Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Will Verstappen rebound at his strongest circuit? Five Austrian GP talking points

2022 Austrian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Will Max Verstappen continue to dominate around the circuit bearing the Red Bull name? And will Lando Norris snatch another podium at a circuit where the McLaren driver has enjoyed repeated success over the years?

Here are five talking points for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s happy hunting ground

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
The Red Bull Ring is Verstappen’s best circuit by results
The Red Bull Ring may be named for the owners of the world champion’s race team, but it may as well be rebranded as the ‘Verstappen Ring’, given how successful he has been at the Austrian circuit in his Formula 1 career.

In nine total races around the Spielberg circuit in his seven seasons in Formula 1, Verstappen has won four times and taken six podiums at the venue – his best record of any of the 22 circuits on the calendar. Last year, Verstappen emboldened his championship challenge significantly by winning both races held at this circuit from pole position, underlining how strong he is around the 10-turn track.

Despite Ferrari claiming their first victory since April at Silverstone last weekend, Verstappen had been leading the race before a chunk of AlphaTauri found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time and compromised Verstappen’s race.

While Verstappen still holds a commanding lead in the drivers’ championship, he will head into this weekend full of confidence that he can secure maximum points at perhaps his strongest venue. For his title rival Charles Leclerc, out-scoring him here would provide some recompense for the win he lost to his rival at this track in a contentious clash three years ago.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Second sprint race weekend

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Saturday will see the season’s second sprint race
Since the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020, the Red Bull Ring has become accustomed to hosting multiple Formula 1 races in the same season, with the Styrian Grand Prix added to both the 2020 and 2021 calendars to help bolster the number of races in the championship.

This year, there will be no Styrian Grand Prix. However, there will be two races in Austria once more as this weekend plays host to the second sprint race event of the 2022 championship. After the first sprint race was held in Imola in late April, this weekend will be the only time the sprint race format is used again until the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.

With its long straights leading into tight corners, the Red Bull Ring naturally presents plenty of opportunities for overtaking, which may lend itself well to action during the sprint race on Saturday. Also, with more championship points available for sprint races this season and the front of the field starting to get tighter at the British Grand Prix, the modest points that are available on Saturday afternoon may become more valuable as a result.

However, this Austrian circuit does have a fascinating history of producing unusual and unexpected grids in qualifying – including Giancarlo Fisichella taking pole for Benetton back in 1998 and the two Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas locking out the front row in 2014.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Are Mercedes back in the fight?

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2022
Mercedes will be looking to back up their strong home form
After two tricky race weekends around street circuits in Monaco and Azerbaijan, Mercedes enjoyed a much better time around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canada and seemed to be very optimistic about their performance heading to the smooth, high speed venue of Silverstone.

In practice, it appeared that Mercedes may well be able to mix it up with Ferrari and Red Bull for possibly the very first time all season. However, a botched strategy in a wet qualifying session saw them start further down the order than they would have liked, before the ugly accident at the start eliminated George Russell from the race barely 300 metres into the event.

Without the worry of uneven surface and bumps around Silverstone to cause him discomfort and impact his W13’s handling, Lewis Hamilton drove himself into genuine contention during the British Grand Prix, causing major headaches for the leading Ferraris as they struggled to work out how to contain the sudden threat from the Silver Arrows.

While Hamilton eventually had to settle for third behind Ferrari and Red Bull, his impressive race pace will have furrowed brows on the pit walls of his team’s rivals and the Red Bull Ring is the ideal kind of circuit to test whether Mercedes’s Silverstone pace was a flash in the pan, or an indication that they truly are close to catching the two teams who have dominated the season so far.

If Mercedes can back up their Silverstone performance by getting involved in the fight at the front in Austria, it could be the biggest sign yet that the second half of the 2022 season could be more competitive at the sharp end of the grid than the first part of the year proved to be.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Will Norris continue to pile pressure on Ricciardo?

Lando Norris, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Norris has taken two podiums in Austria
Behind the ever-tightening battle at the front of the field, Lando Norris is gradually establishing himself in the hotly-disputed seventh place in the drivers’ championship – that is, the best performing driver not in the a top-three team.

As the gap between Norris and McLaren team mate Daniel Ricciardo threatens to widen as far as it did last year, Norris will arrive at the Red Bull Ring knowing that, just like Verstappen, this has been one of his strongest circuits of his relatively short Formula 1 career. After storming to a memorable first podium during the opening race of the 2020 season in Austria, Norris took his fourth podium finish during the Austrian round here last year.

With podium appearances at Red Bull Ring in Formula Renault, FIA Formula 3 and Formula 2, Norris has become well-acquainted with the Spielberg rostrum. While it will be difficult for him to add to his tally this weekend, McLaren will be hopeful that Norris will help to further strengthen their fourth place standing in the constructors’ championship.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Traffic trouble

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Vettel was penalised for impeding Alonso last year
The last two qualifying sessions in Canada and Great Britain have been held in wet conditions, presenting plenty of challenges for drivers simply to keep their cars pointing the right way on the road. The one small benefit of wet tracks during qualifying is that drivers cannot afford to back off too much while out on track to make the most of the limited grip available, meaning there were hardly any instances of drivers allegedly impeding rivals during their flying laps.

