The Austrian Grand Prix could go down as one of the greatest races in F1 history. The race, following the below par race in Paul Ricard was one the sport needed showing that F1 has a great future in terms of drivers with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
It was a race no one was really expecting following France, given how dominant Mercedes were and given this year’s performance as well as there record in Spielberg. In my view, the race untangled in qualifying with the penalty in qualifying which left him fourth after he impeded another driver.
That created a front row we were all wanting to see, Leclerc on pole and Verstappen second with both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel out of position. I expected the race to go to Leclerc, given Ferrari’s advantage over Honda.
That wasn’t the race we expected but shows that the sports two twenty-one-year-olds are great racers and are one to watch in the future. Red Bull taking back to back wins in Austria was something they need to be proud of, both races they shouldn’t have won but taken advantage of the situation.
Honda needs to take credit too, we know that just three years ago they were struggling badly this was a power circuit where they were weak. But I think unlike McLaren, Red Bull are doing their own thing and trying not to get involved with Honda’s politics.
Honda’s last win was at a low-speed Hungaroring in 2006, thirteen years ago, put that into content both Verstappen and Leclerc were nine years old. Remember the “we can’t win with Honda,” by McLaren, well while the team has made the progress they haven’t won a race since 2012.
McLaren will be asking now that Honda has won before them, whether they made the right decision to go with Renault. I believe they will stand by that decision, and Austria proved to be both the right and wrong decision.
Right because they have effectively taken over the role of Red Bull, but also wrong because Renault is delivering strong results with McLaren. A full conclusion will, however, be difficult to draw until the end of the year.
Leclerc we know was robbed of victory, on the track, because of engine issues in Bahrain and the race in Spielberg was another good opportunity for him. But, he was beaten in racing, I’m not going to say it was a fair or unfair win.
Leclerc was caught by Verstappen rapidly in the closing stages despite dominating most of the race. But when it matters while he defended bravely, he simply couldn’t hold on against a barrage of attacks. I believe that wasn’t as cruel as Bahrain.
Ferrari has now lost three wins they could have had two due to decisions out of there control, and the two stewards’ enquiries in three races, and whilst obviously disappointed and supporting their man, they have ultimately spoken like true racers for the good of the sport.
Stewards remain in the spotlight again, I think it would have been bad to have seen another race decided by the stewards like in Canada would have looked bad for the sport.
The big conclusion from Austria, the sport had its youngest ever podium following that epic battle. Leclerc and Verstappen both have the potential to be multiple world champions, although I believe it could have been a different result if Hamilton hadn’t been slightly further back.
McLaren is continuing to progress forwards, becoming the strongest midfield team. Lando Norris continues to impress holding off Hamilton early on, and finishing in fifth, while Carlos Sainz roses from the back to finish eighth. Collectively, they scored enough points to move them 20 clear of Renault.
Norris played into the theme of the race, the young generation. The Bristolian taking on Hamilton but eventually needing to concede to the Mercedes. He even managed to pass the Mercedes, but it was going to be an impossible job to hold the position.
Maybe the Honda divorce was the right thing, but it has to hurt a bit that Honda have a race-winning engine while they search for their first win since 2012. McLaren, however, needs time to rebuild, things look bright going forward both technically and with its drivers.