Hungary for more heavyweight battles: Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

It had to happen eventually. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have been battling hammer and tong all season long so far and, while we are all enjoying the psychological and physical challenges that come with a great title fight, we all feared that it might come to blows at some point.

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone proved to be a resplendent one for action and drama over the course of two races that weekend, and it also saw the moment that our two front-runners for the world championship become intense adversaries.

Hamilton’s win following the lap one collision now places him eight points behind the Dutchman coming into Budapest, where all eyes will be on who can take the incentive going into the summer break.

The 4.3 kilometre Hungaroring has held 35 races in the Formula One Championship in its tenure thus far, and the 36th is as highly anticipated as ever, with two drivers not displaced to give an inch going head-to-head in the 11th round of the championship.

If 2019 is anything to go by, they may well end up being pitted directly against one another again, after the seven-time-champion caught the Red Bull driver following an extra pit stop, passing him to win a thrilling Grand Prix.

We may well see more side-by-side action between Hamilton and Verstappen this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

This was a time, however, when Red Bull were not in a position to contend for the title, and at a circuit in which Red Bull should thrive, Verstappen will be seeking instant redemption for Silverstone.

The 23-year-old comfortably took victory in Monaco earlier in the campaign, making him the favourite on a similar racetrack. But who else might it favour?

McLaren are bringing updates to the upcoming weekend, as they try to solidify their place in third in the Constructors’ standings. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz affirms that the McLaren is already the most difficult car to overtake. With Lando Norris’ three podiums and Daniel Ricciardo seemingly improving his pace, it is going to take a lot of work from the likes of Ferrari and Alpine to leapfrog McLaren. Charles Leclerc’s impressive performance over all three days at Silverstone, however, puts Ferrari in a positive position this weekend.

Charles Leclerc’s impressive performance at Silverstone saw him gain his first podium of the season – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Silverstone has made Budapest a spicy encounter before it has even begun, and we cannot wait. Be sure to follow our live coverage on Twitter and our website as F1 heads into its last race before the summer break.

British Grand Prix’s Carbon Neutral Broadcast

Ahead of their plan to be Net Carbon Zero by 2030, Formula One announced that the British Grand Prix was their first completely carbon neutral broadcast.

Working closely with Albert, a company that helps broadcasters to produce sustainable productions, Formula One was awarded the Albert Certification. In order to be given this award, companies must calculate the carbon footprint of their broadcast and then create, and successfully execute, a Carbon Action Plan.

As part of their plan to have a completely carbon neutral production, Formula One made several changes going in to the weekend. Over 7500 litres of diesel was replaced by Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (HVOs) to fuel their generators. According to biodiesel production company Aggreko, HVOs cut Nitrogen Oxide emissions by up to 25% and reduce particulates by up to 42%). This all equates to less greenhouse gas emissions.

Formula One also focused on transportation in their Carbon Action Plan. Zero-emission vehicles were introduced to some of their circuit operations, and up to 70% of staff cars were swapped for hybrids. When in electric-only mode and charged by the UK mains supply, it is believed that CO2 is reduced by up to 40% compared to a small petrol car.

Away from the track, Formula One’s remote broadcasting facility in Biggin Hill was run on renewable energy supply with low-energy lighting to help improve efficiency. They also ran a “Switch it Off” campaign to encourage reduced energy consumption, and had a wider variety of vegan and vegetarian meals in the canteens. This last step is particularly significant, as animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions; red meats such as beef and lamb being particularly bad offenders.

The final stage of their Carbon Action Plan was to offset all remaining emissions via a CO2 offset scheme that is partnered with Albert. Naturally, companies cannot offset their way to carbon neutrality in the long term, however it allows them to be carbon neutral as they aim to produce as close to zero greenhouse gasses as possible.

It was a good weekend for environment lovers as Formula One produced their first carbon neutral broadcast, which was capped off by a fan litter pick organised and led by Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel. This is hopefully the first of many as Formula One aim to make every event sustainable by 2025.

British GP Friday qualifying: Hamilton fastest at home

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest on Friday qualifying after a blistering first lap in Q3 made sure that he would be starting from P1 for the sprint race on Saturday. An all new trial format for Formula 1 this weekend means that the drivers will go again on Saturday with a 17 lap race at Silverstone and the winner from that race will be awarded pole position for the actual race on Sunday. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas in the other Mercedes is set to start from P3 after his lap was two tenths shy of Hamilton’s lap time.

