Three things we learned from the Austrian Grand Prix

SPIELBERG BEI KNITTELFELD (Austria), July 4 — By adding a bullet-proof level of consistency to his talent and Red Bull’s reliability and speed, Max Verstappen showed on Sunday that he could remain invincible this season.

A revived Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari challenge that was never strong enough to suggest any other outcome than a 42nd career win for the Dutch double world champion on a day when Formula One was described as farcical and embarrassing.

A post-race protest from Aston Martin resulted in a welter of penalties for contravention of track limits that changed the result hours after the event.

AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from a chaotic weekend at the Red Bull Ring in the Styrian Alps:

Trapped in post-race turmoil

Many team bosses were angry at the ‘embarrassing’ chaos created after the race when, following Aston Martin’s protest, the result was placed in doubt, revised and not confirmed for five hours.

Race officials examined claims of a slew of track limits infringements resulting in 12 penalties that changed the result — and proved organisers had been unable to keep up with the transgressions at the time.

The podium positions were unaffected, but nearly every other points-scoring place was affected. One team discovered penalties had been applied after their flight landed in Britain late Sunday.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, whose cars were not affected, was unequivocal.

“I think it made us as a sport look a bit amateurish with so many infringements,” he said. “It’s so difficult for the drivers to see the white lines from the car so they do it by feel and the circuit invites you there. It needs looking at for next year.”

Verstappen agreed the frenzied deleting of laps and the penalties made the drivers look like ‘amateurs’ as more than 1,200 violations had to be processed which led to 89 being deleted.

The farcical post-race delays intensified tensions between the sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), and F1, a relationship strained since the controversial season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

F1’s American owners Liberty Media have become increasingly frustrated by the FIA’s arcane procedures and application of penalties.

Another overhaul of the Geneva-based monitor system introduced following the Abu Dhabi controversy is needed and the track limits at Spielberg may need to be changed.

Declining Hamilton set to stay at Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, at 38, may be at the start of a slow decline in his powers, but he remains a box office attraction and is likely to stay with Mercedes to chase a record eighth drivers’ title.

Team chief Toto Wolff issued an update on their contract talks after Sunday’s race as Hamilton, who finished a disgruntled eighth, begins the final six months of his current contract.

Despite the driver’s complaints on team radio, which led to a gentle rebuke from Wolff, both insist that their talks are progressing.

“I am still very confident,” said Wolff, adding that Hamilton’s agents “want to do it ‘super’, to every detail”.

“It isn’t a money discussion. It’s about the future, what we want to do right and optimise. We’re not talking about duration or money.”

A two-year deal is expected, but Wolff warned not to anticipate confirmation before this week’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Is Verstappen untouchable?

Despite an upturn in form ahead of racing at his ‘favourite’ circuit at Silverstone, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc warned that Verstappen’s pace and consistency made the Dutchman and Red Bull look untouchable.

“We will work hard and try to compete, but they are so quick that it seems they are on another level,” he said. “So we hope for something, but they also have great reliability and consistency.”

Red Bull have won all nine races this year and the last 10 in a row to move within reach of equalling McLaren’s record of 11, set in 1988. — AFP

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