The Aussie record set to be equalled; Sainz in pursuit of the double — Austrian GP burning questions

The Aussie record set to be equalled; Sainz in pursuit of the double — Austrian GP burning questions

Formula 1 has barely had a chance to catch its breath after the dramatic British Grand Prix, but this weekend we go again in Austria.

The short and sharp 4.3-kilometre alpine track is a fan and driver favourite. Rapid and challenging, it’ll test drivers from the moment they leave pit lane.

That’s especially true given this weekend sees the return of the Saturday sprint. The undulating track has typically produced good racing, so the added 30 minutes of competitive action could be the perfect chaser to the frenetic race last weekend.

Stream all the action from the F1 Austrian Grand Prix this weekend on Kayo. Pre-race coverage starts 9:30pm AEST on Sunday, with racing live from 11pm. New to Kayo? Try 14 days free now >

As if the giant steel bull in the infield wasn’t a sign enough, this is Red Bull home turf. The track is owned by the energy drinks mogul, and the Milton Keynes-based team treats it as its home grand prix. It’ll also be entertaining Honda high flyers this weekend, emphasising the round’s importance.

But Ferrari has just a sniff of momentum after winning in Britain, and after Max Verstappen snatched victory from Charles Leclerc at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola earlier this year, the Italian team will be keen to repay the favour with an away win.


Here’s something that might make you feel old.

Fresh from breaking the record for most podiums in a Red Bull Racing car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Verstappen is poised to equal another team benchmark.

This weekend in Austria he’ll be equalling Mark Webber’s record 129-race tenure with the team and be well on the way to becoming the energy drink brand’s longest-serving driver.

Seeing out his contract through to the end of 2027 will see him roughly double that tally and almost certainly set the record for most races with a since team, currently held by Lewis Hamilton after 188 grands prix with Mercedes.

It couldn’t have coincided with a better race.

Not only is it Red Bull’s home grand prix at a track owned by the company — and it’s also one of the best attended races by Verstappen’s travelling Dutch fanbase — but the championship leader is the form man around the Spielberg circuit.

Car troubles make Max a sitting duck | 00:55

It’s no exaggeration to say his two utterly dominant performances here at last year’s double-header were the foundation of his championship campaign. Both times he converted to pole to victory, the second race being so complete that he returned his first career grand slam, leading every lap and setting the fastest lap from pole.

Combined with the preceding French Grand Prix he blew out his lead to 32 points, comfortably the largest of the season, which cushioned him sufficiently against the acrimony of the rest of the season to deliver him his title.

Red Bull Racing has always had a habit of turning it on at home and as such is the only team other than Mercedes to have won here in the circuit’s modern era, claiming six wins to four. In part this is because of the altitude — the track is almost 700 metres above sea level.

Adrian Newey’s cars have typically been more efficiently aerodynamically, which pays dividends at a circuit that offers less downforce in the thinner air.

Honda and Renault, the team’s two engine suppliers, have also tended to have turbochargers happier to spool to higher speeds to compensate for the scarce atmosphere, whereas the Mercedes power unit has tended to suffer cooling problems.

Whether it’s managed to retain these advantages into the new regulatory era remains to be seen, but given the state of Red Bull Racing’s campaign, the Dutchman and title leader — the track’s most successful driver, with twice as many wins as any other — will start favourite to take victory on his team record-equalling weekend.


It was dramatic and perhaps mildly internally controversial, but Carlos Sainz has injected himself into the championship fight with his British Grand Prix victory, at least as far as either Ferrari driver is still in with a shout.

Charles Leclerc is 43 points adrift after finishing fourth at Silverstone, and though Sainz is another 11 points back thanks to his maiden win, that’s certainly close enough to pull him back from the brink of the number two de facto position.

Ecstatic Sainz claims maiden F1 win | 00:38

Ferrari’s been causing all its own headaches this season, and it’s potentially about to start experiencing another one, with the Spaniard now with more than enough justification to throw a little more weight around strategically.

It’s always interested to see how a driver responds to their first victory, particularly while wielding a frontrunning car.

Every driver believes they can win, but sometimes they need to feel it, and there’s no doubt the first will be a weight off his shoulders. Sainz has been painfully aware of his deficits to Leclerc this season and has at times been guilty of overdriving, but getting the monkey off his back, and with another race of experience in his attitudinally aggressive car, Silverstone might’ve been the release he needs to drive a little more naturally.

But the cerebral Spaniard will be equally aware that he wasn’t the quickest driver in Britain and perhaps not even in the top three. Clearly there are still steps to be made, and the hunger to prove he’s at least his teammate’s equal will still burn.

Leclerc also has the better record here, with a podium in each of 2019 and 2020. The Monegasque, undoubtedly with his string of lost wins rolling around in his head, will be tough to beat this weekend.