Hamilton’s closest title rival Max Verstappen was complaining of understeer through out qualifying and fell short of P1 by just about 0.075 seconds while his teammate Sergio Perez could only qualify 5th after his time from the second run during Q3 was deleted due to him exceeding track limits. Redbull who have been fastest during the course of the season will not be happy with this result and will have their work cut out before the sprint race.

Ferrari will take heart from Friday qualifying after Charles Leclerc managed to be the 4th fastest on Friday courtesy of a Perez deleted lap time. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari could only manage a P9 but crucially for Ferrari, they have atleast one car ahead of McLaren at P4.

In what was a tough few days for McLaren off track with Lando Norris incident at Wemblely and team boss Zak Brown coming down with the coronavirus, it was not a bad outing for the British team after Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have both put in lap times which are good enough for a P6 and P7 on the grid for sprint race tomorrow.

‘Mr. Saturday’ Geroge Russell has also proved that he would be an excellent ‘Mr.Friday’ should this new race weekend format stick, after a brilliant Q2 lap meant that he was into Q3 yet again. He then set another excellent lap time in Q3 which means 8th position on the starting grid is his for the sprint race. Things were not that great for his Canadian teammate Latifi in the other Williams after he could not get out of Q1 and will be starting from P18.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel makes up the last of top 10 fastest drivers on the grid after having his first lap time in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits and will be starting P10 for the sprint race. His teammate Lance Stroll couldn’t quite find a similar pace and will be starting from P15.

It was a bad Friday outing for Alpha Tauri in comparison with the last few weekends, after Pierre Gasly only managed a lap good enough to put him on P12 for tomorrow while his teammate Tsunoda had things go worse for him after his lap was not good enough for the rookie driver to go to Q2 and he is set to start from P16.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finally managed to get out Q1 this time around and is set to start P13 for tomorrow while his teammate Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on Q3 and will be starting P11. Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi managed to get out of Q1 but could only go as high as P14 while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen could not manage that and will only be starting P17. Both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Mazepin at P20, which has become rather predictable based on how their season is going.

A new format in on trial at a packed Silverstone but it is the old and familiar top 3 of Hamilton, Verstappena and Bottas is set to start the sprint race.  With points up for grabs and of course the pole position for the main race on Sunday, it is set to be an interesting 17-lap race on Saturday. Redbull seem to be running away with the title but a resurgence from Hamilton and Mercedes is definitely on the cards as the race for pole is on.

F1 is coming home: British Grand Prix Preview

Football may not have come to England on Sunday, but as a new race week begins, Silverstone prepares to welcome Formula One for the 56th championship Grand Prix at the 5.8 kilometre track.

And this is a weekend of new beginnings, fresh ideas and uniqueness. The British Grand Prix will play host to the first of three sprint qualifying races in 2021, and though it may have divided opinion, there is a general anticipation of what the event will now look like.

The weekend will begin with a 60-minute practice session on Friday, before the usual qualifying format is contested for the shortened race on the Saturday.

The usual qualifying day will see a further practice session followed by a 100 kilometre race, where the top three drivers will receive points. This race sets the grid for the Grand Prix itself. Sunday will be a return to normality, as the 52-lap Grand Prix is tackled by the drivers.

Whether this is a genius initiative or just an ostentatious gimmick is up for debate – and it certainly has been debated – but there is no doubting that this is a ground-breaking moment for Formula One.

And it is certain that none of it will cast a shadow over the undeniable magic of a Grand Prix at Silverstone. For the first time since 2019, the Buckinghamshire racetrack will welcome a capacity crowd throughout the weekend in the midst of a heatwave, which will add to what is always a remarkable atmosphere at the former airbase.

The fans have encapsulated what the British Grand Prix is all about over the years – Image Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

And we hope to be in for a cracking weekend. 2020 saw two consecutive race weekends at this track, which saw Lewis Hamilton defy a last-lap puncture to win, before Max Verstappen took his first win of the season the following week.

It also proves a special one for the majority of the teams too. Seven of our 10 teams have bases in the United Kingdom, and many find themselves building some of the finest machines on earth just a small drive away from the circuit.

The Aston Martin team are based in Silverstone – Courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Team

But for whom will the weekend prove most rewarding? This has been a prominent question throughout the nine races of 2021 thus far, with an ambiguous distinction between Mercedes and Red Bull so far leading us to simply have to wait and see who will be faster.

Adding to this equation will be Mercedes’ much-anticipated update package, and there will be fascination over the effectiveness off it compared to Red Bull.