In the dry, the situation changes completely. In Spain, Monaco and Baku, there were plenty of examples of drivers complaining about catching rivals dawdling on or around the racing line during their hot lap attempts and this weekend, there are plenty of reasons to fear what could happen during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session.

Back in 2021, there were frightening scenes of cars queuing up around the final two corners of the circuit in an attempt to give themselves a clear track with which to start their flying laps. In the most egregious incident in Q2, Fernando Alonso had to slam on the brakes approaching the final corner when he suddenly found Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin sitting on the racing line at the end of his hot lap.

The wet qualifying sessions of the last two rounds may have conveniently reduced the dangers of drivers out of sequence tripping over each other, but with the long straights around the Red Bull Ring making everyone reluctant to give a rival a slipstream, there’s a real risk we could see more near-misses in Friday’s qualifying session.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Are you going to the Austrian Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Austria for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you:

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Austrian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2022 Austrian Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Austrian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

10 comments on “Will Verstappen rebound at his strongest circuit? Five Austrian GP talking points”

  1. I wonder if Verstappen is going to be as mighty on this circuit this year as he was in years past. Obviously, Red Bull overall have the strongest package (including Verstappen), so on that basis he’s probably good for the win.

    But for the first time since Verstappen took that seat, the car concept they’re running is opposite to what he used to have, so the track character might not be as suitable for the Red Bull as it has been in years past, it’s entirely possible that could mean more trouble as the Ferrari might just be better here.

    1. Yeah I agree – on paper, the track doesn’t suit the 2022 Red Bull concept but in reality, their goal has to be to start the race from the front row. As long as Max is either in 1st or is just behind Leclerc, he’s got a great chance of winning either through pace or through Ferrari’s latest idea to screw up Charles’ race.

  2. Verstappen’s strongest race?

    Austria: 4 wins out of 9 starts

    Mexico: 3 wins out of 6 starts.

  3. Given he would’ve likely run away to a comfortable win without the carbon fiber piece getting stuck beneath, I reckon he’ll be pretty unstoppable at Red Bull Ring if he gets an issue-free race.

    Red Bull Ring should prove a good choice for Sprint as this track has generally been racing-friendly & this was equally the case with considerably more clear air-dependent cars.

    I doubt Merc could challenge this season’s regular top two teams regularly from now on, but anything’s possible in F1.

    Concerning Norris, possibly, we’ll see.

    I wouldn’t worry about traffic trouble an awful lot & the last paragraph fails to note that the slipstream effect is quite a bit lower/weaker with the modern GE-style cars, so somewhat pointless to even think about such tactics anymore.

  4. I still remember Max Verstappen was superb on 2019, it was Red Bull’s 1st year with Honda without any win prior, that Austrian GP 2019 race Max was doing Hunter role overtook a few opponents for the win.

  5. I’m hoping, even as a RedBull fan, that Leclerc and Ferrari get their act together this weekend. We are missing out on so many battles like the first few races gave us.

  6. Merc still slow on the straights.

  7. Silverstone is the best track that emphasizes Mercedes characteristics, just like Monaco for Ferrari or Monza for RBR. Whether they have made a step forward and are on the pace of both Ferrari and RBR at least in race condition is to be confirmed in the upcoming races held in circuits with different characteristics.

    RBR and Verstappen are still the complete package. Max is driving brilliantly and RBR are very sharp development wise and in terms of racing operations (strategy, pitstops, reactivity to unpredictable issues…). Ferrari on the other hand from a management perspective, the team seems to be dysfunctional. Though the technical team in charge of the car that quick everywhere seem to be operating within a different organization.

    The Red Bull Ring is a stop and go circuit with relatively short straights. RBR and Verstappen are going to be quick with the already functional upgrade package of Silverstone. Ferrari on the other hand are going to be mighty, the F1-75 is very good in heavy breaking zones and in the acceleration phase. It maximizes the performance before the end of the straights unlike the RB18 that seem to be gaining a lot at the end of the straights with the DRS open.

    Leclerc is a monster under braking. According to telemetry obtained after some qualifying sessions this season, he was able to out-brake Verstappen in many of those heavy braking zones by quite a margin. Leclerc if he wants to win the race. He has to take the fight against Max, RBR, Sainz, Ferrari pit wall and the reliability of his own car. In normal circumstances, Max and RBR are going to be there with Perez ready to help. Sainz will be obliterated in both qualifying and race pace. The main issue relies with the clowns in charge of pit wall. Too many obstacles to overcome.

  8. I think on paper.. this track should be mega for Red Bull this season. They’ve got the low drag, good straightline speed and strong traction on their car, which is more than enough to win here. Plus, it’s probably Max’s strongest track and a home race for the team. I just can’t see anyone finishing in front of him this weekend.

    Ferrari might stand a chance with Leclerc being mega on Saturdays… but I’m pretty sure Ferrari has already devised a strategy to make sure than Leclerc finishes off the podium.

    1. Yes, the 6th question of the weekend is how Ferrari will wreck Leclerc race and qualification.

Comments are closed.