Analysis: Things we learned from the Austrian Grand Prix

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Last weekend saw teams and drivers head to Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 9 of the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó analyses the lessons we learned from the Spielberg race.

Winning streak - Reigning world champion Max Verstappen further cemented his championship lead on home turf for his team. The Dutchman secured his sixth pole position, his first sprint race victory and his seventh race triumph in the 2023 F1 season. The only two races where he failed to win were the Saudi Arabian and the Azerbaijan Grands Prix where he finished second behind his team mate Sergio Perez.

Dominant – Red Bull scored their 10th consecutive victory yesterday, having won the last race of the 2022 F1 season courtesy of Max Verstappen and every single race in the current championship campaign.

It was the 101st victory for the Milton Keynes-based outfit and their double podium finish at the Red Bull Ring increased the number of their overall podium finishes to 248.

Eye-catching form - Verstappen was faultless yesterday, securing his seventh career hat-trick (victory, pole and fastest lap). The reigning champion secured his 42nd career victory of which he won 22 last year and in the current season which highlights his and his team’s utter dominance in the current era of Formula One.

Resurgence – Following a difficult start to the season, Charles Leclerc’s P2 was Ferrari's best result of the 2023 season. The Scuderia achieved their 800th podium finish in F1 with their heavily-upgraded car.

Sergio Perez could also leave the Red Bull Ring with a smile on his face following four difficult race weekends that saw him fail to progress into the last qualifying segment. The Mexican secured a second place in Saturday’s F1 Sprint and moved up the order from P15 to P3 yesterday.

Late push – Towards the end of the race, Max Verstappen enjoyed enough of a gap to make a pit stop in pursue of the fastest race lap. With two laps to go, the Dutchman rejoined the track only three seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc and went for the quickest race lap which he easily achieved with a time of 1m07.012s.

The Dutchman’s effort was over a second quicker than his team mate Sergio Perez who posted the second quickest race lap. However, the comparison is unfair as the Dutchman had softer and significantly fresher tyres.

Interestingly, Norris was only a tenth of a second faster than the two Ferrari drivers despite completing his last pit stop several laps earlier than Leclerc and Sainz.

Never seen before – That was what Charles Leclerc told in the post-race press conference regarding Ferrari’s recent development push. The Scuderia ditched its bathtub sidepod concept at the Spanish Grand Prix and introduced a new front wing and an updated floor at the Austrian Grand Prix, two races earlier than planned.

The Monegasque did not hide how content he was with Ferrari’s upgrade plan as he achieved his best result in 2023 with his second-placed finish. It was his second podium of the year after securing a third-place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Fastest in the pit lane - At the Austrian Grand Prix, McLaren have proved to be the fastest in the pit lane after swapping tyres on Lando Norris' car within 2.1s. AlphaTauri have been not the quickest this year when it came to pit stop performance, but they managed to complete the second fastest tyre change when they serviced Nyck de Vries' car.

In the standings for the DHL pit stop award, Red Bull find themselves on the top, followed by Ferrari and Alpine with Haas having proved the slowest in terms of pit stop performance so far. The overall best tyre change was completed by Red Bull when the Milton Keynes-based outfit swapped tyres on Sergio Perez' car in Spain (2.07s).

Technical issues - With a power unit issue forcing him to retire, Nico Hulkenberg’s 22-race finishing streak ended today. Overall, it was a positive weekend for Haas as it scored three points courtesy of the German's sixth-place finish in Saturday's sprint race. Despite some eye-catching qualifying performances, the American team has had a difficult start to the season as it only scored on three occasions so far this season.

Track limits – Track limits have been one of the hot topics over the weekend of the Austrian Grand Prix with the the entry and especially the exit of the final corner prompting drivers to cross the white line.

Following the issues in Fridays qualifying session, the problem persisted in the race with more than 100 lap times having been deleted after drivers repeatedly exceeded track limits. According to the FIA, more than 1200 potential offences had to be reviewed by race control. The race stewards acknowledged that they were unable to review all cased during the race.

Seven drivers were handed out time penalties during the race, including Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz. However, following a protest from Aston Martin, the FIA launched a review into the track limits violations and handed out a further 12 penalties which spread across eight drivers.

Perez unhealthy – Red Bull Racing driver Sergio Perez missed the Thursday media day to rest after falling sick on Wednesday night. In the post-race press conference, Perez conceded that he was unable to rest over the weekend as he suffered fever every night.

The Mexican had three lap times deleted in the second qualifying session which meant that he missed out on Q3 on Friday. Perez therefore started the Austrian Grand Prix from P15, but he recovered in the race, having made use of his dominant Red Bull RB19. Following four difficult races, this result ended a run of three GPs without a podium for Perez.

Teams points – Having won every single race so far this season, Red Bull Racing find themselves on top of the Constructors’ Championship. The team has collected four one-two finishes so far and won the sprint races both in Baku and Austria, and they sit now atop of the standings on 377 points, a whopping 199 points clear of second-placed Mercedes.

Aston Martin sit in third place on 175 points with Ferrari following suit with 154 points. Alpine find themselves in a no man's land with 47 points while there are tiny gaps between the rest of the field with McLaren sitting on 29, Haas on 11, Alfa Romeo on 9 points. Williams have also collected seven points courtesy of two point-scoring finishes of Alexander Albon in Bahrain and Canada. AlphaTauri round out the standings with two points both collected by Yuki Tsunoda’s two tenth-place finishes in Australia and Azerbaijan.

Drivers points – After the dominant start to his season, Max Verstappen’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship has grown to 81 points ahead of Perez who sits in second place in the standings on 148 points. Fernando Alonso occupies P3, 17 points adrift of the Mexican with Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz following suit.

With his best result of the season, Charles Leclerc overtook George Russell in the standings with the Monegasque now sitting in P6 on 72 points. Lando Norris has had an up-and-down season so far, but his fourth place in Spielberg earned him 12 points, and he now finds himself in P10 in the standings.

Two of the rookie drivers, Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries are still yet to score points in 2023.