Formula One has seen some unlikely results since returning to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix. And now the sport visits Spielberg hoping for more of the same at the 2021 Styrian GP with a wonderfully poised title battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
This weekend’s race will mark the ninth time F1 has raced around the Red Bull Ring since returning in 2014. Austria had gone ten years without an event after losing its round following the 2003 race won by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.
Nico Rosberg, Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen all share the most wins at the track since Formula One’s return, with two each. Hamilton claimed the second of his victories at the inaugural Styrian GP, after back-to-back events in 2020 with Austria kicking off the year.
The Styrian Grand Prix comes first this season as part of a triple-header with France and next week’s Austrian GP. And last year’s races featured the latest unlikely F1 results at the Red Bull Ring…
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2020 Styrian GP: First Q2 for Williams’ George Russell
It was already a weekend of firsts in Austria as the 2020 Styrian GP marked the first time F1 had raced on the same circuit twice in a year, let alone in back-to-back events. And the Red Bull Ring returned a surprise on Saturday as George Russell clinched his first Q2 appearance.
In treacherous conditions that levelled the playing field and put an emphasis on the drivers’ ability, Russell wrestled his Williams into the second phase of qualifying. His Q1 time split the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel for 12th place.
It was Russell’s first time in Q2 since making his F1 debut at the 2019 Australian GP for the slowest team on the grid. It also marked Williams’ first time qualifying outside of the bottom five in 610 days, dating back to the 2018 Brazilian round.
Russell has since been known as ‘Mr Saturday’ in F1 for his qualifying brilliance. The 23-year-old reached Q2 at a further eight events for Williams in 2020 and in all seven Grands Prix so far this year. His best qualifying result of the season so far was 11th at the Portuguese GP.
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2020 Austrian GP: Lando Norris claims first F1 podium
Lando Norris entered Formula One with McLaren in 2019 as the runner up to Russell for the previous year’s Formula 2 title. His debut season in the pinnacle of motorsport returned a best finish of sixth, achieved twice at the Bahrain and Austrian rounds.
But the 2020 curtain-raiser returned Norris’ career-best result with third place and his first podium. He clinched the final step on the rostrum on the final lap of the race to beat Hamilton after a five-second time penalty for the reigning world champion.
Norris crossed the line to finish just 0.198 seconds ahead of Hamilton once the penalty was applied. He also set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap with a 1:07.475. The Briton has since stood on the podium two more times and has set the fastest lap once more.
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2018 Austrian GP: Only the top-three finish on the lead lap
After Mercedes dominated to win the first four Austrian Grand Prix following Formula One’s return to Spielberg, the 2018 running sprung a different result with neither Hamilton nor Bottas seeing the chequered flag. Instead, Verstappen won the first of his two Austrian GPs.
Bottas had claimed pole position, but his race came to a grinding halt on Lap 13 after a hydraulics failure. He had lost the lead to Hamilton before moving back into a strong position, only for the issue to arise and cause a terminal gearbox problem.
With his teammate out, Hamilton looked set to claim an easy win. But he would retire on Lap 62 of 71 after a loss of fuel pressure. The Mercedes driver would describe that year’s Austrian GP, via BBC Sport, as “the worst race I can remember for a very, very long time”.
Verstappen would go on to win from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel, but only they would finish on the lead lap and all within three seconds. The remaining 11 classified finishers were all lapped by the lead driver at least once, or twice for Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll.
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2016 Austrian GP: Pascal Wehrlein claims first F1 point
Pascal Wehrlein joined the Formula One grid for the 2016 season racing for Manor as the reigning DTM champion. The move from German touring cars to single-seater machinery was no issue for the German, however.
He settled in immediately at the back-marker outfit with steady results over the first seven rounds of the year. A first retirement followed at the European Grand Prix held at Baku, now the Azerbaijan GP, before visiting Austria.
It was at the Red Bull Ring that Wehrlein would claim his and Manor’s first and only point of the season. He brought the slowest car of the field home P10 after a strong strategy allowed him to avoid losing time to the blue flags.
Wehrlein ran two stints on Pirelli’s ultra-soft tyres before a single stint on softs. It meant he could benefit from Sergio Perez’s last-lap retirement to move into the top ten. But it could have been very different after parking in the wrong grid slot before realising his error in time for lights out.
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