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ANARCHY AT AUSTRIA


The Austrian Grand Prix, held at the picturesque Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, is a highlight of the Formula 1 calendar. Known for its scenic alpine backdrop and challenging 4.3 km track layout, the circuit features a mix of high-speed straights, tight corners, and elevation changes that test driver skill and car performance.

The circuit was notoriously known for its track limits issues. The last few races were marred by drivers receiving multiple penalties for exceeding track limits and running into the gravel. To solve this the track’s kerbs and gravel traps were updated. F1 race director Niels Wittich suggested this was the perfect solution. For Red Bull, it was their home race. They wanted to strengthen their lead in both championships and winning in front of the home crowd added extra significance to their campaign.

However, in the last few races, they have looked weaker. McLaren stepped up in their performance, and Lando Norris pushed Max to the limit in the previous races in Canada and Spain. Both drivers, Lando and Oscar Piastri, had been performing consistently. Red Bull's second driver, Sergio Perez, was struggling to match his teammate's performances over the race weekends. Red Bull needed him to resolve his issues to consolidate their lead in the constructor's title.

Mercedes were slowly gaining performance over Ferrari in the last few races. Since Monaco, Ferrari looked considerably slower, with the upgrades not giving them the performance they wanted. They looked to break their slump in Austria.


The Austrian Grand Prix followed the sprint weekend format, which meant an additional sprint race with the top 8 securing extra points. Even though Max and Red Bull were the heavy favourites, everything was up for grabs.

On Friday, Verstappen's car unexpectedly stopped on the main straight during the practice session. He reported an engine issue while changing the transmission settings. It was concerning news for Red Bull, as they had used all the available power units for Verstappen's car this season. However, the mechanics quickly resolved the issue, allowing Verstappen to head back out again. He then removed any concerns by setting the fastest lap of the session. Norris also had a quick trip in the gravel but was able to bring the car safely into the pits.

Just three hours later, sprint qualifying began. It was an exciting session as Max took the sprint pole with Lando being just nine-hundredths of a second behind him. Piastri followed closely behind in third, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz split the Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. Hamilton survived a run in the gravel trap and completed his lap. Sergio Perez continued his struggles with the Red Bull team as he only mustered P7. Charles Leclerc suffered an engine anti-stall, which did not let him complete the final part of the session. It was a disaster for the Monegasque driver, as he looked competitive during the initial stages.

In Saturday's sprint race, Verstappen sped away from the start with the McLarens fighting each other for second. Leclerc had a fast start and was right behind Perez's tail. Sainz made a brilliant move on Russell around the outside at turn four, while the Alpines fell behind at the beginning.


We witnessed the initial stages of the Norris Verstappen on-track duel during the sprint race when Lando maneuvered his car to the inside of Verstappen at turn three, securing the lead. Max immediately responded with a lunge at turn four, retaking the lead. Norris went wide, which allowed Piastri to slip through to second place. Russell reclaimed 4th from Sainz with a simple pass in the DRS zone between turns 3 and 4.

Verstappen built a comfortable advantage over Piastri and took home the sprint win. Lando troubled Piastri in the final laps, but the Australian held onto 2nd. Russell and Hamilton finished 4th and 6th, while Sainz finished 5th. Leclerc made up ground during the sprint to finish in 7th, and Perez took the last point-scoring position in 8th.

In the main qualifying session, Verstappen set the Red Bull Ring alight with a time of 1.04.314, four-tenths up on Norris. Piastri's lap was initially good enough for third place but was deleted due to track limits. This dropped him down to P7. George Russell secured third, with Lewis took fifth in the Mercedes. The Ferrari’s finished 4th and 6th respectively. Leclerc had a big moment in the final corner which made him lose laptime. Perez could only muster 8th continuing his poor form in qualifying.

Haas had a decent qualifying session with Hulkenberg taking 9th and Magnussen 12th . Aston Martin’s struggles continued as Stroll was 17th and Alonso 15th. Williams and Kick Sauber languished at the back.

