Red Bull Racing not only has a backlog to clear in the fast laps, but also in the longruns. Based on weekend results, the Austrian race stable seems to have to close a gap of around five tenths if it is to claim victory in the Red Bull Ring.
As it stands, the RB16 is not as fast as the Mercedes W11, but what it is is somewhere in the vicinity and at least a clear second-best. This balance of power is enough to keep Max Verstappen’s title hopes realistic – but it requires his team to outfox Mercedes on the operational side at every opportunity.
On Sunday in Austria, it looked like Red Bull was doing just that. It had made what Horner described as a “brave” decision to get Verstappen through Q2 on mediums, and then put Verstappen in prime position to make use of his starting compound by getting the stewards to overturn their Saturday decision on Hamilton’s yellow flag infringement.
Ten laps into the race, Verstappen and Red Bull looked on course for a potential masterstroke, keeping the gap to Bottas relatively consistent and with Hamilton held up by Albon. And then Verstappen’s RB16 slowed with a “suspected electrical issue” and a prime opportunity was lost in an instant.
If past seasons are any indication, Mercedes won’t allow Red Bull many more such opportunities – although the reliability dramas for the German works team and its customers will at least be a silver lining.
Albon’s performance was another silver lining – he was a perfect blend of aggressive and assertive in defending from Hamilton at Turn 4 at the start, and kept him delayed for a few laps. He also ended up with a sudden genuine shot at victory at the very end, and the way that unravelled is in no way Red Bull’s fault.
But it’s Verstappen, not Albon, who on pure pace still represents Red Bull’s best shot at ending its title drought – and the chances of that for 2020 took a massive hit today.
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THE NEXT RACE 2021
|02:00 - 03:30||Free practice 1|
|06:00 - 07:30||Free practice 2|
|04:00 - 05:00||Free practice 3|
|07:00 - 07:18||Qualifying|
|06:10 - 08:10||Race|