By Neil Leverett
- Round 8 of the 2021 Formula 1 season moves into Austria this weekend, for the Styrian Grand Prix
- Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton by 12 points after win in France last weekend
- Red Bull looking to increase 37-point advantage over Mercedes in Constructors’ Championship
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – As Formula 1 rolls into Spielberg for back-to-back weekends of racing, can Red Bull lay down another marker at the Styrian Grand Prix?
Double duty begins in Austria
As Formula 1 continues its run of three races in as many weeks, this weekend, Round 8 of the season moves to Austria for the Styrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.
Making an unexpected return to the F1 calendar this season after it was chosen to replace the Turkish GP last month, the alpine region now hosts successive races, with the Austrian GP itself taking place next weekend.
Mere days on from Max Verstappen’s victory at the French Grand Prix last weekend, Red Bull arrive on home turf of the Red Bull Ring looking for a fourth win on the bounce.
Holding a 37-point advantage over Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship, the proposition of two weekends in the Styrian mountains, will be enough to leave modest grins on the faces of those in the Red Bull garage and indeed Team principal Christian Horner himself.
But can Mercedes yet throw a spanner in the works in Austria once more?
Mercedes desperate to spoil homecoming
With a potentially pivotal juncture of the season now at its midway point, the Styrian GP for Mercedes could be a crucial few days, but Hamilton and co. can look to the results of last season’s race, for hope of gatecrashing Red Bull’s homecoming party.
Indeed, Mercedes achieved their first 1-2 finish since 2015 at the Red Bull Ring last season, as Valtteri Bottas followed home his British teammate on the first of five separate occasions last term.
As we know however, the shape of this season is panning out very differently, and Mercedes are now fighting off Red Bull on two fronts, with Sergio Perez proving just as big a threat to the Silver Arrow’s F1 monopoly as Verstappen.
But even in the midst of their most trying time in recent memory, Mercedes are a dangerous animal when forced into a corner, and we may yet see them coming out swinging.
Verstappen eager for watershed victory
This is the not the first time we’ve stated it – and it may not be the last either – but this Sunday, Verstappen can finally end his wait for successive F1 race wins.
His third opportunity to do so this term alone, the word consistency has not been synonymous with Belgian-born 23-year-old, but Verstappen be looking to history in Austria to finally take the next big step in his meteoric F1 rise.
It scarcely seems believable that in his sixth season in the sport that such a complete driver in Verstappen is yet to string two victories together, but surely the first dose of Austrian action this weekend will be his time?
Should he achieve said feat, with Verstappen holding two wins in the Austrian GP – the latest edition of which comes in seven days’ time, – who would bet against him then making it three?
But first things first, the Dutchman will be nigh-on desperate to clinch victory Styrian GP victory, to rid himself of what is becoming an annoying statistic.
Sainz admits to Ferrari ‘issues’
For Ferrari meanwhile, after gradual improvement this term following the tribulations of last season, their progress was given a stark reality check at Circuit Paul Ricard, after both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished out of the points, for the first time as a duo.
Despite Sainz’s runners-up spot in Monaco and Leclerc’s impressive start to the season himself, Scuderia’s problems returned to the fore in France, this time in the form of tyre concerns.
Suffering huge levels of degradation, The Prancing Horse came home in a woeful P11 and P16 respectively at Le Castellet, but Mattia Binotto and and his team have been quick to get the root of their latest setback.
However, as Sainz told F1.com, though the issues at hand are being managed, tyre wear may still be a factor and could severely hinder their chances in Spielberg this weekend.
“It’s been only three full days since we had the issue and obviously you can imagine as a team, we were quite surprised by it. But also in some way we knew we were exposed to this kind of degradation in the front tyres for a while now.
“It’s quite interesting to see how such a big factory, such a big organisation launches its plan to recover and to try and find out how we’re going to tackle and solve this issue.
“I’ve been quite involved in all the meetings and discussions on how we’re going to get it better. I’ve been spending these last three days in Maranello and we’ve definitely put together a plan for the short, medium and long-term to see if we can get it better.”
The 2021 Styrian Grand Prix takes place this weekend, at the Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
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