Returning to Red Bull’s home track, where he has had some “pretty crazy” victories, Formula One leader Max Verstappen is aiming for his best fourth win of the Styrian Grand Prix season.
If the victory – crazy or not – does not come on Sunday, he will still have another 15 chances to get it in 2021.
However, his chances are good this weekend. The Dutch driver proves that he and Red Bull this season are more than hunters of Mercedes, the dominant force in F1 for seven years.
“We didn’t have a car to fight them before,” Verstappen said on Thursday. “You can do whatever you want, I mean, make three stops and put the rear tires in front, nothing would change.
“Now we have a car that will really fight them.”
Last week in Le Castelle, Verstappen grabbed the victory of Lewis Hamilton, ahead of his rival Mercedes and seven-time champion in the penultimate lap of the French Grand Prix.
“It was a very important victory because it was on a track where we weren’t very competitive before,” Verstappen said. “So, dealing with a very competitive car was very useful and a big boost for the team.”
His 13 career victories include two on the track from Sunday’s race in the Austrian Alps in 2018 and 2019.
“These two stand out. They were pretty crazy, with the fans around and so many oranges, “said Verstappen, referring to the tens of thousands of Dutch fans who traveled to the race in Austria during those years.
Of the seven races so far, Red Bull has won four. Verstappen also triumphed in Monza and Monaco, and his teammate Sergio Perez won in Azerbaijan, where leader Verstappen seemed to be heading for victory while a tire burst five laps from the final.
The other three races were at Hamilton.
The defending champion revealed on Thursday that he has started negotiations with Mercedes to extend his stay in the team after this season. He joined the team eight years ago.
“We have had discussions and things are positive,” said Hamilton, who signed his contract in 2021 only in February, shortly before the start of the winter tests.
Hamilton, who lost to Verstappen by 12 points in the standings, won the Styrian Premier League in 2020, and teammate Valteri Botas won the Austrian Summit next week.
Repeating this feat seems difficult for Mercedes.
“We know how strong they are,” Hamilton told Red Bull. “Obviously they have three long lines here. You see how long it takes us in the last race. It could be the same here. ”
Styria’s GP was originally conceived as a one-off event when it was added in 2020 after the F1 schedule was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he returned to the calendar to make up for the canceled tournament, which was the Canadian leader’s replacement, giving Austria competitions for the second year in a row.
RETURN OF THE FANS
The track is the same, but the General Staff of Styria and the Grand Prix next week will be significantly different in one respect – the number of fans present. Current health measures in Austria allow only 3,000 visitors to outdoor events. Thanks to the safety concept, which keeps five groups of fans divided in the stands and allows them to use different entrances and exits, about 15,000 spectators can attend the competition on Sunday. But the crowds will be much larger next week. The spectator cap for events in Austria will be lifted on July 1 and tens of thousands of visitors will have access to the Austrian GP. In 2019, more than 200,000 fans flocked to the track on race weekends. Fans were not allowed in both races last year. On Thursday, Silverstone announced that the crowd will be allowed at the British GP on July 18.
The day before Sunday’s F1 race, the W Series returns to action after a break of nearly two years. The Women’s Championship kicks off its second season on Saturday with a race of more than 30 minutes, the first of eight events scheduled for this year. The series aims to promote women in motorsport as drivers and engineers. It started in 2019, with Jamie Chadwick from the UK lifting the title, but was canceled last year amid the pandemic. Drivers use identical F3 cars to create a level playing field. A novelty this season is the team structure, with nine teams with two cars on the starting grid. The trainings and qualifications are scheduled for Friday.