What did we learn from the Austrian Grand Prix?

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Fans were spoilt by another sensational race with the Austrian Grand Prix delivering another thrilling battle between Red Bull and Mercedes while the intensity of the fight among the midfield teams was as high as ever. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó analyses Round 9 of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Formula One could hardly be any more exciting than it is actually in 2021. While the previous seasons were dominated by Mercedes, Red Bull stepped up its game for this season and is posing a major challenge to the defending world champions.

Besides Max Verstappen’s commanding drive at the second Spielberg round, there were several other key factors at the Austrian Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso’s race craft and exceptional car control, Ferrari’s strategic master-stroke and George Russell's eye-catching Q2 lap adding to the thrill of the ninth race of the 2021 F1 season.

Red Bull again - Collecting their seventh DHL Fastest Pit Stop of the season, Red Bull left no boxes unticked and provided spectators with a stellar performance. Similar to last week’s race, Sergio Perez’ stop wasn’t as perfect as Red Bull tyre changes normally are, but when championship leader Max Verstappen came in for a brand new set of hards, the crew was on their A-game and made sure he didn’t lose any time whatsoever.

The Milton Keynes-based outfit performed a 2.17s stop which turned out to be the fastest tyre change, followed by AlphaTauri (2.21s), Verstappen’s second stop (2.25s), Mercedes (2.26s), Alfa Romeo (2.28), McLaren (2.33s) and Ferrari (2.36s). The fastest pit stop is still the 1.93s tyre change that Red Bull completed while changing the tyres on Verstappen’s car at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Perfect weekend – Championship leader Max Verstappen scored the first grand slam of his career thanks to a dominant Austrian Grand Prix win that saw the Red Bull driver lead every one of the 71 laps of the Red Bull Ring round from pole position to take victory and take the extra point on offer for fastest lap.

The new record-holder – While Verstappen and Alain Prost were tied on race wins ahead of last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, the Dutchman has taken over this title thanks to his lead at the second Spielberg round. The 23-year first won the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018 which he repeated in the following year. In 2020, the Red Bull Ring played host to two races, but the Dutchman was unable to win any of the two races. However, he fought back determined this year by winning both Red Bull Ring rounds, increasing the number of races won in Austria to four.

Triple-header – Verstappen is the first driver to win three F1 races within 15 races. It also means that he became the first driver to win every destination of an F1 triple-header after crossing the finish line first at the French, Styrian and Austrian Grands Prix over the last three weekends.

The youngest – Verstappen scored his 50th podium finish last Sunday, becoming the youngest driver to achieve that milestone. He has now the same number of podium finishes as Jenson Button which is the 16th highest number. The list of most podium finishes is led by Lewis Hamilton who has stood on the rostrum on 171 occasions in total.

Race ban – While there were happy faces at the McLaren camp thanks to Lando Norris’ brilliant performance at the Austrian Grand Prix, the young Briton needs to pay attention to any infringement in the coming races. The McLaren driver was handed a five-second time penalty for pushing Sergio Perez off the track at Turn 4 following a race restart and also received two penalty points. The penalty took the Bristol-born driver to 10 licence penalty points — just two away from an F1 race ban. Two points will be wiped off by the time the British Grand Prix arrives, although Norris will be stuck on a minimum of eight until at least November.

Fastest race lap - With the grandstands covered in orange, the Dutch fans got to see Max Verstappen take his fifth win of the season and the fifth consecutive victory for Red Bull. The Dutch driver achieved 15th race last Sunday, also setting the DHL Fastest Lap.

Verstappen built such an advantage that it allowed for a free second pit stop and gave him the chance to have another go at the bonus point for the fastest race lap, which he duly delivered, setting a 1:06.200 on lap 62. The 23-year-old has set the DHL fastest lap on four occasions so far with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas achieving this result three and two times respectively.

Increasing gap – Thanks to his victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, Verstappen managed to increase his lead in the Drivers’ Standings with the gap between the Dutchman (182) and Hamilton (150) growing to 32 points. Sergio Perez is still third in the table, sitting on 104 points, followed by Lando Norris (101), Valtteri Bottas (92). The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz occupy the sixth and seventh place with 62 and 60 points to their name respectively. There are still four drivers without a single point – George Russell, Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Nicholas Latifi are yet to score points in 2021.