Incremental attention, meanwhile, is still being given to Valtteri Bottas’ future, as George Russell continues to be linked to the Brackley-based team for the 2022 season. The Brit has reaffirmed that there will be no update on these rumours this weekend.

Russell and Bottas were team mates last year the Sakhir Grand Prix following Hamilton’s positive COVID-19 test – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

It is a big weekend for many of the teams, as McLaren and Ferrari continue to battle it out for the third-best team after the enticing battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. There are 29 points up for grabs this weekend, and we cannot wait to get started!

Austrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Norris splits the Red Bulls

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen took his 3rd consecutive pole position of the 2021 season as Redbull continued their dominance in Austria. The Dutch driver continued his excellent form and the pole position never looked in doubt due to the sheer pace of the Redbull.

For once, the other English driver on the front in Austria tomorrow will not be Lewis Hamilton as Lando Norris managed to put together a brilliant lap which was good enough to beat both the Mercedes and Sergio Perez in the other Redbull onto the front row. He was closely following Verstappen in the second run of Q3 which meant that he got a great tow and  agonizingly fell short by only four hundredths of a second to the pole position. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren could not find the similar pace and will only be starting P13.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could only manage P4 and P5 after they failed to make any improvements in their second run in Q3 and will be quickly searching for answers and hoping that their upgrades scheduled for Silverstone will bring about the pace that they have been lacking compared to Redbull.

Another headline worthy story from today’s qualifying is yet another one about the Saturdays of George Russell, where this time the English driver managed to put his car into not just Q2 but Q3 and a grid position of P9 on raw pace alone. The Williams team would be overjoyed with the result and Russell himself might be putting pressure on the Mercedes team to give him a shot with a display like today’s.

Aston Martin managed to get both their cars into Q3 with Sebastian Vettel set to start at P8 and Lance Stroll set to start at P10. The former however is under the scrutiny after he impeded Fernando Alonso’s flying lap at turn 10 causing the Spaniard to lose all the momentum and manage only a P14 starting place for the grid. It is yet to be seen what kind of a punishment would be handed to the German driver.

Alpha Tauri put up a very strong display on a hot track today as Pierre Gasly will be starting P6 and his teammate Yuki Tsunoda will be starting P7 as they will be fancying themselves for a double points finish tomorrow.

It was a day of questionable decisions at Ferrari as Carlos Sainz and Leclerc will be starting P11 and P12 respectively. A second run on medium tyres in Q2 meant that both the Ferrari drivers could not improve their times and could have done so if they went out on the softs. This decision was probably taken based on the race pace data from the last weekend where Ferrari looked fast on the medium and hard compound tyres and the Italian team will now be hoping for a repeat of the same.

Alpine had a qualifying to forget after both the cars could not make it into Q3 with Alonso being unlucky and Ocon not finding any pace in the car in the very first qualifying session itself. A visibly distraught Alonso and Alpine will be hoping for the race to turn around their way tomorrow if they are to score any points from the weekend.

Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi and Raikkonen will be starting the race from P15 and P16 respectively after only one of them managed to get out of Q3. Nicholas Latifi in the Williams will be starting P18 after he could not get anywhere close to his teammate and both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Nikita Mazepin at P20 respectively, which makes up the grid.

An 18 point gap is set to become wider between championship leaders Verstappen and Hamilton unless the Mercedes make a strong comeback in terms of race pace and strategy on Sunday. Sergio Perez starting at P3 means that we have a race on our hands with the battle for the constructors championship heating up as well, which sets up beautifully for a brilliant race in the Styrian mountains.

Home is where the heart is for Red Bull – Austrian GP preview

The Formula One circus stays in the Styrian mountains as the Red Bull Ring plays host to the Austrian Grand Prix, just seven days after Max Verstappen claimed victory at the same circuit in the Styrian Grand Prix.

It would take a brave person to bet against Verstappen taking his third consecutive victory on Sunday, given his dominant performance last weekend. Sergio Perez will be hoping he can make it two Red Bulls on the podium, after coming within a second of Valtteri Bottas in the previous race.

A double podium is probably the best case scenario once again for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton making a rare trip to the Brackley simulator in an aim to extract every last inch of performance out of his car. The quick turnaround means no upgrades for this race, and there are mixed messages from the Mercedes camp regarding how much more development we will see on their 2021 car.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (LAT Images / Mercedes AMG F1)

The pace from the top two teams meant Ferrari and McLaren were once again left fighting for fifth. Although it was Lando Norris who won the midfield battle last weekend, Daniel Ricciardo was showing good pace before reliability troubles dropped him down the order. Ferrari will also be hoping for a smoother weekend from Charles Leclerc, who showed some inspired moves after being controversially involved in Pierre Gasly’s retirement.

