After a dominant victory at last weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen is the clear favourite to top the podium again as the Formula One grid remains at the Red Bull Ring for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix 2021 (Race: 2pm Sunday; TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).
Verstappen qualified on pole position and then drove clear for a comfortable win, over half a minute clear of his title rival Lewis Hamilton in second for Mercedes. That saw him extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 18 points eight races into the season.
Sergio Perez could have taken the final podium place in the second Red Bull had a slow pit stop not allowed Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to zip past. Perez pitted for fresh tyres and charged back up to Bottas’ rear wing but ran out of time to make a late-race pass, coming home fourth as Red Bull marginally increased their lead in the constructors’ standings.
It was a race that indicated that Red Bull really do now have a better package than Mercedes, particularly as new updates, including the upgraded floor and diffuser they fitted last weekend, continue to arrive and improve performance. Reports suggest Mercedes have already switched much of their budget to developing for next year’s new regulations. If that is true then they will find it hard to fight back.
However things shake out as the season progresses, there should be little doubt that Verstappen is the favourite to win out on Sunday at Red Bull’s home track. That is clearly reflected in the F1 odds, making backing him to take pole position or the race victory less attractive than it might otherwise be.
There is, though, slightly better value to be found in betting on Perez to take a podium finish. He had the pace to do so last weekend, and a cleaner run in qualifying and on race day is likely to yield his third top-three finish of the year.
Lando Norris took a strong fifth for McLaren last weekend, ahead of the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. The McLaren, at least in the hands of Norris, was stronger in qualifying, with Norris qualifying up in fourth, ahead of Perez’s Red Bull. Ferrari had very good pace on race day, with Sainz coming through from 12th on the grid to finish not that far off Norris in the final reckoning.
The final points paying positions were filled by the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, Fernando Alonso’s Alpine and the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
AlphaTauri showed enough pace over the course of the weekend to suggest they should have done a lot better on race day. Pierre Gasly had qualified sixth only to retire from first lap collision damage, while Tsunoda lined up eighth and finished 10th.
It wasn’t the first time this year they had failed to convert outright performance into a sufficient points haul on race day. The team have just one double points finish to their credit to date, achieved with Gasly’s third and Tsunoda’s seventh in Azerbaijan, despite having a car that has often looked capable of more. That more may just come on Sunday. The midfield is tightly packed and so it certainly won’t be easy, but AlphaTauri have a solid chance of getting both of their cars into the points.
The only change to last weekend’s event is that the Pirelli tyre compound options will be one step softer this time around. The Styrian Grand Prix was clearly a one-stop race; softer tyres may open up a window for alternative strategies.
The team now known as Aston Martin have always been able to get the most out the Pirelli rubber since their time as Racing Point and their ability to make their tyres last longer than most were key to Sebastian Vettel’s strong performances in both Monaco and Azerbaijan. If anyone can take advantage of any possibilities that do open up it will be them.
Stroll was the one who scored points for them last weekend, but Vettel will have a solid chance to do so on Sunday.
So the F1 Austrian Grand Prix betting tips for this preview are: