It was a command and conquer performance by Max Verstappen as he won the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix with the authority of a world champion in waiting. Though he is yet to ascend the driver’s world championship throne, 9 races into a 23 race campaign, Verstappen and Red Bull look in total control. Hamilton could only manage 4th in qualifying as he was outgunned by Sergio Perez, Lando Norris and of course Verstappen ahead of him.
The opening lap of the race saw Hamilton drop down to 5th as Bottas sneaked past. Soon after a safety car was deployed to remove Sebastian Ocon’s damaged and stricken Alpine. At the restart, Hamilton regained 4th from Bottas. Ahead of him, Perez fought Norris for 2nd on the outside of turn 4. As he did so, the McLaren driver squeezed Perez into the gravel, dropping the Red Bull into the midfield and earning himself a five-second penalty.
The MCL35M in the hands of Norris was proving to be very competitive and it took Hamilton a further 16 laps to get past. But there was no fighting charge to the front from Hamilton. The underlying speed of the Mercedes has fallen away due to a lack of development. Mercedes seem to be relying on Hamilton’s raw speed to make up for a shortfall in pace. But the seven-time champion can only do so much. But he didn’t help his cause when he ran wide on turn 1 and damaged the floor of his Mercedes.
The damage caused aerodynamic instabilities which further reduced pace and eventually allowed Bottas and the Lando Norris through. It was a bad day for Hamilton but he had built up enough of a cushion to retain 4th. At the front, Verstappen had the race wrapped up pretty much from lap 1. The Red bull prodigy put in another mature and professional display allied with an ability to maximize performance courtesy of raw natural speed.
Red Bull and Honda are developing the car race by race, Mercedes have admitted their priorities lie in 2022 which is why they have not developed the W12 E since the start of the 2021 season. And it is beginning to show. The best drivers always end up in the best car. The Mercedes isn’t the best at the moment, mistakes are beginning to creep in. And in his bid to keep up with Red Bull, Hamilton is making costly small errors.
2021 Austrian Grand Prix: Race Results
Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Perez received a 10-second time penalty for forcing another driver off track. Stroll received a 5-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Tsunoda received a 5-second time penalty for crossing the white line at the pit entry. Raikkonen received a drive-through penalty, converted to a 20-second time penalty, for causing a collision. Mazepin and Latifi received 10-second stop-and-go penalties, converted to 30-second time penalties, for not respecting double yellow flags.