The 2021 Austrian GP was a race to remember, mainly because of the mass number of penalties. Only Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Mick Schumacher and Fernando Alonso had a completely clean race weekend. The stewards penalised 10 drivers this weekend and investigated a further 6 drivers. This means that half of the grid received penalties! It’s safe to say that nobody expected this much harshness from the stewards. And it’s also safe to say that nobody expected this much dominance from Max Verstappen. We’ll take a more detailed look into this unforeseen pace later on in this post. We’ll also take a look at some of the incidents and penalties from this race. It’s always fun to review controversial crashes and penalties!
The midfield mayhem was there throughout the race, with the Aston Martin drivers and the AlphaTauri drivers struggling to combat the McLarens and the Ferraris. Speaking of the McLarens and the Ferraris, both teams had hectic, yet fairly positive races today. Both teams had both of their drivers finish in the points, with both Ferraris and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo starting outside of the Top 10.
Lando Norris, however, started on the front row of the grid after a qualifying masterclass. After losing out the Mercedes cars and going down to P4 in the race, Norris made an excellent comeback and overtook Lewis Hamilton to finish the race in P3 and score his 4th career podium. Ahead of Norris was Valtteri Bottas. Bottas achieved a much-needed podium after qualifying 5th and after having an overall terrible 2021 season so far. It’s good that he’s managed to out-perform his teammate. Although to be fair to Hamilton, he did have damage to his car, but then again, that’s because he rode over the kerbs too aggressively.
George Russell was in the points-paying positions for most of this race. But unfortunately, with just 3 laps to go in the race, Fernando Alonso finally got past the Williams into Turn 4. Hats off to Russell for defending the position for so long; he gave it everything out there, but it simply wasn’t enough, because Alonso just had that much more pace. Russell struggled with the tight traffic at the start, which is why he wasn’t up there in P7 or P8 and was down in P10 instead.
Of course, in this race, there were some controversial incidents. The first was on Lap 4 at the Safety Car restart. Sergio Perez was trying to overtake Norris around the outside at Turn 4, but ran out of road and went on the gravel, which sent him down to P10. In the end, Perez finished P6, after his two 5-second time penalties were counted. Perez did the same thing to Charles Leclerc at Turn 4 later in the race, which gave him one penalty. The 2nd came when Perez did the same thing to Leclerc AGAIN, this time at the exit of Turn 6. I’ll analyse these incidents later on in the post. There were more incidents as well in this race, with the first being at the start of the race. At the exit of Turn 4, Esteban Ocon got sandwiched in between two cars.
He had Antonio Giovinazzi on the right, Mick Schumacher on the left. Ocon’s front-right tire made contact with GIO’s rear-right tire. That small bit of contact broke the suspension on the front-right tire and forced Ocon to retire from the race, which brought out a Safety Car. Another incident came at the final lap of the race when Sebastian Vettel tried to make a surprise overtake on Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen was on the left, and he turned towards the right while Vettel’s car was there. Raikkonen hit Vettel’s rear-right tire and basically took him out of the race. He was penalised for the incident.
So now, let’s get into the main analysis in this post. First, we’ll be looking at Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s dominance in the last few races of the season. Let’s be honest, we didn’t expect Verstappen to take a Grand Slam at the 2021 Austrian GP, and we didn’t expect Red Bull to take 5 race wins in a row. Also, we’ll look at the incidents from this race and the penalties awarded. We’ll look at whether some of these penalties were fair or not. And now, without further ado, let’s get into this race review!
Have Red Bull And Verstappen Got This Season In The Bag?
For the first time in his F1 career, Verstappen achieved an F1 Grand Slam. An F1 Grand Slam is when a driver qualifies on pole position, achieves the fastest lap of the race, leads every lap of the race and wins the race. Yeah, Lewis Hamilton dominated the 2020 F1 season and didn’t achieve a single Grand Slam in that year. And here we are in 2021, with Max Verstappen absolutely commanding the 2021 Austrian GP. An F1 Grand Slam is also known as a Grand Chelem. We saw similar lights-to-flag dominance at the 2021 Styrian GP, but we didn’t see a full-on Grand Slam.
