Formula 1 |  The highs, flops and questions after the Austrian Grand Prix

Formula 1 | The highs, flops and questions after the Austrian Grand Prix

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After each Grand Prix, Nextgen-Auto.com invites you to find the tops and flops identified by the editorial staff. Who deserves to be applauded? Who, on the contrary, should be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguities, which should be followed with interest during the next Grands Prix? Check it out below!

Tops.

Top n°1: The composure of Leclerc, the pace of Ferrari

After 5 races without a podium, Charles Leclerc obtained Sunday around 4:30 p.m. not only a victory, but also an immense relief. The Monegasque seemed almost cursed since his victory in Melbourne, chaining strategic setbacks to reliability problems. This weekend at the Red Bull Ring, he set the record straight by demonstrating several of his certain qualities.

The first of its qualities was of course speed. Charles Leclerc only finished 29 thousandths from the pole of Max Verstappen, due to understeer in particular. But in the race, he was much faster than the Dutchman and also faster than his teammate. The second quality was his composure. Cold blood overtaking three times, excuse a little, Max Verstappen during the race, including twice certainly with the advantage of the tires. We could then see the respect (but until when?) of the two men on the track. Cold blooded also at the end of the test, when it was necessary to manage this problem of accelerator pedal with the immense difficulties which one could guess in the tone, and the anguish, of the voice of Charles Leclerc. His third quality was finally the management of rubber, both during the Sprint and in the race.

Charles Leclerc was certainly helped in this by the qualities of his horse: it must be said, the Scuderia reversed the trend in Austria of previous Grands Prix, seeming to regain the upper hand over Red Bull, especially in race rhythm. In addition, the Ferrari used its tires much less, and thus allowed the single-seaters to deploy a strategy of 13 laps offset from that of Red Bull, with therefore a good freshness of rubbers. It’s quite simple, whatever the strategy deployed, Max Verstappen seemed powerless to prevent a Ferrari double. All this can of course make Charles Leclerc optimistic for the future. Even if he takes only 5 points from Max Verstappen in one weekend. It would take another 6 or 7 of this type to return to equality…

Top #2: Ocon solid as a rock

The boss in the middle of the grid, it was him! Ocon led the pack this weekend in Austria. He couldn’t have done better after the finish and was aware of it on the radio, with a smile under his helmet. 5th in qualifying on Friday, 6th in the Sprint after the comebacks of Sergio Pérez and George Russell, 5th on Sunday: Ocon capitalized on everything he could. With a very satisfying pace, he made no mistakes either, not battling unnecessarily against Sergio Pérez in the Sprint or against Lewis Hamilton or George Russell in the race.

His race was certainly as discreet as it was excellent, but this discretion in efficiency is precisely what Ocon is looking for with Alpine, being almost where Lando Norris was last year: well ahead of the middle of the grid, well behind top stables. Alone on his island, and happy to be.

If Ocon was also able to dominate the peloton, it was also thanks to the Alpine developments which prove their effectiveness. The downside is always the same in the French team: reliability. Problems affected Fernando Alonso during the Sprint, and Ocon also came within a few hectometres of a critical fuel pump failure on Saturday… But finally, Alpine has always prioritized performance over reliability this year: it’s paying off; but it shows.

Top n°3: Mick Schumacher and Haas shift into high gear

What was thought to be a coincidence is becoming a law of nature: after a season and a half of suffering and learning in a discipline, Mick Schumacher, suddenly under pressure, shifts into high gear and gives clear and clear signs of improvement. It shows again this year.

After having demolished cars during the first 8-9 Grands Prix, and reframed by Günther Steiner who questioned his future, Mick Schumacher began to demolish the clock in the middle of the grid, by creating a real gap with cars like the Aston Martin F1 or the AlphaTauri, which was far from obvious before. Third Q3 of the year, good resistance against Lewis Hamilton during the Sprint, burst of pride following what he felt was unjustified treatment by his team compared to his teammate (he wanted Kevin Magnussen to give him the DRS to defend), fast, and above all irreproachable on the track, Mick Schumacher gave the best image of himself this weekend. That of the F3 and F2 champion that he is. He hasn’t quite saved his spot for next year yet, but with such weekends…

This Red Bull Ring weekend, which allows Haas to regain 7th place in the constructors’ standings, also validates the team’s development strategy: Günther Steiner has assumed that he will bring few changes to F1, to focus on next year’s development. It was rather a question of maximizing the existing package, by playing on the settings and circuits favorable to the team, as precisely in Austria (before Silverstone, Haas had scored 15 points in nine races; the American team has just score 19 points in two races including 14 in Austria). Moreover, Haas had not reaped such a harvest since the 22 points scored here in 2018 by Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

The flops

Flop n°1: Even by winning, Ferrari worries

That this weekend was bittersweet for Ferrari. Could we even speak of a Pyrrhic victory for Charles Leclerc? Indeed, on Saturday as on Sunday, chronic problems at the Scuderia were repeated. On Saturday, it was the indecision of the top management, whose first name is Mattia and the last name Binotto, to be decided to have a clear hierarchy at the top of the team. At Red Bull, we know, Sergio Pérez works for Max Verstappen. At Mercedes, we also knew how Toto Wolff qualified Valtteri Bottas. At Ferrari, on the other hand, we don’t know. And so we get confused. The Sprint witnessed this: Carlos Sainz wanted to overtake Charles Leclerc, while the Monegasque saved his mediums to attack at the 90th kilometer. Result: the two Ferraris lost time, came close to colliding, and allowed Max Verstappen to build his little mattress. Grazie thousand.

