Battling with tyre wear, Verstappen was vulnerable to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who eventually took his third win of the season and his first since round three in Australia. In the process, Leclerc snapped Verstappen’s run of victories at a track he’d made his own.
Second place extended Verstappen’s lead atop the championship standings at the halfway mark of the season to 38 points. Even with the adrenaline of 71 laps of ferocious racing still coursing through his veins, it was a time for pragmatism rather than panic.
“It was a tricky day. It seemed like we were struggling quite a bit with the tyres [and] that continued on every single [tyre] compound,” he said.
“Too much degradation to really attack Charles, especially … but second place is still a good result for us on a difficult day.”
Speed was never Verstappen’s problem in Austria – he set the fastest lap of the race (1m 07.275s on Lap 62 of 71) as he turned up the heat on Leclerc – but tyre preservation proved a task too tough.
Verstappen held Leclerc off for the first 12 laps before relinquishing the lead, immediately pitted for hard tyres on the next lap and resumed the lead when Leclerc pitted but then lost the advantage to the Monegasque driver on Lap 33. Another pit stop for new hard tyres three laps later only repeated the sequence, Verstappen leading until Leclerc came past for a third – and final – time on Lap 53.
“Ferrari, congratulations to them because they had a quicker car through the majority of the race,” Horner said.
“Our tyre [degradation] was higher from halfway through the first stint, and it was hard to combat that. Ferrari just seemed lighter on the tyres.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75. 10.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, Austria, Race Day. – www.xpbimages.com
“Our pace at the end of the race – we still got the fastest lap, but we didn’t have the range we had yesterday. That’s something we need to understand.”
While Verstappen takes a healthy championship lead into the season’s second half and Red Bull’s advantage in the constructors’ standings sits at 56 points after 11 races, Horner says a result like Austria’s shows the enormity of the task in maintaining that ascendancy.
“The championships look healthy, but Ferrari are quick, and we’ve got to keep pushing,” he said. “We can’t afford to back off.”
From 11th on the grid in the sprint, Gasly found himself with nowhere to go at the first corner as Hamilton, and Alex Albon squabbled for position, Gasly’s left rear tyre making contact with Hamilton’s front right wheel. The Frenchman spun, re-joined at the back and made his way back to 14th at the chequered flag.
When the dust settled, the last three places on the grid for Sunday’s race featured Vettel, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso (whose car failed to start on the grid) and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who started last because of an engine penalty. It’s not every day the final three places on an F1 grid feature a trio of drivers with a combined 95 wins and six world championships… Alonso did the best of the trio on Sunday, finishing 10th.
The third and final F1 Sprint for 2022 will take place at Interlagos, Brazil, in November.
Four races in five weekends make July the busiest month of the 2022 F1 calendar. The teams will appreciate a weekend off before the final double-header preceding the summer break, beginning with the French Grand Prix on July 24 at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
The circuit in the south of France, which offers 167 different track configurations, came back onto the calendar in 2018 after a 28-year break. The French GP was held at rural Magny-Cours until 2008 before disappearing from the schedule altogether for a decade.
Source Red Bull Magazine