Since Verstappen won the 2021 French GP as well, he has now won 3 races in a row. INCREDIBLE. And Red Bull have won 5 races in a row since Perez won the 2021 Azerbaijan GP, which was the race before the French GP. And Verstappen won the 2021 Monaco GP before that. Only Mercedes have been capable of such dominance since 2014. And for the first time since 2013, Red Bull are looking like they can actually win the constructors’ title. And for the first time since 2013, a Red Bull driver is looking capable of winning the drivers’ title.
Lewis Hamilton knows it, Mercedes knows it, and the F1 world can see it; Mercedes have a long, difficult journey ahead of them if they want to beat Red Bull this season. Red Bull have already built a 44-point gap to Mercedes in the championship. Max Verstappen is currently 32 points ahead of Hamilton. True, one bad race for Red Bull, and Mercedes can take the lead. But Red Bull’s strength so far in the 2021 season, and Verstappen’s clear dominance in the 2021 Austrian GP is a good sign for Red Bull. But Mercedes fans, fear not, because you can rely on a team like Mercedes to have an ace up their sleeves.
Why Were The Stewards So Harsh This Weekend?
As I mentioned earlier, 10 drivers were penalised at least once during the 2021 Austrian GP weekend, with a further 6 drivers being investigated, but not penalised. It’s safe to say that there was plenty of discussion on social media as to whether some of these penalties were too harsh or not. A lot of people think that the drivers that received penalties didn’t deserve those penalties and/or shouldn’t have received them. The most controversial incident was the Lap 4 incident with Norris and Perez, for which the stewards penalised Norris. In that incident, Sergio Perez was trying to overtake Lando Norris. It was the Safety Car restart, and Perez was side-by-side with Norris down into Turn 1.
But at the exit of Turn 1, Norris left no space for Perez, and Perez went wide. Since there is tarmac there, and going wide at Turn 1 at the start or at a Safety Car restart is common, so the stewards are much more lenient there. They do not penalise any driver for going wide at those certain points in the race if the driver going wide comes back on track behind the car it entered the corner behind. In simple terms, they can’t gain any advantage from going off the track. In Perez and Norris’s case, Perez lost a bit of momentum by going off. But down into Turn 3, the Mercs were trying to get involved in the battle too. When the cars were going down the straight towards Turn 4, Perez got into Norris’s slipstream.
Norris defended the inside line into Turn 4. So Perez went for the ambitious move around the outside. They were side-by-side when Perez ran off the exit kerb and into the gravel. Norris didn’t leave Perez enough space and received a 5-second time penalty and 2 penalty points on his FIA Super License. Norris served the penalty when he pitted; the pit crew had to wait 5 seconds before conducting the stop. That’s why Norris came out of the pits behind Bottas.
Ironically, later in the race, Perez did the same thing to Leclerc at the very same corner, although Perez was more aggressive since his car made contact with Leclerc’s car. Perez received the same penalty, but he had already pit, so the time went against his finishing time for the race. Perez received ANOTHER penalty; another 5 seconds and 2 more penalty points, for squeezing Leclerc out AGAIN, this time at the exit of Turn 6. I think this is what brought so much uproar; people think that the stewards and the FIA have gotten too soft, and are holding back the drivers from racing.
But I think that those penalties were required. In all instances, the cars that went onto the gravel were side-by-side with the cars that left them no space. When a driver is side-by-side with another driver, they must leave them a car’s width’s space, and both Norris and Perez clearly did not do that. Of course, the fact that the gravel was right next to the track played a big role in the handing out of penalties. Perez lost 7 positons due to running onto the gravel on Lap 4. Leclerc didn’t lose positions, but definitely lost time and his tires became dirtier and more worn. In all 3 ways, somebody had to be penalised, and in all 3 instances, the driver who stayed on the road and gained an advantage was penalised.
The stewards are simply following the rules and doing their jobs. The rules that the FIA make may be harsh, but all 10 teams have agreed to them before the season started. True, we don’t want to see boring races where drivers can’t be a little rough. It’s true that the penalty points system is a little harsh. But these rules are there for the safety and the fairness of the sport. And also, the specific circumstances in which these incidents took place make the penalties a little more controversial, i.e. Norris now having 10 penalty points on his license, and how the incident ruined Perez’s race.
Well, the 2021 Austrian GP was a controversial race, with many moments to remember, just like the 2020 Austrian GP. In a week and a half’s time will be the 2021 British GP, where the Sprint Qualifying format will make its debut. Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!