The next day, even with the fastest Ferrari, and while the double could and should have been calm, Ferrari made the teeth of the tifosi chatter. First with the explosion of Carlos Sainz’s engine, and the dangerous fire that ensued. This new failure causes valuable points to be lost in the constructors’ classification; and will no doubt award a penalty to Carlos Sainz later in the year. Nothing reassures for reliability at Ferrari since Valtteri Bottas also started at the back of the grid due to an exhausted engine stock; while Kevin Magnussen also encountered an engine warning in the race at Haas.

As for Charles Leclerc’s victory, it should have been simpler and less full of suspense… and yet! The hearts of the tifosi beat a thousand an hour at the end of the race – Mattia Binotto himself admitted that he had not watched the last three laps of the race, due to this mysterious pedal problem. accelerator. When it’s not the brakes, or the engine, it’s the pedal: as there are more than 15,000 parts on an F1 car and only 22 Grands Prix, Ferrari shouldn’t have too much trouble in the next races to find grounds for concern. And besides, Binotto has already warned: there will be no miracle solution before long races…

Flop n°2: Depression at AlphaTauri

It may not be the worst weekend of his career, but it’s not far off. Pierre Gasly and more generally AlphaTauri had the head of the bad days, every day in Austria. Poorly performing in qualifying, the AlphaTauri were disillusioned during the Sprint. In particular Pierre, the accursed of the Sprints, who was the victim (but perhaps more guilty than victim) of an incident at the first corner on Saturday. The next day, while Yuki Tsunoda had absolutely no rhythm, Pierre Gasly was guilty of other balls: 5 seconds penalty for crossing the limits of the track, 5 others for sending Sebastian Vettel waltzing into the gravel. The Norman assumed his errors besides 100%.

Is the light at the end of the tunnel? Perhaps: the AlphaTauri evolutions, the first, finally, should arrive for France… or promised, for the next Grand Prix. Long announced, long awaited, these developments must absolutely allow AlphaTauri to raise the bar: otherwise, the end of the season risks being very long.

Flop n°3: Harassment, insults and racism in the stands of the Red Bull Ring

This weekend at the Red Bull Ring will not only leave good memories – far from it. Indeed, in the stands, or around the circuit, numerous acts of harassment have been reported: sexist insults, homophobic insults, racist remarks… Testimonies were numerous on Twitter and prompted F1 to react (see our article) . It is even permissible to wonder whether it might not be time to act, in Austria as elsewhere, by going a step further: whether it will ever be possible to spot every fact in the mass of 300,000 spectators, maybe we can, should we, at least make some examples…

F1 could also put pressure on all promoters to do more in this direction – FOM already does this well for traffic jams for example in Barcelona. More broadly, the question of a sustained commitment from F1 also arises for inclusiveness, as Lewis Hamilton pointed out in a press conference: ” It’s time to act. “We Race as One” was all well and good, but it was only words. There hasn’t been funding for anything, there hasn’t been a program to create change and fuel that conversation. So we definitely need to use our platforms, but we really need to step up and really start taking action on some of the things that we’re saying. Just saying a few words…it’s not enough. This is unacceptable. It’s not sufficient. »

Finally, let’s deplore the whistles of part of the public against Lewis Hamilton, after the Briton’s violent exit from the track in qualifying. Of course, these whistles were only the fact of a small part of the public – the fact remains that it is a very bad image that F1 sent back.

We want to see…

Williams back in the peloton?

Williams was finally able to measure at the Red Bull Ring what the upgrade package brought to Silverstone was worth (but with Alexander Albon’s big crash at the start of the race, it was not possible to assess him calmly, because the Thai was the only one to have it, as well as in Austria for that matter).

And there is good, even very good: with this package, Alexander Albon achieved his co-best qualification of the season (12th place). While in the race, he was able to glimpse the top 10 for a long time, only being overtaken by Valtteri Bottas at the end of the race. Above all, the Williams driver confided, with his aerodynamic package, to have the pace of the McLarens in the race. Bottas was also worried to see a Williams faster than him… Williams troublemaker for the top 10 and detached from the Aston Martin F1 (and the AlphaTauri…) at the back of the pack? And why not ?

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