AlphaTauri, Alpine and Aston Martin will look to pick up some of the lesser points once again, in what looks to be one of the tightest midfield battles for years. Strategy could well be key in this battle, as free air is hard to come by on the track with the shortest lap time of the year. Pirelli are also bringing softer tyres to the Austrian GP than they did at the Styrian round, which might lead to more action in the pitlane.

For George Russell, he will be hoping his pitlane action is much more conventional this weekend. A pneumatic leak cost him a shot at his first ever points for Williams, with the Brit admitting that there’s no guarantee he will be able to replicate that performance again this time around. His teammate will also be hoping for a better result, after being an innocent victim in last weekend’s lap one shenanigans.

 

Alfa Romeo will be hoping they can sneak a point, after just missing out with Kimi Raikkonen last time around. The intriguing battle between the Haas cars will also be one to watch, as Mick Schumacher and his teammate battle for inter-team supremacy, which must be a small ray of light in a very difficult debut season for both drivers.

It’s fair to say last week’s race was not a classic, but different tyres (and possibly different weather) could make the Austrian GP an entirely different beast indeed.

 

Red Bull display dominance at the Red Bull Ring

Max Verstappen took a dominant victory at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, as Mercedes went four races without a win for the first time in the hybrid era.

After an excellent qualifying session yesterday, the stage was set for the latest edition in the fight between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen. The midfield fights also looked to spice up the race, with Norris benefiting from Valtteri Bottas’ penalty and Gasly qualifying really well. Points were possible for George Russell in his Williams starting in P10; the fans can hope. Overtaking is definitely possible at this track with 3 DRS zones and a powerful slipstream meant the battle was on!

The lights went out and Verstappen immediately cut across Hamilton before turn one, having trust that Hamilton would not lock up and go into the back of him. Looking further down there were 4 cars across the track in a battle up to turn 3. Leclerc clipped the rear left of Gasly with his front right wing and tyre, giving himself damage and causing a puncture in Gasly’s tyre. In an attempt to steer the car around turn 3, Gasly collected Latifi and Giovinazzi but luckily didn’t end any of their races. Unfortunately for Gasly that was the end of his race, coming into the pits with suspension damage – Leclerc was able to pit for a new set of tyres and continue.

An early incident with Pierre Gasly meant a busy afternoon for Charles Leclerc – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

As Verstappen was pulling out a gap of two seconds and almost checking out in the lead by lap 6, his team mate Sergio Perez began to struggle behind the McLaren of Lando Norris saying over the radio that he did not have the speed on the straights to keep up. There were questions as to whether they would fight the Red Bull and Mercedes cars behind them, or race to their own plan and focus on staying ahead of Ferrari. On lap eight, these questions were answered. Perez made what looked like an easy move on Norris using DRS, and Bottas passing just a lap later. McLaren said on lap 12 that they were happy with the situation with Norris who was not experiencing some of the early car issues that team mate Daniel Ricciardo had.

After a very positive start for Russell, he made up three places from P10. The issues began when his engineer said, “plan B for reliability”, and pitting on lap 26 for tyres it appeared he had a slow stop to add more pneumatic pressure to the car. Having had to change his rear brake by wire overnight, it was hoped that this would be the last of his problems. However, just one lap later Russell pitted a second time for more pressure. At this point the hearts of Russell fans sunk knowing that points were no longer a possibility. 10 laps later Russell retired with the issue not able to be resolved. Heartbreak for him and Williams.

Perez was the first of the front runners to stop, but he had a slow left rear which meant that when Mercedes pitted Bottas they could punish Red Bull for the mistake with the undercut being powerful here, although not as much as Paul Ricard last week. Bottas was able to come out in front of Perez, which was vital for both the team fight and the race strategy. The large gap now formed by the dominant performance by Verstappen means that when Hamilton pitted just a lap after Bottas, he could not close it when Verstappen pitted.

Whilst not a classic or shocking race, this did have its entertainer in Leclerc. He began his recovery drive on lap two, making places very quickly and seemingly on a charge by lap 25, making a fantastic late move on Ocon. This was then a theme throughout the race; Leclerc continued to make his was through the pack, making brilliant moves and almost colliding with Raikkonen but managing to keep it clean. He made a great switch back move on Tsunoda out of turn four which was so exciting to watch. He ended up being voted driver of the day for a very entertaining recovery drive to finish seventh.

