Opinion

The 2021 Formula One Championship Is Max Verstappen’s To Lose

Illustration for article titled The 2021 Formula One Championship Is Max Verstappen's To Lose

Photo: Clive Rose (Getty Images)

We may be watching the end of the Mercedes Formula One before our eyes after another dominant victory from Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen. It was another win from pole position for the Dutch driver.

Race day dawned rainy, but the weather kept away for the race start in Austria. Max Verstappen had a solid start from pole position, with much of the top five remaining the same through the first few corners.

It wasn’t as great of a start for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who started in 17th and found himself sandwiched between Mick Schumacher on the left and Antonio Giovinazzi on the left. Giovinazzi clipped Ocon’s right front tire, which saw the whole wheel cave in. It brought out the first safety car for a few laps to make sure the car could be cleared.

The restart was quite a bit more chaotic than the real start. Verstappen, of course, had a great start once again — but Sergio Perez and Lando Norris had a solid battle for the second position through most of that first lap. It allowed both Mercedes to close in, but Perez running wide into the gravel effectively thinned out the front of the grid. Verstappen ran away with the lead, followed by Norris, Lewis Hamilton in DRS range, and Valtteri Bottas. After his off-track excursion, Perez rejoined the track in 10th.

Soft tired cars started to come into the pits around lap 14, while those on mediums or hards were able to stay out much longer, closer to lap 30.

Hamilton overtook Norris on lap 20, knocking the driver down to third place. On that same lap, Norris was awarded a five-second time penalty for forcing Perez off track. Because of that penalty, Bottas was able to get a leg up on Norris when Norris pitted. Later, Perez forced Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc off the track and earned a penalty himself.

Despite his penalty, Norris’ pace was exceptional, and he began to gain time on the Mercedes team, who were given the go-ahead to race as hard as possible to keep Norris off their tail. Unfortunately for them, Norris managed to pass Hamilton in turn 6, putting him into a podium position. Hamilton immediately pitted for new tires.

With 10 laps to go, Red Bull called Verstappen in to pit. It seemed to be a bit of a risky move for a driver so far out in front of the pack, but it’s likely that the team was attempting to avoid a late-race blowout and score a fastest lap.

On the last lap, Raikkonen locked up and tapped Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin, sending both cars into the gravel trap.

At the end of the day, no one had anything for Verstappen, who took pole, fastest lap, and race win. Bottas took second position with Norris securing his fourth podium position of his career — and Driver of the Day.

Top 10 Finishing Order

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  3. Lando Norris (McLaren)
  4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  5. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)
  6. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
  7. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
  8. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
  10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

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