On paper Ferrari should be comfortable ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, this year claiming many of Red Bull Racing’s traditional strengths. In the relative title fight the SF-75 the car generally happier at higher downforce, and it’s also been the superior operator punching out of corners through a combination of aerodynamic performance and power unit output.

It’s speculated that Ferrari’s turbocharger is smaller and better delivering in a big, early burst, whereas the Honda turbo is comparatively larger and thus better down the straights. The smaller turbos have historically been better at altitude.

If the Italian team’s going to get its campaign back on track, it may as well be at the home of the bulls.

EPIC 3-way battle lights up Silverstone | 01:20


This is a crucial month for Mercedes, and while the signs in Britain were good — the team is adamant Lewis Hamilton was on track to win before the safety car intervention — so too was the Spanish Grand Prix promising, and that preceded a long run of painful, fruitless grands prix.

The team is hoping that by the end of July it will have some clear answers about just how much potential the troubled W13 has and how realistically it might be accessed consistently.

We already know that the car is at its worst on bumpy street circuits and at its best on smooth permanent tracks. Austria is a permanent course, but its dramatic elevation changes mean it’s not billiard-table smooth like Silverstone or the upcoming Circuit Paul Ricard.

In that sense it’ll be a good test of how just how effective the team’s Silverstone updates are at stabilising the car at as low a ride height as possible, but the team has already tempered expectations that it will be as competitive as it was in Britain.

“Lewis’s pace was matching the Ferraris and indeed at times he was a little bit quicker, which was really encouraging to see,” Mercedes trackside engineering director said. “But it is a smooth circuit, and while we are working to make sure that our car works well on bumpy tracks, we’ve still got a bit to do there, so no doubt the smooth track helped a bit towards that performance.

“Also, yes, the updates did play a part, and that was encouraging to see because that‘s the bit that we will carry into the next race, the race beyond, but we need to build on this performance, because we know that we are not quite quick enough just yet”.

The Spielberg altitude will also be an interesting test of Mercedes’s slim sidepods when it comes to cooling, especially as this is an area the team has traditionally struggled with. In fact even in Spain, when the car was running otherwise happily, both drivers hard their races slowed late by the need to manage temperatures.

A podium would be a real morale boost signalling the team’s hard work is really paying off. A difficult weekend would be tough to take.

How horror Silverstone crash happened | 03:08

As an aside, though Hamilton set unwanted personal benchmarks for winless streaks when he couldn’t mount the top step at Silverstone — he’s never gone deeper into a season with a win, and his total winless streak dating back to last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is now a personal record 11 races — the bottom of the barrel is a little deeper yet.

Only once before in his racing career has he gone 11 races without victory, and you have to go all the way back to 2004, when he was a 19-year-old Formula 3 driver, to recall it. This was his first season driving cars, and after winning race 9, he failed to win another through to the end of the 20-race season before claiming victory at the first race of 2005.

It’s been 18 long years since he’s gone this long without a win. Another defeat in Austria would be unprecedented.


The Austrian Grand Prix weekend will see the return of the Saturday sprint, the 30-minute non-stop race to set the grid for the grand prix.

If you need a refresher, qualifying will take place on Friday to set the sprint grid. Drivers are free to choose their tyres, as per the race, but will be expected to make it to the end of the 100-kilometre dash without a pit stop.

It’s F1’s fifth sprint race since the concept was implemented last year, and all but one of them have been won by Verstappen. The exception was Valtteri Bottas’s sprint victory in Italy last year, though he was carrying an engine penalty that subsequently promoted Verstappen to pole for the grand prix anyway.

Beyond the potential for extra points, the material effect of the sprint on the weekend is the super-importance of first practice given parc fermé now applies from qualifying on Friday evening. It means teams need to lock in set-up after a single hour of track running rather than the three they normally get, and they’re also deprive of the Friday night to crunch the numbers and liaise with the factory team for ideas.


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It pays big time to be as close to perfect as possible rolling out of the truck. Start on the back foot — like Red Bull Racing did thanks to its upgrade package last weekend — and recovery won’t be so easy.

Despite the Red Bull Racing’s reputation for good, close racing, seven of the 10 races held at this track in the modern era have been won from pole, so the sprint result will be important to getting a strong race outcome.


The Austrian Grand Prix is live on Kayo and Fox Sports.

Coverage of first practice begins tonight at 9pm (AEST) for a 9:30pm start. The qualifying show starts at 12:30am before pit lane opens at 1am.

Second practice is live at 8pm for an 8:30pm start, with the pre-sprint show at 11:30pm before lights out at 12:30am.

Pre-race coverage starts at 9:30pm before lights out for the Austrian Grand Prix at 11pm.

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