Last updated June 29th, 2021
Mercedes won both races at the Red Bull Ring last season but will face an exceedingly tough challenge from the home team Red Bull in the first of back-to-back races at the circuit at this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix 2021 (Race: 2pm Sunday; TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).
Last year’s double header was a reaction to the need to cobble together a season’s worth of Grand Prix. This time around, an extra event has been added a week before the Austrian Grand Prix to cover the postponement of the Turkish Grand Prix.
With so many races at the circuit in a relatively short period of time, all of the teams have a good idea what to expect, and it will be interesting to see how running order shakes out. Mercedes have won six of the eight races at the track since its return to the calendar in 2014, but they have a very rapid and genuine challenger this year in the form of Red Bull.
It was Red Bull who triumphed in France last weekend, with a bold call to pull Max Verstappen in from the lead for a second pit stop in what was originally thought to be a one-stop race. On fresh tyres, he caught and overtook Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap to take his third win of the year and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 12 points.
Hamilton came in second, ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez. The latter’s track position at the crucial stage of the race probably dissuaded Mercedes from switching Hamilton to a two-stop before Red Bull did so for Verstappen. A frustrated Valtteri Bottas, angry at the team for not switching him to a two-stopper, finished fourth in the second Mercedes.
France was thought to be a race at which Mercedes would have the edge, particularly with the new rear-wing flex testing regime that was considered likely to render Red Bull slightly less competitive, but that didn’t prove to be the case. Red Bull got their strategy spot on, but pole, fastest lap and the victory for Verstappen suggested they might also just have been a bit quicker.
So how will the battle between the two teams play out this weekend? Again, history would seem to suggest that Mercedes should be the favoured team, but Verstappen did win consecutive Austrian Grand Prix in 2018 and 2019. The evidence of recent races suggests Red Bull’s Honda power unit is now a worthy match for that of Mercedes.
The momentum is with Red Bull after three consecutive victories, and Verstappen may just further consolidate his lead in the drivers’ championship by topping the podium on Sunday.
McLaren were strong on race day in France, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo moving up from eighth and 10th on the grid to finish fifth and sixth respectively. Norris has driven superbly so far this year to place fourth in the drivers’ championship, ahead of Bottas in the second Mercedes, but there are signs that Ricciardo is beginning to settle into the team and its car after a difficult start to the year following his move from Renault (now named Alpine).
The Red Bull Ring should be well-suited to the McLaren and so Ricciardo will have a good opportunity to add to the two top-six finishes he has recorded to date. He has not always had the best of luck in Austria, but he did claim a podium finish for Red Bull in 2017, and should be fancied to enjoy a good race on Sunday.
Pierre Gasly finished seventh for AlphaTauri at his home race in France, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine and the two Aston Martin cars of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.
It was the second time double points finish in the last three races for Aston Martin, and it is feat they may well be able to replicate in Austria. After a slow start to life at the team, Vettel has scored in each of the last three Grand Prix, and the team would most probably have come into this weekend’s race on the back three consecutive double points finishes had Stroll not suffered a blown tyre in Azerbaijan, where Vettel finished a superb second.
The team should be expected to go well at the Red Bull Ring and if both drivers put together clean races, a double points finish is a real possibility.
These are our F1 Styrian Grand Prix betting tips for this preview:
- Back Max Verstappen to win the race @ 5/4.
- Bet on Daniel Ricciardo to finish in the top six @ evens.
- Back Aston Martin to secure a double points finish @ 5/2.
- Check out latest Styrian GP betting.