F1 Debrief: Verstappen’s cute tactic, Merc’s pain and silly season latest

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Good morning. After a run of fairly uneventful Formula 1 races, the Austrian GP served us up a thriller as Max Verstappen showed maturity beyond his years, Ferrari got a title hopes boost and Mercedes had its most painful day of the modern era.

If you missed any of the news or action, here is your Debrief from all that happened at the Red Bull Ring.

Start action
Austrian GP Start action

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images

IT’S VERSTAPPEN-ING

Max Verstappen has been a new man since his incident-filled campaign hit rock bottom at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Since then he has finished on the podium at all three races, and in Austria was in superb form to capture his first victory of the campaign.

Some aggressive driving on the opening lap to muscle his way past Kimi Raikkonen, and then a masterclass in tyre management to look after some badly blistered tyres, helped the Dutchman get himself back into championship contention.

But it was a far from easy win; especially with teammate Daniel Ricciardo retiring – which prompted Red Bull to turn down the leading car’s engine.

CUTE PRAISE

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB14

Photo by: Manuel Goria / Sutton Images

Verstappen’s bosses revealed how the youngster was able to pull off such a feat – thanks to a ‘cute’ tactic of backing off in the final sequence of corners.

Speaking after the race, Red Bull boss Christian Horner revealed how Verstappen changed his approach to the final turns once it became clear he needed to look after his tyres.

"It [the blistering] wasn't predicted coming into the race, but it is hot today and the load in these last two right corners, they are massive the amount of energy these tyres have to take up around there," Horner told Sky.

"So that is where Max was really cute today. He backed off through those right handers and made his time in the other parts of the circuit. A really, really mature drive."

Horner said that Verstappen did such a good job in ensuring that the tyres were being looked after that the critical left rear tyre was operating at a cooler temperature than the right.

"Unbelievable," added Horner. "He was keeping the rear left cooler than the rear right, and the rear left here is the one that takes all the load.

"He was constantly asking for information and managing those tyres and that is why they didn't blister up. A very, very mature drive for him."

MERCEDES’ MOST PAINFUL DAY

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, leads Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09, leads Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09

Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Having started the race 1-2 on the grid on the back of its biggest car update of the season, Mercedes had every right to feel a bit of confidence about its hopes for the race.

But in the end the Austrian Grand Prix turned out to be a disaster for the team, with both pole position man Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton retiring with mechanical problems on an afternoon when the team also made a major strategy mistake.

Team boss Toto Wolff was clear afterwards about just how much the double DNF hurt.

“For me, the most painful day in my years at Mercedes, worse than Barcelona,” he said

“I had plenty of people coming to see me before the start and saying, ‘This was going to be a walk in the park, 1-2, you have the quickest car.’

"This is exactly how motor racing can go. It can be very, very cruel and I think we had all the cruelty go against us today.”

Lewis Hamilton said afterwards that the team needed to pick itself up quickly if it was not going to risk throwing the world championship away.

"We can't afford to throw away points,” he told C4. “We need to find a bulletproof method to move forward for strategy because if our car had kept going it was an easy win for us, we were comfortably ahead."

RICCIARDO ON VERGE OF RED BULL DEAL 

Race retiree Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
Race retiree Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

Daniel Ricciardo may have left the Austrian Grand Prix without any points following a DNF, but the word over the weekend was that he is set to be rewarded with a new Red Bull deal.

The Australian is out of contract at the end of 2018 and had been waiting to see if there were options at Mercedes or Ferrari before committing to Red Bull, which will use Honda engines next year.

But following the latest talks that took place ahead of and over the Red Bull Ring weekend, it now appears that only a few details are missing before Ricciardo commits to staying.

Speaking ahead of the Austrian GP, Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko said that a new deal was ‘getting closer’

Ricciardo said: “It's not over yet but it will come. Soon. The time is not far away.”

SAUBER RUBBISHES LECLERC/RAIKKONEN SWAP RUMOURS 

Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari

Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

That Charles Leclerc is in pole position to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next season does not appear to be in much doubt.

But paddock whispers in Austria went a bit further and suggested that Ferrari was looking at making the switch earlier: perhaps as early as the Belgian GP.

But Sauber team boss Frederic Vasseur was quick to pour cold water over that idea: insisting that there had been no discussion at all with Ferrari about Leclerc’s future.

Vasseur said: "We have a contract until the end of the season and we didn't speak so far about the future. I can understand we have some rumours in the press but it's nothing to do with the reality.

"We are focused on our job, Charles is focused on the Sauber project, and the future will be discussed later on."

BARNARD: McLAREN MAY NOT SURVIVE CHANGE 

John Watson, McLaren Ford, with team boss Ron Dennis and chief designer John Barnard
John Watson, McLaren Ford, with team boss Ron Dennis and chief designer John Barnard

Photo by: LAT Images

McLaren’s former technical chief John Barnard made some pretty outspoken remarks ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix about his old team.

On the back of the Woking-based outfit’s competitive struggles, Barnard suggested that so big was the change needed to turn things around that the whole company may not be able to survive.

“They’ve had this matrix management system installed by probably [former boss] Martin Whitmarsh, and you’ve got to break that down,” Barnard said.

“I don’t know how long that will take, [or] whether the team can survive that kind of a fundamental turnaround.”

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Austrian GP
Track Red Bull Ring
Article type Special feature