Martin Brundle: On Charles Leclerc vs Max Verstappen and the verdict on the Austrian GP stewards’ decisions

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Best of the action from an epic Austrian Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc took victory

Best of the action from an epic Austrian Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc took victory

Austria offered another nice competition in this thick 22-race F1 season, and we are already halfway there.

Saturday’s Sprint race was far from exciting, but still more interesting than a free practice session as far as I’m concerned, and created an opportunity for someone like Sergio Pérez to repair the damage of qualifying after his brutal penalty. retrospective by track limits.

By contrast, the non-participating Alpine of Fernando Alonso would relegate him to the back of the main race grid, albeit with the opportunity to take a set of power unit replacements effectively without penalty.

Sprints put an element of danger and challenge on race day without resorting to the drag of success or reverse grids. Now that the drivers can more easily follow and overtake, with the exception of Monaco, where there will presumably never be a Sprint race, it’s not the burden it used to be.

Whether you like Sprints or not, there will be six Sprints next year, meaning a quarter of the planned 24 races will feature them. That’s 30 starts on the grid plus any red-flag restarts from a standstill, so the launch systems of the cars and the ability of the drivers to stay out of trouble in the first few corners will be very important.

The stewards were busier than the drivers over the weekend in Austria, but we’ll talk about that later.

Leclerc shines again and should be in the race for the title | Max fighting fair against Ferrari

Charles Leclerc came out on top after another dramatic battle with title rival Max Verstappen in Austria.

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Charles Leclerc came out on top after another dramatic battle with title rival Max Verstappen in Austria.

Charles Leclerc came out on top after another dramatic battle with title rival Max Verstappen in Austria.

Max Verstappen won the Sprint at a canter, while also underscoring Red Bull’s dominance in recent years on its own circuit. Charles Leclerc followed him to his house but with the confidence that “we will have them tomorrow” that perhaps only he really believed. On the morning of race day, Charles had a positively cheery demeanor and he was later proven absolutely right, albeit with some challenges.

The Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were simply better on their tires and much quicker than Verstappen, and by some margin allowed them to travel twice as far on their first set of medium compound tyres.

They could regain track position at will against Max, who was once again very fair and professional in his driving and defense. He generally is this year, albeit pushing the limits a lot in defending himself against Mick Schumacher the previous week at Silverstone. I remember commenting in Jeddah last year about Michael Schumacher and to some extent Ayrton Senna’s incredible legacies are partly diminished by dirty driving and that Max would do well to avoid that professional reputation.

It will be interesting to see how that goes if the push literally goes to the end of the championship.

Max calmly and skillfully leads the championship by 38 points over Charles, but that could have been very different had Ferrari been more reliable, as in Spain and Azerbaijan, or sharper on strategy, as in Monaco and Great Britain.

Carlos Sainz's Ferrari caught fire after an engine failure that ended his career in Austria

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari caught fire after an engine failure that ended his career in Austria

Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari caught fire after an engine failure that ended his career in Austria

Max, of course, had two retirements in the first three races, but Leclerc’s pace throughout has been profoundly impressive, and if you’re wearing a neutral F1 cap, we’ve been denied another championship thriller so far.

The Ferrari is fragile and Sainz’s power unit explosion ripped the bodywork apart, followed by a very costly fire in this cost cap era. Fresh from his maiden victory at Silverstone, Sainz was absolutely gutted, a guaranteed second place gone.

As we move into the second half of the season, the Ferrari team must be close to canceling the battle between its two drivers and he will be aware of it. It was a very painful and sad moment for him in terms of the championship.

But Leclerc then suffered an accelerator pedal issue in the closing stages during which it might have been better to keep some of the radio information away from Race Control and Red Bull, but the sweet victory was his and he fully deserved it. .

Mercedes had a hellish weekend in many ways with both cars hard on the wall in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton in the wars again at the start of the Sprint race, and George Russell penalized and needing a new front wing after the first lap of the main race. the race. Such is the quality of the team that they finished third and fourth, and are a remarkably strong third in the constructors’ championship.

