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Verstappen wins in Austria as stewards make their mark

NEWS STORY
04/07/2021

As if Lewis and Toto didn't have enough to put up with, what with Red Bull's 'illegal' rear wing, tyre pressure, pit stops and engine upgrade, it appears they now have to put up with someone else bending the rules to suit their own dubious purposes.

Step forward Lando and McLaren, whose engine must surely have something extra for the Briton to have out-qualified the seven-time champion yesterday.

Four successive defeats was one thing, but the fact that others might now be almost in a position to threaten the Black Arrows doesn't bear thinking about. After all, just how many technical directives is Michael Masi expected to issue?

On the face of it, other than the presence of Norris, we expect today's race to be pretty much like last week, with Max extending his championship leader ever further.

Lewis and Valtteri will be there or thereabouts, but unable to really challenge the Dutchman.

Much is being made of the "titanic" struggle we are witnessing between the main players this year - according to Paul di Resta one of the greatest ever - their rivalry compared to the many others witnessed over the many decades.

However, the fact is that we rarely get to see Max and Lewis go head-to-head in the classic, Villeneuve/Pironi sense, or Mansell and Piquet or Senna, or Stewart and Rindt, courtesy of the bloody aero which begins to play havoc once the Red Bull and Mercedes get anywhere near one another.

For us, a 'classic' head-to-head is the sort of thing witnessed in karting where aero doesn't play such a defining role. That said, we don't want to see F1 go down the 'spec series' road.

It just annoys us when we are told that we are witnessing one of the greatest rivalries ever... because we are not, though that's not the fault of the drivers who would surely love to get their elbows out a little more often.

With that off our chests, we wonder where Lando will finish today. A win is surely too much to expect, but could he really be a threat to the Mercedes pair?

Max will have support from Sergio, who managed to qualify in the final moments on the mediums, having looked very much as though he would be reduced to a soft start once again.

The Mexican did well last week so it will be interesting to see if he can make further progress this time around.

The AlphaTauris have looked strong all weekend, however both drivers qualified on the softs and therefore they are expected to drop away soon after the start, which is where the Ferrari pair come in.

The Maranello team made much of the fact yesterday that it was not too disappointed at having failed to make it into Q3, for other than having strong race pace this leaves Charles and Carlos free to start on mediums.

Also starting on the yellow-banded rubber - along with the Mercedes and Red Bull duos and Norris - is Russell, who did magnificently to qualify ninth on the mediums.

We do not expect miracles this afternoon from the youngster, but surely he deserves a point or two.

Of course, George will be given added impetus by the fact that Toto is still considering Lewis' teammate for 2022 and beyond, even though the world champion wants to continue with his current wingm... teammate.

With his - unfair in our humble opinion - grid penalty meaning he will start eleventh, Seb will still start on softs, however he has looked good all weekend and should be a cert for a point or two as should teammate Lance.

Despite his insistence that being impeded by Seb has destroyed his hopes of winning points today, never, ever write-off Fernando's hopes. Indeed, the more p*****-off he is, the better he usually performs.

Two drivers who really need to step up today are Ricciardo and Ocon, the Frenchman appearing to have gone totally off-radar since agreeing a new deal with Alpine

Once again we refuse to go down the Weather Gods route simply because we feel that they are either playing with us or saving themselves for something special at Silverstone.

We can't help but feel that one of the Alfas could surprise today, indeed there is an underlying feeling that today's race won't be as 'clean cut' as last week, if only due to the tyres being a step softer.

Talking of tyres, even with the softer tyre nomination the 71-lap race should still be a one-stopper.

For those frontrunners who opted for the medium tyre, switching to hards is probably the best strategy - and likely to be echoed by many of the other drivers starting on the same compound.

Otherwise, a two-stopper, with two stints on the softs plus a medium or hard stint (which could be the middle stint) or using all the three compounds is a good option as this could provide an interesting 'sprint' alternative.

Ultimately, a lot of the strategy will be influenced by track temperature.

One really uplifting this so far this weekend has been the presence of fans again, particularly Max' traveling orange army, coloured smoke, air horns, cheering and Mexican waves is exactly what the sport has needed over the last season and a half.

The pitlane opens and the cars begin to head out, among the first is Verstappen who elicits a huge roar from the partisan crowd.

"100% something's not right," reports Russell, on his way to the grid, "with the rear of the car, 100%". He is told to continue to the grid.

Air temperature is 19.9 degrees C, while the track temperature is 29.2 degrees. It is somewhat overcast, with reports of a few spots of rain. Indeed, race control assures us that there is a 60% chance of rain... at which point the sun breaks through.

Other than the Bulls, Mercedes, Norris and Russell, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Alonso, Giovinazzi, Ocon, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin start on mediums, while Sainz and Raikkonen are on hards. Gasly, Tsunoda, Stroll and Vettel are on softs.

They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly.

Orange smoke fills the air as Verstappen leads the field past the stands.

The grid forms, Verstappen and Norris pointing their cars inwards towards one another.

They're away! On the run up the hill to Turn 1 Verstappen leads, while Norris covers off Perez who is ahead of Hamilton. All get through Turn 1 cleanly though Ricciardo runs a little wide.

On the run to Turn 3 Gasly is all over Bottas, and while the Finn shuts the door on the AlphaTauri, up ahead Hamilton looks at the inside of Perez.

In Turn 4 Hamilton is alongside Perez but the Mexican stands his ground, while Gasly continues to attack Bottas.

The safety car is deployed when Ocon goes off at the exit to Turn 3 after getting caught between Schumacher and Giovinazzi, who clouts the left-front wheel of the Alpine in the process.

"I'm out guys, that's it ****," says the Frenchman, "****!"

At the end of lap 1, it's: Verstappen, Norris, Perez, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Tsunoda, Stroll, Vettel and Leclerc. Russell is down to 12th as Ocon climbs from his car.

The safety car is withdrawn at the end of lap 3.

They're away again, Verstappen leads while Perez and Norris are side by side as are the Mercedes pair. Perez goes off in Turn 4 as he battles Norris, the Mexican dropping down to 10th in the process.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 05/07/2021 2:11

"@ Roli.... Check the protocols...Masi doesn't make those decisions, they are made by the stewards. What fun some people have by piling on Masi!!!"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Roli, 04/07/2021 20:26

"Again, Masi gets in the news. How can you possibly penalise a driver when someone tries to overtake on the outside? Absolutely ludicrous decision. Masi should not be allowed to make these decisions, he just isnt up to the job"

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