By Carol M. Creasey
Red Bull continued their ominous form in Austria during Free Practice 1 and 2 with Max Verstappen topping the time sheets in both sessions. Sir Lewis Hamilton topped Free Practice 3 by two tenths, and he said he hoped he had now got the car in a better place
Rain had been forecast for Qualifying, and knowing his exceptional skill in these conditions, this would have been beneficial for the Briton, but mother nature had other ideas, and the sun continued to shine all through the session.
Sir Lewis gave it everything that he had, but the Mercedes fell short against Verstappen’s Red Bull. The Dutch driver took pole with ease, Valtteri Bottas was second, but because he had a three-place grid penalty for spinning in the pit lane, his final position ended up fifth. Sir Lewis had qualified third, but would now start the race on the front row, next to Verstappen.
The other Brit, Lando Norris did a very creditable drive, which gave him third on the grid. It is amazing what qualifying pace he can extract from his McLaren, and he remains the only driver this season to score points in every race.
On race day, Mother Nature once again defied the weather forecast, and the weather stayed fine. Nobody can match Sir Lewis in rainy conditions, he is always at one with his car, so it was disappointing to see it would remain dry.
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When the race started, Verstappen led with the Brit right behind. He tried to stay with him, but it became obvious quite quickly that, since the last race when the two teams were quite close, Red Bull had made a huge step forward and has now become the most dominant car on the grid.
As the race progressed, the gap between the two drivers became larger. Sir Lewis always puts everything into his races, but he admitted afterwards that it had been impossible to keep up with the Red Bull. At one time the gap had increased to seventeen seconds. I have never seen Mercedes lose by such a margin during the turbo hybrid era.
Verstappen drove a dominant race, and there was nothing that anyone could have done to fight him. Credit must go to Sir Lewis for coming second, and also for clinching the fastest lap on fresh tyres. Bottas too drove a very good race. He came from fifth on the grid after his penalty, and got himself up to third to complete the podium. They both managed to beat Perez in the other Red Bull, who came fourth, which was no mean feat.
When speaking afterwards, Sir Lewis explained that Red Bull have brought multiple upgrades for their car in recent races, while Mercedes have not. Toto Wolff later explained that they are not developing the car this year, as all their expenditure has gone into 2022. I don’t think this is good enough. Sir Lewis Hamilton is our champion, and is now trying to get his eighth championship, but how can he do this if he doesn’t have the equipment to challenge the dominant Red Bull?
The fans were looking forward to a close fight, but on Sunday it was ridiculous, and it will soon become boring if Sir Lewis is not given the tools to fight. He has been incredibly loyal to his team, and grateful for all their hard work over the years, so Toto needs to show his loyalty back by giving him a car that is at the very least capable of fighting back. Let’s make this year depend on the skill of the driver, and not a dominant car.
For the people who may say that Mercedes has been dominant for years, I would like to remind them of 2017-2018 when Ferrari was faster, and good on every track. Sir Lewis had to use all of his skills to win, rather than just rely on the speed of the car. He is without question the best driver in the world, his stats don’t lie, but he is not God, so he can’t perform miracles.
Now is the time for Mercedes to step up, and show that they don’t take kindly to being beaten. Well done to Sir Lewis and Valtteri for getting the very best they could achieve this weekend, I am proud of you both!
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