Which sanctions were correct and which were harsh

Sergio Pérez goes off the track after making contact with George Russell's Mercedes on the first lap of the Austrian Grand Prix

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sergio Pérez goes off the track after making contact with George Russell’s Mercedes on the first lap of the Austrian Grand Prix

Sergio Pérez goes off the track after making contact with George Russell’s Mercedes on the first lap of the Austrian Grand Prix

I thought Russell’s penalty for contact with Sergio Perez on the first lap at Turn 4 was pretty harsh. I did 10 laps in my 1992 Benetton F1 car over the weekend in Austria and it reminded me how blind, narrow, cambered and demanding turns 3, 4, 6 and 9 are at this track. At the beginning of the race full of fuel and with the front tires not reaching the right temperature, you will always understeer a lot at turn 4, and turning on the outside is a very high risk strategy, especially given the increasingly narrow exit. .

I thought George did his best to get on the inside curb and give room, and there was more room outside for Sergio. On the contrary, it is a reasonable argument to say that the inside driver can always accelerate or even brake. But they won’t.

Forty-five minutes later, in normal racing conditions, Seb Vettel was flagged by Pierre Gasly in similar circumstances and I thought the penalty was fair enough. Seb couldn’t have given Pierre more space inside.

Sebastian Vettel expressed his frustration over the team radio after contact with Pierre Gasly sent him off the track.

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sebastian Vettel expressed his frustration over the team radio after contact with Pierre Gasly sent him off the track.

Sebastian Vettel expressed his frustration over the team radio after contact with Pierre Gasly sent him off the track.

That’s the thing with arbitration, there is usually an element of opinion and interpretation. While the stewards at Silverstone were generally forgiving and liberally applying the ‘let them ride’ mantra regarding track limits and defensive tactics, a week later the letter of the regulations was being applied.

To a large extent, I fully support it and let me explain why. It was much ridiculed that the FIA ​​reported 43 separate incidents of track boundary violations in the race, with various five-second penalties applied. Turns 1, 9 and 10 were being watched (Turn 8, where Perez was penalized in qualifying, received no mention) so a 20-car race in a 71-lap race can go through those three turns as many as 4,260 times. , which means 43 infractions is not exactly extreme.

The well-used lines of ‘if it wasn’t faster, they wouldn’t be out there’ and ‘if there were barriers instead of lines, they wouldn’t be hitting them’ still apply. I totally sympathize with drivers because looking from the high sides of the cabin of these very large cars, through the Halo and past those weird front wheel fairings at speeds up to 150 mph, it’s not at all easy to tell if you’re completely out of sight. contact patches are on or marginally above the white lines.

But we must have a defined playing field and fairness, skill and accuracy must be rewarded as long as we have consistency. If you can’t keep your car completely on the track, leave some room.

Johnny Herbert discusses how drivers used track limits during the Austrian Grand Prix

Use the Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Johnny Herbert discusses how drivers used track limits during the Austrian Grand Prix

Johnny Herbert discusses how drivers used track limits during the Austrian Grand Prix

It’s the same in parc fermé when the top three were reported to the stewards after the race. It means ‘parc fermé’ until the cars are checked and the drivers are weighed to ensure legality. No one should be there from a team.

Absolutely everyone readily accepts that if their car is a fraction wider, a fraction lighter, or the engine is a fraction larger than the regulations state, then it will be summarily excluded. If the FIA ​​is going through a phase of tightening up all the other regulations then I support it, and saying we should just ignore track limits because it’s annoying doesn’t make any sense. As long as it is consistently applied, and F1 can surely afford the resource to have the tools to clearly define this critical aspect for fans and everyone.

Mick Schumacher is an interesting case. Until Canada, he seemed to be a solid driver, perhaps a little too nice and quiet, who damaged too many cars. Under pressure, and no doubt after some intense talks with team boss Gunther Steiner, he has come to life and looks much more assertive and confident, and his natural talents are beginning to flow properly. Like any sport at the highest level, it’s mostly about your own headspace.

Sorry if you were listening to our comments around the world and my hoarse voice ruined your enjoyment of the race. By Monday my voice was completely gone, which isn’t smart for a broadcaster, but thankfully there’s no regulation for that at the moment, otherwise I would have gotten a race ban or at least a penalty in the grid for the next Grand Prix.

MEGABYTE

Leave a Comment