The 2021 Austrian Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, July 4, at the same track as last weekend’s 2021 Styrian Grand Prix, which should give us a good insight into how the ninth race of the 2021 Formula One World Championship will play out. However, we should be careful about predicting the same results, mainly due to the unpredictable weather.
There are many things to look out for ahead of the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix that could change how the race will play out. However, one thing remains constant – Max Verstappen’s lead ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutch driver is now 18 points clear of Hamilton on the 2021 standings, whereas Red Bull lead Mercedes with 252 points to 212, with five wins and nine podiums. The Silver Arrows, meanwhile, managed only three wins and ten podiums on the season.
To no one’s surprise, Max Verstappen won the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix. However, what might surprise some is how dominant the Dutch looked in claiming his fourth victory of the season.
The 23-year-old crossed the line over 35 seconds (35.743s) ahead of Lewis Hamilton and nearly 47 seconds (46.907) ahead of Valtteri Bottas in third. It’s an impressive feat on its own, but it’s worth mentioning that the Red Bull Circuit isn’t exactly known for large winning margins, further proving just how far ahead Verstappen and Red Bull are.
Austrian weather has been unpredictable of late. Thunderstorms were expected for the Styrian Grand Prix and arrived on Wednesday. There was also plenty of rain on Friday; however, none of it affected the race. During the race, some storms clouds formed around the track but never hit.
The weather will be just as unpredictable ahead of Sunday’s race. The weather forecast for Friday and Saturday shows a 20% chance of rain, with temperatures at around 20-24 °C.
For Sunday, the chance of rain rises to 40%, without any significant changes to the expected temperature. As forecasted, there will be showers over the mountains, which could reach the race at 14:00-17:00.
In short, the meteorologists nor we have no idea what the weather will look like on Sunday.
Who Can Stop Max Verstappen?
After his commanding victory last weekend, Max Verstappen looks poised to secure his fifth of the season. The Dutch won the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix with relative ease and never seemed in danger of losing it, further proving that he is a class above the field.
From what we have gathered from the last few races, it will require Verstappen to “mess it up” for any other driver to overtake him. From the field, Hamilton is the only one who could challenge him purely of individual skill, but the gap in quality of Mercedes cars to that of Red Bull will make this task much more tedious.
As noted by the seven-time Formula One champion, he is not comfortable in his car, which requires big improvements if he is ever to overtake Verstappen in the standings. Unfortunately (for Hamilton), the Silver Arrows’ boss Toto Wolf stated that Mercedes cars will not see any more development this year and will instead focus on improving their cars for 2022.
James Allison, technical director at Mercedes, later stated that Silver Arrows are planning to make changes to improve their chances to reclaim the throne. Although positive news for Mercedes and its two drivers, it’s very obvious that Mercedes have a lot of catching up to do – perhaps too much to make any serious noise in 2021.
Second Shot for Leclerc
Charles Leclerc can’t be happy with his seventh-place finish last Sunday, and he shouldn’t be. The Ferrari driver was in an excellent position to compete for top spots but lost too much ground after he was forced to pit stop early following a collision with Pierre Gasly, damaging his front right wing.
Perhaps he couldn’t have finished inside the top-four even without the incident; however, a top-five finish wouldn’t have escaped him. Not to undervalue Lando Norris’ incredible run, however, you can’t ignore Ferrari’s improvement last race – namely their race pace.
Leclerc has done well to finish in seventh despite stopping early, and that should leave you wondering where he could end up had he finished the race without issues. Talking about Ferrari, Carlos Saintz finished sixth, which was a solid improvement from his 11th place finish in France. That, however, isn’t too surprising.
Ferrari took a different approach in Austria last week to what we saw from them in France. What seemed like a wrong choice in increasing downforce (relative to their practice in France) has proven beneficial for Ferrari over the course of the race.
Even though they ended up losing speed in straights, this system wasn’t as damaging to the tires. A wise choice, which unfortunately hasn’t earned them any exciting results on the day.
Ferrari Should Do Better on Sunday
A sixth-seventh place finish last week might not inspire much confidence in Ferrari drivers; however, there’s a reason to believe that the Prancing Horses will do better the second time out.
They were a bit disappointing in the qualifiers, which eventually cost them a better placement in the race and while that’s a rather bad excuse, it’s fair to say that the Ferrari duo would have finished much higher had they started the race in a better position.
Leclerc started the race from seventh but failed to gain any spots – largely due to his incident. And let’s not forget to mention Leclerc bumping into Kimi Raikkonen in Lap 42, granted not much harm came from it.
On the other side, his teammate, Saintz, started from 12th and gained six spots, which is impressive, to say the least. It marked his third top-six finish of the season, and if he can show the same fire on Sunday, another top-six isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
Although it’s highly unlikely that Ferrari will manage to challenge Mercedes, let alone Red Bull, double points shouldn’t escape the 16-time Constructor champions. You can take Ferrari’s double points to finish at odds as high as 1.61 on Bet365, which is a generous offer for how improved Ferrari looked last week.
Prediction: Ferrari double points finish – 1.61 at Bet365