By lap 35 there was over a 30 second gap to Norris in P5, so Red Bull pitted Perez for tyres hoping to take the fastest lap off of Hamilton at the time. Gaining on Bottas at nearly two seconds a lap, he achieved provisional fastest whilst closing the 20-second gap. With just 2 laps to go, having settled for 2nd place, Hamilton pitted for fresh tyres to re-take the fastest lap from Perez.

A late stop from Lewis Hamilton saw him claim the fastest lap of the race – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

As the race ended, Verstappen won with a 35 second lead, showing his impressive and dominant form over the weekend and the race. Hamilton achieved fastest lap to finish P2 and crucially get that world championship point. Perez was still gaining on Bottas, and was poised to overtake for the podium place, but the chequered flag came just in time for the Finn. One or two more laps and Perez could have ended up on the podium.

Styrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Hamilton gets to the front row

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen reigned supreme in the first Austrian race this year as the Dutchman calmly put his Redbull on pole in the mountains of Spielberg. The qualifying went as expected for the home team as it seemed that Verstappen did not need to break a sweat to achieve pole position.

He was two tenths quicker than his nearest competitor in Valtteri Bottas who finished 2nd but will be relegated to 5th because of the penalty that the Finnish driver picked up in free practice 2 as he spun in the pitlane. This means that the stage is set for round 8 of thr Verstappen-Hamilton title fight as the championship leaders lock out the front row with only 12 points separating the two.

Verstappen’s teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting at P4 and crucially ahead of Bottas which will help Redbull in their bid to challenge for the constructors championship. Lando Norris delivered yet another stellar performance continuing his amazing season as the English driver will be starting from P3 alongisde Perez. His teammate Riccirado in the other McLaren will be starting from as low as P13 after what seemed like a good weekend based on practice pace sort of fell apart for the Aussie driver.

Honda powered cars of the Alpha Tauri were enjoying the Redbull ring as it was evident from both Gasly and Tsunoda’s pace after both the cars were comfortably in Q3 and they are set to start at P6 and P8 respectively. Tsunoda’s position is however not quite confirmed yet after the Japanese rookie driver failed to move out of the way of Valtteri Bottas who was on a flying lap and could well be handed a grid drop after a trip to the stewards.

Fernando Alonso on the radio was chirpy as the Spanish driver expressed his happiness with his Q2 lap which put him well into Q3. He will be starting P9 as it stands while his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine could only manage a P17 concluding a mixed Saturday for the French team. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin makes up the top 10 on the grid after the Canadian’s efforts in Q2 saw him get into Q3 by very fine margins while his teammate Vettel could only manage P14 after his time in Q2 was deleted as the German exceeded track limits at turn 10.

George Russell in the Williams continued to live up to his Mr.Saturday tag as the English driver was so close to making it to Q3 as he lost out by a few hundredths of a second but will be starting P11 which could still be a very good place to start in, considering the free tyre choice that will be available to him. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting P16 in what looks to be a season of a slow but continuous improvement for the Williams team.

Ferrari’s resurgence after having taken back to back poles in Monaco and Azerbaijan seems to be coming to a screeching halt after the problems continued in Austria as well. Both the drivers could not find any pace in comparison to the drivers at the front of the grid after Charles Leclerc only managed P7 and Carlos Sainz a P12 after his lap time was deleted in Q2. The Italian team will be hoping for a quick turnaround of fortunes with some rain possibly in the air tomorrow.

Alfa Romeo managed to put one car in Q2 which happened to be Antonio Giovinazzi who will be starting P15 while Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a P18 after his excursions into the gravel near turn 4 meant he could not improve his lap times. Haas only managed P19 and P20 for Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin respectively which a visibly Gunther Steiner described as a learning experience for the team from his pit wall to the commentators. A tough season is set be endured by them after the team’s focus is set on developing the car for the next year’s regulations.

With an 80% chance of rain for the race tomorrow, the battle for the championship is heating up. Redbull have a clear advantage over Mercedes in terms of one lap pace but it has looked pretty even so far when it comes to race day. Verstappen will be looking to increase his lead over Hamilton in the championship but Mercedes will definitely go after the Red Bulls in what promises to be a thrilling first race in Austria this season.

Istanbul returns to Formula One calendar

In the latest Formula One 2021 calendar news, the Turkish Grand Prix has been confirmed as the 16th round of the season.