Diligent drivers - With P10 for Alpine, Fernando Alonso secured his 4th points finish in a row while Pierre Gasly scored points in six of the last seven races.

Differing fortunes - Hamilton was off the podium for the 4th time in the last 6 Grands Prix in 2021. In contrast, Verstappen’s victory was Honda's 5th consecutive race win, the longest streak for the Japanese company since Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won the first 11 races in the 1988 season for McLaren.

Slight change – The battle between Red Bull and Mercedes is still very much on with the Anglo-Austrian team enjoying a 44-point lead in the Constructors’ Standings. In fact, the energy drink-owned outfit could have increased its lead even more if Sergio Perez had not endured a difficult start to his second race at the Red Bull Ring.

McLaren and Ferrari are still locked in the fight for P3 in the teams’ fight with the British team ending the Austrian Grand Prix in a more successful way, enjoying now a 21-point lead over its Italian rival. The fight between AlphaTauri, Aston Martin and Alpine hardly changed last weekend as the Faenza-based outfit gained only two points, the Enstone-based squad scored a single point while the Silverstone-based team left the second Spielberg round with an empty hand.

Mixture of one- and two-stop strategies - With the one-step softer tyre nomination Pirelli wanted to push teams towards a two-stop strategy, but the cooler climatic conditions helped the majority of the field execute a single stop strategy. Temperatures were considerably cooler than they were on Saturday, with the race starting under cloudy skies with 24 degrees centigrade ambient and 32 degrees of track temperature.

In the end, there was a mixture of one-stop and two-stop strategies seen throughout the race. Eight of the 19 classified finishers stopped twice, with two in the top four.

The four drivers, who started the race on the soft compound, stopped twice with Tsunoda pitting first on Lap 12, followed by his team mate Gasly (Lap 13) and Stroll (Lap 14). The Belgian-Canadian’s team mate Vettel streched his first stint the most with the German visiting the pit lane for the first time on Lap 17 to get rid of his worn C5 tyres. The other drivers to stop twice were Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nikita Mazepin. The race winner started on the P Zero Yellow medium tyre before switching to the P Zero White hard for his two final stints.

Parc fermé rules – Seven teams made changes on their cars between the qualifying session and the race with only Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams sticking to the same car configuration as on Saturday afternoon. It was the Alfa Romeo team to make the most significant change between Saturday and Sunday with the Hinwil-based outfit changing five parts on Antonio Giovinazzi’s car – rear brake duct scoop, rear brake duct base part, rear brake disc cooling duct, rear brake duct base frame and the front disc temperature sensor. The Swiss-Italian team also changed the fire extinguisher bottle on Kimi Räikkönen’s machinery.

Long list of penalties – The Austrian Grand Prix race stewards – Gerd Ennser, Derek Warwick, Paolo Longoni and Walter Jobst – had their hands full last Sunday with several drivers breaking the rules. Sergio Perez received two 5-second penalties for forcing Charles Leclerc off the track at Turn 4 and 6. Lance Stroll was handed a 5-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane while Yuki Tsunoda got a 5-second penalty and a penalty point for crossing the white line when entering the pit lane.

Kimi Räikkönen was handed a drive through penalty for causing a collision on the last lap of the Austrian Grand Prix. His penalty was converted to a 20-second time penalty as the decision was taken after the chequered flag fell at Spielberg. Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin received a 10-second stop and go penalty for failing to respect the double yellow flags with the penalty having been converted into a 30-second time penalty as the incident happened on the very last lap.

Winning margin – Eight drivers finished Round 9 of the 2021 F1 season on the lead lap with only Fernando Alonso finishing in the points with a lap behind Max Verstappen. The Dutchman’s winning margin over second-placed Valtteri Bottas was 17.973s.

Track limits – A total of 21 lap times were deleted at the Austrian Grand Prix after drivers exceeded the track limits. At Turn 7, seven drivers left the track while Turn 10 saw 14 drivers exceed the track limits. It was Kimi Räikkönen to collect the highest amount of track limit infringements with 4 occasions, followed by Nikita Mazepin who left the track three times at Turns 9 and 10.