Verstappen flying as Red Bull return home for Austria double

By Sports Desk June 23, 2021

Max Verstappen is taking the Formula One title race to Mercedes and he holds all of the momentum as Red Bull return home for two consecutive races in Austria.

The Red Bull Ring will host rounds eight and nine of the 2021 season, starting with the Styrian Grand Prix this week.

Triumphs for Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez were impressive at the street circuits of Monaco and Baku.

But the Dutchman's win at the more traditional French Grand Prix – a race Mercedes had dominated in the previous two years – was a huge statement.

Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 12 points in the drivers' standings, while Red Bull are 37 in front when it comes to the constructors' championship.

The leader is chasing his third career victory in Spielberg, which would make this his most successful track in terms of wins.

 

Verstappen is also looking for a fifth podium at the circuit, while a finish of seventh or better will make this venue his most productive for points. 

A fourth win of 2021 would also make this his most successful F1 season even though we are not yet at the halfway stage, highlighting his team's huge progress.

Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton won the two grands prix here last year, though there were sweet home successes for Red Bull in each of the two years prior.

Another triumph would pile further pressure on Mercedes, whose lead driver Hamilton has gone three without victory. Only in 2016 – the last time he was not crowned champion – has he had a worse run since 2014.
 

LAST TIME OUT

Red Bull rescued a dramatic victory for Verstappen with a bold strategy call at the French Grand Prix.

That came after an error from the Dutchman – who started on pole – saw Hamilton move into the ascendancy on lap one. 

Trailing the Briton after that poor start, Red Bull's strategy turned the race on its head with a powerful undercut. Once back in the lead, they then made the call to pit a second time and surrender track position. 

With Hamilton out in front on older tyres, Verstappen got to work cutting the gap and made the winning pass on the penultimate lap to cap a thrilling race.

Perez beat Bottas to the last spot on the podium, with Lando Norris the best of the rest in fifth for McLaren as neither Ferrari made the top 10.
 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SPIELBERG

While Red Bull are flying high and can draw upon past positive memories at home, the last time they had a race where both drivers retired in F1 was on this circuit last year at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Mercedes' two 2020 successes give them hope of a title fightback and, despite their torrid recent run, the championship damage has been limited to an extent with 12 points still a manageable gap for Hamilton.

Failure to win, though, would give the German team their worst run in the Hybrid Era of four races without victory.

The improved form of Perez and Bottas over recent races has brought an added dimension to a season where Hamilton and Verstappen had taken centre stage.

But Bottas is yet to finish in the top two this season and the under-pressure Finn will be particularly closely watched in Austria.

He expressed frustration over strategy on team radio in France – which team boss Toto Wolff insisted he was fine with – amid continued speculation over whether George Russell will take his seat next season.

Ferrari are in need of a boost after a dreadful outing in France which allowed McLaren to seize the advantage in the race for third.

 

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Brilliant Bottas – The Finn needs a result and will hope it can come at a circuit where he has more poles (three) than at any other. Mercedes have been on pole in six of the last seven Spielberg races, with the exception being Charles Leclerc in 2019.

Spielberg Saturday – Qualifying could be crucial – since 2014 (when Spielberg returned to F1), the eventual winner at the Red Bull Ring has begun the race on the first two rows of the starting grid. Six of those eight races had a winner start on the front row.

Frustrated Ferrari – Both drivers for the Italian team have finished without scoring points in two out of the last eight grands prix (2020 Abu Dhabi and 2021 France). That is as many times as it happened in Ferrari's previous 214 races.

Prime Perez – The Mexican comes to this contest after reaching back-to-back podiums for the first time in his F1 career. He is also enjoying his best streak of consecutive top-five finishes (5).

Lively Lando – Norris has scored points in his last 12 GPs, the best run in his F1 career and longest active streak on the grid. The last McLaren driver to record a better sequence than the Briton was Fernando Alonso in his opening 14 races of the 2007 campaign.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers


1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 131
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 119
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 84
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 76
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 59

Constructors

1. Red Bull – 215
2. Mercedes – 178
3. McLaren – 110
4. Ferrari – 94
5. AlphaTauri – 45

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