- Round 9 of the Formula 1 season takes a second trip around the Red Bull Ring this weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix
- Max Verstappen cantered to Styrian GP victory last time out, extending lead over Lewis Hamilton
- Red Bull building commanding lead over Mercedes, ahead of final race in back-to-back trilogy
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – As Formula 1 completes a trio of successive races this weekend, can Red Bull drive home their growing advantage at the Austrian Grand Prix?
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Summer trilogy concludes
As Round 9 of the Formula 1 season arrives, F1 completes a trilogy of back-to-back race weekends, at the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.
Having spent the best part of a fortnight in the alpine region, Max Verstappen‘s romp to victory last time out at the Styrian Grand Prix has seen Red Bull increase what is becoming a sizeable advantage over Mercedes, in both the World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.
Whilst the Dutchman’s 19-point advantage is far from sure however, Red Bull’s overall lead over the Silver Arrows is more than double that margin, and the Milton Keynes outfit will look to build on their growing dominance this weekend.
Ahead of a two-week break before a trip to Silverstone, take two at the Red Bull Ring will again be vital, not least for Mercedes themselves, who will look to limit any potential damage again on their rivals’ stomping ground.
Can Mercedes deny Red Bull double?
That is indeed the question ahead of this weekend’s race, and Mercedes must do so having not won a race during any of the last four GPs, for the first time since 2014.
And the German manufacturer must do so out of something approaching urgency, to not only deny Red Bull a clean sweep in Austria, but of the three races since Baku on June 6.
The immediate concerns of Team principal Toto Wolff have been widely documented both after the Styrian GP, and in the build-up to this weekend, and said worries in relation to Mercedes’ lack of straight-line speed have not dissipated.
Lewis Hamilton has spoken that tweaks may have been made in time for Austria’s second stint, but as Mercedes see the gap to their rivals increase, another race of playing catch-up will leave them in a similar scenario in the points race.
And that pursuit could become considerably more difficult.
Perez reveling in spotlight
Mercedes’ headache this term has been down not only to a more matured and ruthless Verstappen, but also to a driver in Sergio Perez who is flourishing under greater responsibilities.
Verstappen’s victories in Monaco, France and last weekend, were added to by Perez’ win in Baku last month, which has led to Red Bull’s most recent run of F1 wins. f
For the latter, his move from Racing Point has shown the Mexican at his very best.
As Red Bull find themselves firing on both cylinders from the driver’s seat, Perez is reveling in the pressure piled upon him to perform and as he told F1.com, the 31-year-old from Guadalajara says being able to compete at the very top of F1 this season, has taken his game to a completely new place.
“Racing these drivers [Hamilton] at this level definitely takes you to a new level.
“But I’m getting there. I think every single weekend we see a good improvement and I see no reason why I cannot get any better in the next five races, for example, to do another step. I’m happy with my progression so far, with my level that I’m delivering at, but obviously it’s not enough and I want more than that.”
Ferrari look to close on McLaren
Last weekend’s Styrian GP was a rousing success for Ferrari, and as the battle lines are drawn with McLaren in the fight for third-best team in the paddock, Scuderia will be looking to turn up the heat.
A fifth top-eight double of the campaign last time out, The Prancing Horse are making significant steps in moving on from the difficulties of last season.
With Daniel Ricciardo enduring struggles for McLaren, Carlos Sainz Jr. in his own debut season in new colours, is now forming a dynamic double with Charles Leclerc, and it is Sainz whose runner-up finish in Monaco is Ferrari’s best result this term.
Though for the moment Lando Norris looks a distance ahead of both men, McLaren are already looking to enjoy their most successful British GP for some time in a fortnight, but first, Ferrari will first look to lay a definitive marker in Austria.
Just 12 twelve points split third and fourth in the team standings ahead of the weekend, and given Ferrari’s rather surprising – but nonetheless welcome – extra pace in last week’s race, Scuderia could be in McLaren’s rear-view mirrors rather quicker than expected.
The 2021 Austrian Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
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