the sprint victory and remain on course for the “Grand Slam”, having been quickest in every session, matching his efforts at the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix™. Max becomes the fifth driver to record 40 pole positions in F1.

McLaren were the only top team to bring upgrades to Austria, with the focus now changing to a new clutch for Lando to help him off the line at Silverstone this weekend.

Max was under no pressure, seizing control of the race from the first corner. The highlight of the first 51 laps was LeClerc fighting with the Williams at the rear of the field, both Charles and Sargent having a healthy battle for 19th place. Unfortunately, Leclerc’s 4 pit stops didn’t seem to be the best strategy. Max had appeared to be cruising to victory, with a six second lead heading into the final round of pit stops. A rare and slow pitstop in the Red Bull garage put Lando on his tail. British drivers over the years have recorded more wins in Austria than any other nation, with Lando on a new set of Mediums against a scrubbed in set on the Red Bull, the Red Bull garage nicely set up a grandstand finish between the good friends.

The commentators didn’t have to say much over the forthcoming laps, with both drivers expressing their anger at their colleagues’ driving standards over the team mics. Norris was rather upset about the Red Bull moving under braking, whom in turn was sceptical about Lando’s “divebomb” overtaking technique. Red Bull ring isn’t known for the weekend for track limits for nothing, with Lando receiving a five second penalty for exceeding track limits, following one of his “divebombs” (according to Max). The inevitable happened on lap 64 when the two drivers made contact at turn three, each suffering punctures and ending any chance of a podium finish. Norris was unable to continue, and Max was considered to be at fault by the stewards, who handed him a ten second penalty who went onto secure 5th and still extend his lead at the top of the standings.

Max, however, will remain on George Russell’s Christmas list. Both of Russell’s two race wins in F1, have been aided by Verstappen having contact with the fastest driver in the race. Russell in his Mercedes spent the majority of his afternoon in 3rd position, having the best seat in the house watching the battle ahead, 10 seconds back before taking over the lead to the delight of Toto Wolfe to secure Mercedes first victory of the season and ending their 19-month winless streak.

In the excitement up front, it’s easy to forget about the Midfield teams. Sunday was the first time since 2022, both Haas drivers finished in the top eight positions, with Gasly scoring a point for the fourth consecutive race, his longest streak in 3 years. Mercedes’ win makes 2024 the first season in 3 years, since 2021 in which four different teams have secured a Grand Prix victory. Heading into the final part of the Triple Header, Max will be eager to stop any of the Brits winning their home race having won at Silverstone last year.


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