Austrian Grand Prix 2023: Red Bull should plunder home race but value may lie with Leclerc
28 June 2023
Formula One returns to action this weekend with the Austrian Grand Prix, a home race for the championship’s dominant marque, Red Bull Racing, and the second Sprint event of the season.
A picturesque blast
The Red Bull Ring is located in rural Styria, which is nestled within the verdant hills and the home of Formula One’s Austrian Grand Prix. It is among the shortest venues on the current calendar and, come the end of qualifying, lap times are regularly only just over 60 seconds.
Fine margins can therefore dictate the course of a weekend, which places an extra emphasis on each of the circuit’s few corners – just nine of note – and ensuring tyres are kept in their optimum window throughout the lap.
Austria’s grand prix takes place in mid-summer but the weather can vary owing to the Red Bull Ring’s hilly location. Extreme heatwaves and torrential rain have buffeted events, with showers sometimes falling on only some corners, despite the venue’s compact nature. Oddly, in spite of rain influencing practice and qualifying, every race since Austria’s return in 2014 has been unaffected by precipitation.
Sprint is back
Austria, as per 2022, will be a Sprint weekend, meaning there will be two separate qualifying sessions for the Sprint race and featured Sunday race itself.
Friday’s usual qualifying session will set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix, while Saturday’s condensed Sprint Shootout will sort the starting order for the Sprint race later the same day.
That puts greater pressure on teams optimising everything in the sole one-hour practice session on Friday before set-ups are locked in for the remainder of the weekend. Mis-step here – as Alpine did in Azerbaijan – and prospects can soon unravel.
Red Bull’s home run?
The Austrian grand prix was revived under Red Bull’s ownership and promotion of the Red Bull Ring in 2014, which coincided with Mercedes’ dominance, resulting in four wins on the bounce for the Silver Arrows.
Red Bull finally prevailed on home turf in 2018 courtesy of Max Verstappen, and he doubled up in 2019 before winning both of the Austrian races in 2021, when it hosted back-to-back events in a Covid-affected season.
Verstappen also claimed pole position and Sprint success last year, but he was surprisingly beaten in the grand prix by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc as divergent tyre strategies favoured the Monegasque. Since that defeat Red Bull has only been beaten once - Mercedes’ George Russell denied them victory in São Paulo in 2022 - and they have taken all eight wins in 2023.
No driver has won in Austria more times than Verstappen, who has done so on four occasions, and he heads to Red Bull’s home track in a commanding position. Verstappen has taken pole position, led every lap and taken victory across the last trio of events in Monaco, Spain and Canada. He has won six of this year’s eight races and leads the championship by 69 points.
Teammate Sergio Perez has struggled of late – he has failed to even make the top 10 in qualifying across the last three rounds – and the Red Bull Ring is not one of his strongest venues, as he has yet to grace its podium.
Austrian Grand Prix 2023 Predictions
28 June 2023