Motorsport Tech Monday – what we learned from the Austrian Grand Prix weekend

Breath-taking scenery, baking hot weather, overtaking, drama aplenty, and the usual controversy – the Austrian Grand Prix seemed to have it all and more. Here are the five major talking points from a dramatic day at the Red Bull Ring.

 

Mercedes is not invincible after all

Heading into the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes had won every grand prix of the season, although it could be argued that a couple of those wins were slightly fortuitous. Yet from the first pit lane green light on Friday to the chequered flag on Sunday, it was obvious that the Silver Arrows were not the most competitive machines. It appeared that Mercedes struggled in the unusually high track temperatures and reported problems both with overheating and getting the tyres to optimum operating window for long enough. Even without the problem caused in the race by a damaged front wing, Lewis Hamilton simply didn’t have the pace to challenge the lead Red Bull or Ferrari. Of course, they will win again and are still overwhelming favourites for both titles, but Austria gave their rivals and fans of the sport notice that they won’t have it all their way in 2019.

 

Circuits make racing

After the comparative bore fest that was the French Grand Prix, the spectacular Red Bull Ring, set in the Styrian Mountains in Austria, made for fabulous racing. The nature of the circuit, with few corners and lots of overtaking opportunities made the race a great spectacle for fans of the sport. The high track temperature and teams mixing their tyre strategies also played a part and it’s a shame there aren’t many more circuits like this on the calendar. Perhaps in the future, there will be.

Rubbing is racing!

Perhaps the only thing to complain about after a fabulous Sunday of racing was the fact that it took stewards close to four hours to verify Max Verstappen as the race winner after scrutinising his late move on Charles Leclerc from every angle. Leclerc clearly left the door open with a car width for the Dutchman to make his move stick and although the two made slight contact, surely this was the racing that fans want to see. On more than one occasion, now, race officials have intervened to the outcry of fans who just want to see close and exciting racing and perhaps, now, the rule book needs a little rethink. As Harry Hodge said to his race driver Cole Trickle in the movie Days of Thunder, ‘he didn’t nudge you, he rubbed you. And rubbing, son, is racing!’

There are three big engine manufacturers now

Max Verstappen’s race victory at Red Bull’s home circuit held added significance in that it produced Honda’s first victory of the Hybrid Power Unit era of Formula One and first since Jenson Button triumphed in a Honda car in 2006. Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanabe shed tears of joy on the podium after years of toil, working hard to get back to the top of the podium following a tough building phase with McLaren. The famous Japanese engine manufacturer now has a Power Unit that can mix it with the might of Ferrari and Mercedes. In partnership with the always competitive Red Bull aero package, these are exciting times indeed for both parties.

Leclerc has a mean streak in him

There have been several instances this season that have made people sit up and take notice that Charles Leclerc is the real deal and future world champion in the making. Perhaps the only outstanding question remaining is whether or not the seemingly quiet, mild-mannered Monegasque has that hard, mean streak in him. Even after coming so close to winning his maiden grand prix in Bahrain, he didn’t seem overly frustrated. Yet that all changed in Austria. When told how close Max Verstappen was to him by his team, he barked back over the radio, Kimi Raikkonen style, “Leave me alone,” before being enraged by the move he clearly felt was against the rule book. His demeanour hadn’t changed in the post-race interviews and it’s now apparent that he does indeed have that feisty streak in him that almost all world champions possess. And passion in any chosen pursuit of excellence is never a sign of weakness.

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.

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