It will replace the Singapore Grand Prix, which was cancelled earlier on this year.

The 5.3 kilometre Istanbul Park held the 14th race of 2020, in a race which saw Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton pick up his record-equaling seventh world championship.

Lewis Hamilton won his seventh championship in Istanbul last year – Courtesy of Wolfgang Wilhelm

Originally drafted in to replace the Canadian Grand Prix, Turkey was shortly-thereafter removed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was replaced by a double-header in Austria, the first of which is being completed this weekend.

It is yet to be confirmed whether spectators will be permitted to attend the race.

Eight Formula One Grands Prix have been contested at Istanbul in F1, with the first seven held between 2005 and 2011. Following Sebastian Vettel’s win in the early part of the last decade, Istanbul was dropped from the Formula One calendar. Felipe Massa remains the most successful driver in Turkey, winning three in a row between 2006 and 2008.

Felipe Massa’s three wins make him the most successful driver in the history of the Turkish Grand Prix – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

The race will be held at the start of October, as part of a triple-header sandwiched between the Russian and the Japanese Grands Prix.

France fascinates for once

Paul Ricard hasn’t been known for its classic races since re-joining the calendar in 2018, but thankfully this weekend’s French GP put an end to that. Max Verstappen claimed Red Bull’s third consecutive victory this season, overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the race, with Sergio Perez rounding out a great weekend for the Austrian team in third place. It was a result few would have predicted during the first stint of the race.

Luckily for Red Bull, this was another race where tyres were the talk of the town. Thankfully, random failures weren’t on the agenda on Sunday afternoon, but the morning rain  – combined with higher tyre pressures to combat said failures –  meant the conventional one-stop strategy wasn’t as sure of an option as it was expected to be. This lack of grip even caught Max out on lap one, as the Dutchman slid wide at the first corner, gifting the lead to his title rival.

This was the only mistake Max made all race, meaning he was able to capitalise on strategical errors from Mercedes. After Verstappen made his first stop, Mercedes decided not to react straight away, figuring they had enough of a margin to stay out one extra lap, and retain the lead on a fresher set of tyres. A combination of a lightning fast out lap from the Red Bull, and a slower than expected stop from Mercedes gave Verstappen the lead, and left the Brackley-based team’s pitwall scratching their heads. It’s not the first time Mercedes have lost out in the pits this season, with Red Bull consistently a few tenths quicker at tyre changes. Rarely has that small weakness made as big of a difference as it did on Sunday.

The Red Bull crew were immaculate in the pits again on Sunday – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

It became clear during the second stint that the hards were not going to last at even a semi-reasonable pace  – unless you had done an epically long first stint à la Perez and Lando Norris –  and that the two-stop might be your best shot of winning. Still, it was a huge risk for Red Bull to call the Dutchman in from the lead, and in doing so they left Mercedes’ hands tied. Either pit, and resign yourself to losing the victory, or hold on for dear life and pray that the tyres would last to the end. Mercedes went all in on the latter option, when perhaps splitting the strategy might have been the best way to go. It was pretty clear from his expletive-laden messages what Valtteri Bottas wanted to do, delivering messages with the air of a man who doesn’t expect to be hanging around the Silver Arrows too much longer.

The Finn’s tyres were cooked, and as soon as he went deep into the Mistral chicane, there was almost an inevitability about the result. Who knows how much longer he’d have been able to hold off Verstappen without that mistake, but that could well be a key turning point when we look back at the championship in six months time. As could the decision to keep not pit Valtteri after he’d been passed by Sergio Perez, with Mercedes clearly gambling on the Mexican getting a penalty – and gaining them three extra points – rather than going for the fastest lap, and crucially taking one point off Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas cut a frustrated figure after Mercedes’ strategy cost him a podium finish – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Further down the grid, there were some great drives that went under the radar. McLaren were clearly best of the rest, with Norris and Daniel Ricciardo both claiming top-10 finishes. Vettel and Alonso seemed to continue their recent run of form, both scoring multiple points. George Russell also put in a fantastic drive to take 12th, in a race with no retirements, a timely reminder of the young Brit’s talents.

All the talk though was on the brilliant Red Bull strategy, which helped Verstappen extend his championship lead to twelve points over Hamilton. A double-header at their own circuit in Austria now awaits, and it is already starting to feel that if Mercedes do not find some pace soon, their quest for an eighth consecutive championship double will come up agonisingly short.