On Sunday, the stands were filled in a sea of Orange fans. The conditions were clear and the atmosphere was electric as the cars lined up on the grid. Verstappen got away cleanly from the start, with Norris and Russell following right behind. It was a nightmarish start for Leclerc as he hit Piastri heading into Turn 1, damaging his front wing. He had to pit and fell to P18. Piastri continued and fought with Perez, who pushed him into the gravel at Turn 3. Meanwhile, Hamilton jumped Sainz at the start and went after Russell. On Lap 3, he went around the outside of Russell into Turn 3 to move up to third. In response, Russell used DRS to take back the position. The stewards were investigating a Lap 1 incident where Hamilton left the track to gain an advantage over Sainz. To avoid a penalty, Mercedes told Hamilton to give the position to the Spaniard. Piastri continued his charge and took P6 from Perez. He started to then settle in and slowly reduce the gap to Hamilton ahead.

Verstappen had built a comfortable lead as the teams headed into the first round of stops. Red Bull and McLaren were debating between the two-stop or three-stop strategy. Max pitted in lap 24, with Norris following suit. The stewards were busy as usual, investigating an unsafe release by the Red Bull crew. Hamilton picked up a 5-second penalty for going off-track. Sergio Perez got hit with a 5-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane. His struggles continued, and he didn't seem to challenge Piastri. Behind him, Hulkenberg and Magnussen were running well and were looking to score good points. Ferrari kept motivating Leclerc, saying that points were up for grabs. The Alpine drivers didn’t have great synergy as they scrapped for P11. Alonso, who was behind the two, could only say “wow” on the team radio. Russell made a stop for hards and stayed in P3. Piastri made good ground after the pitstops and chased Sainz for 4th place.

Things started to tense up at the front, with Verstappen continuously radioing to the team, saying his tires were dropping quickly. Norris kept putting on the pressure, setting the fastest lap and reducing the gap. Red Bull made the call to switch to the mediums on lap 52. McLaren did the same. However, it was a disaster for Red Bull as the stop lasted 6.5 seconds due to a stubborn rear left nut. The slow stop reduced the gap between Verstappen and Norris on track from 8 seconds to under 2 seconds.

As we headed into the final part of the race, Norris attempted a move into Turn 3. Verstappen shut the door, and the Brit ran onto the grass. Norris complained to his engineer, saying that Verstappen moved after spotting Norris. Verstappen continued to complain about the car's lack of grip. Norris had a black-and-white flag for track limits.

On lap 59, Norris attempted a late move to take the lead but ran off the track. As a result, he had to give the position back to Verstappen. The battle continued, and two laps later, Verstappen also ran off the track while trying to maintain his lead.

Things suddenly went awry on lap 64, as both drivers made contact at turn 3, causing punctures to each other. They limped back to the pits, with Norris getting a 5-second penalty for exceeding track limits, while Verstappen got a 10-second penalty for the incident.

Russell suddenly charged through to take the lead. Behind him, Piastri executed a brilliant overtake around the outside of Carlos Sainz at Turn 6 to secure second place. Unfortunately, Norris was forced to retire due to sustaining significant damage. As a result of the incident, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed, temporarily impeding Piastri's efforts to overtake Russell. After receiving additional motivation from boss Toto Wolff on the radio, Russell held onto the lead to take home an unexpected win. Piastri tried but fell short by just under two seconds. Sainz completed the podium while Hamilton took 4th. Max came home 5th.

Haas had a brilliant outing as Hulkenberg and Magnussen finished 6th and 8th, securing massive points for the team as they jumped to 7th in the constructor's standings. Perez finished 7th, and Danny Ric took P9 in the Racing Bulls car. Gasly took the final points position for Alpine, while Ocon finished P12. Leclerc just missed out on the points in P11. Aston Martin continued to trend downward as both cars missed out on the points, with Alonso taking a 10-second penalty for an earlier punt into Guanyou Zhou. Williams and Kick Sauber remained as back markers throughout the entirety of the race.

In the post-race interview, Russell thanked the team for getting them into a position to take an opportunistic victory. Verstappen and Norris were vocal about the incident, with Norris saying he felt let down. The Brit blamed Verstappen for the incident. Verstappen said he would further review the incident and discuss it with Norris later when the tensions boiled down.

The Austrian Grand Prix delivered yet another eventful race, and the rivalry between Verstappen and Norris continues to heat up. With the next race in Silverstone, Norris will want to deliver a victory in front of his home crowd and reduce the gap in the championship. McLaren and Mercedes continue to reign in the Red Bull team and will fancy their chances of winning their home race. Ferrari will look to regain momentum while it's damage limitation for Aston Martin. Haas took a massive leap forward as a team and will look to improve as the season goes on. Overall, a very entertaining weekend.

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