Having just visited France last weekend, F1 touched down in Spielberg this weekend for the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix.
Traditionally a Mercedes dominant circuit, this weekend looked to prove tough for rest of grid. Instead, it was the Mercedes customer teams who struggled meaning that there is plenty to discuss in our round-up.
Mercedes’ Austria Domination Over as Verstappen Reigns Supreme
Ever since the Austrian Grand Prix returned in 2014, only one manufacture has dominated the race weekend – Mercedes.
That run came to an end after mechanical gremlins hit the Silver Arrows, despite dominating Friday and Saturday and the race start till Valtteri Bottas hit hydraulic trouble and it was downhill from there on in.
Instead, Max Verstappen handed Red Bull their first home win around the Red Bull Ring with a calm and assured performance, having taken advantage of Bottas bringing out a Virtual Safety Car to pit for Softs.
Discussing how he handled the race towards end when Ferrari put him under pressure with a late charge, Verstappen said; “… I felt in control, I was driving to the best I could with the car I had and at the end, we were struggling a little more than Ferrari with the tyre blistering but we managed to stay ahead.
In fact, it was such an assured drive that Team Principal, Christian Horner described the performance as “very, very mature” and “controlled”.
Red Bull now head to their ‘home from home’ race in a confident mood looking to give their factory team a taste of home victory at the British Grand Prix next weekend.
Contrasting Anniversary Fortunes
Both Force India and Haas were celebrating anniversaries this weekend but there was however contrasting fortunes for both parties.
Haas enjoyed their 50th Grand Prix weekend in fine style with Romain Grosjean finally delivering a strong weekend, leaving Team Principal – Guenther Steiner feeling that this was their “best one” yet after Qualifying.
Force India meanwhile surprisingly struggled on a track that ought of suited them at their 200th race weekend.
Sergio Perez was one of the biggest strugglers, making a Q1 exit but believes that they have “made some good steps forward with the car” which hopefully will bear some fruit if results improve in coming races, particularly when get to Hungary where they have often struggled in the past.
Come race day, both teams produced outstanding performances in a race of tyre woes and reliability mayhem to make it a double anniversary celebration post race.
Discussing Force India’s race, Chief Operating Officer – Otmar Szafnauer felt that their performance was “very well executed” and to get 14 points from a tough weekend is definitely a job well done (if helped by misfortunes of those ahead).
Haas meanwhile managed to finish as best of rest in fourth and fifth, which is something that Kevin Magnussen described as an “incredible job”.
Team Principal, Guenther Steiner meanwhile appears dazzled by their performance, saying; “A fantastic weekend for the whole team. We can be proud of our workforce, for all the guys.
It’s just a great day, and on the 50th race, to finish fourth and fifth, what more can you wish for?”
Romain Grosjean however is “just so happy that we hung in there” after fearing that his tyres would “explode” after blistering.
Well, at least both teams get to do it all over again next weekend at Silverstone where it is set to be a scorcher as Great Britain basks in a baking hot heatwave.
Grosjean Finally Scores
Having gone 12 races without a point, this weekend surprisingly proved to be lucky 13 for Romain Grosjean as he finally scored a points finish.
Throughout the entire weekend, Grosjean was on the pace and firmly in top ten from FP1 onwards.
Come Qualifying, that pace translated into a surprise sixth place, splitting the two Red Bulls, leaving Grosjean “very proud” of that incredible achievement.
The race however proved to be perfect after benefitting from “some luck in the race with the Mercedes cars not finishing.”
Speaking post race, the Frenchman hailed the race as a “great day” having achieved Haas’ greatest F1 finish yet.
Well it definitely was a great day after finally getting his first top ten result of 2018 and heading a Haas 4-5 finish.
Now, can Grosjean push on as F1 wraps up its triple header next weekend?
With rumours rapidly emerging that he is set for a Ferrari promotion next season, or after summer break if some whispers are to be believed, Charles Leclerc has surprisingly managed to hold his own this weekend, running firmly in the midfield Q2 positions.
That consistency this weekend is impressive despite earning a grid penalty for unscheduled change of gearbox.
Come race day, Leclerc drove an exceptional race from 17th place to ninth, having demonstrated his team playing ability by letting teammate, Marcus Ericsson have a go at getting eighth before reclaiming ninth on line for Sauber’s first double points finish since China 2015.
In end, this consistency marks the young Monegasque out as a future Ferrari star, and hopefully he won’t be playing no.2 to Sebastian Vettel if moves to the Scuderia next season.
Notes of Impression
- Fernando Alonso drove an impressive race to rescue points for McLaren despite being under radar for much of weekend.
- Williams had a solid weekend for a change with Lance Stroll getting out of Q1.
- Ferrari resisted temptation to switch Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel around to help extend the German’s title lead from one point to four given that they had forced something similar between Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher here in 2001 in same position.
- Renault’s test driver and F2 star, Artem Markelov is definitely one for the future because he produced what arguably has to be this weekend’s best overtake above any F1 moves. Watch below this YouTube video by BarriKimi 3 and see just what he is capable of for yourself.
Missed any of the first six race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend/s.