Styrian Grand Prix: Hamilton and Verstappen return to site of controversial Formula One crashes

Kyle Archer June 25, 2021
Photo by Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images

Formula One heads to Austria for the Styrian Grand Prix and the first of a Red Bull Ring double-header. Max Verstappen arrives leading Lewis Hamilton by 12 points in the drivers’ championship after edging the Mercedes’ racer to win the French Grand Prix.

Paul Ricard marked the first time since 2019 that Hamilton has not won three races on the bounce. And it was also the first time that Red Bull had won three-in-a-row since the end of F1’s V8 era in 2013 after Verstappen’s Monaco glory and Sergio Perez winning in Azerbaijan.

Hamilton will hope to stop the rot at the Red Bull Ring, where he won the 2016 Austrian GP and 2020 Styrian GP. But the Briton and his Mercedes team expect Red Bull to be favourites at their home circuit, where the Milton Keynes outfit have won two of Formula One’s past four visits.

Verstappen won successive Austrian Grand Prix in 2018 and 2019, but his second triumph came under controversial circumstances. Hamilton’s maiden Red Bull Ring win also came with debate, and he was met with backlash after F1’s first visit to the track in 2020.

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Hamilton and Rosberg collide at 2016 Austrian GP

Mercedes dominated at the Red Bull Ring on Formula One’s first four visits to the circuit after its return to the calendar in 2014. Nico Rosberg came first in each of the first two trips to Spielberg and was aiming to make it an Austrian GP hat-trick in 2016.

But Hamilton would break his former teammate’s winning streak after contact between the two on the last lap left the German with damage. The stewards blamed Rosberg for the incident, despite coming off worse and only limping home in fourth, while Hamilton won.

Rosberg held the inside into Turn 3 as Hamilton sought to send his Mercedes around the outside for the lead. But the German racer ran both deep and well past the apex as he was struggling with a brake issue, causing contact when the Briton attempted to turn in.

Hamilton’s front-right wheel clattered Rosberg’s front wing and the pair collided again as the Briton attempted to re-join the track. The second blow further deteriorated the state of the wing and forced the German to slow with parts stuck underneath his car.

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Verstappen and Leclerc cause Turn 3 repeat in 2019

Three years after Hamilton and Rosberg’s incident, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc repeated the Turn 3 drama at the Austrian GP. Battling for the win, Verstappen overtook the Ferrari racer with three laps to go to grab an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat.

Verstappen and Leclerc both started on the front row after Hamilton was penalised for impeding Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying. But the Red Bull driver and crowd favourite hit anti-stall off the line and plummeted down the order.

Verstappen drove a magnificent race to move back into contention for the win, including passes on Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Then, on Lap 69, he took the outside line into T3 after a strong run up the hill but forced Leclerc wide and off the track.

It took the stewards until three hours after the race finished to confirm that Verstappen would keep the win. The incident followed questionable decisions from the stewards at the preceding French and Canadian rounds involving Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel respectively.

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Hamilton and Albon collide at 2020 Austrian GP

The 2020 Formula One calendar featured a raft of changes from the original schedule as the FIA and Liberty Media strove to ensure a season went ahead amid the pandemic. Part of this meant hosting back-to-back events at the same track for the first time in the sport’s history.

The Austrian Grand Prix also formed the first race of the year and saw Hamilton and Alex Albon tangle. It was the second time in three Grand Prix that the Mercedes and former Red Bull driver collided in incidents that would ultimately determine the podium positions.

Hamilton had denied Albon his first rostrum result at the 2019 Brazilian GP. And his penalty for the contact in Austria eventually allowed McLaren’s Lando Norris to claim his maiden top-three in F1. Albon eventually secured his first at the 2020 Tuscan GP at Mugello.

Albon looked strong to claim his first podium at the Red Bull Ring and could have challenged for the win were it not for the contact with Hamilton. But Hamilton clipped Albon coming out of Turn 4 and spun the London-born Thai racer into the gravel 10 laps from the end.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner called for Hamilton to apologise after the race, given the sense of déjà vu from the previous year’s Brazilian round. The penalty Hamilton received an hour after the race in Sao Paulo also promoted Carlos Sainz onto the F1 podium for the first time.

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Kyle is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from Bournemouth University, who has covered Premier League, EFL and European football for a number of years for online publications.