Morning After: A Track That Bites Back

Less than a week after a French Grand Prix that saw little punishment for drivers running outside track limits, the Red Bull Ring proved significantly more unforgiving on an eventful Friday.

A twelve-hour drive may be all that separates Le Castellet from Spielberg, but for F1 purposes, they might as be a world away.

From the glorified car park of Paul Ricard, to the various sausage kerbs, small dips and gusts of wind at the Red Bull Ring, F1 was once again at its knife-edge best on Friday.

Whether it was Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in the wall, Sebastian Vettel’s nearly joining them, or the various bits of carbon fibre donated by Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg and others, drivers in Austria were actually forced to reckon with immediate and significant consequences for their missteps.

Taking place in the midst of a particularly spirited discussion about the state of F1 – particularly after the snooze-fest in France – it goes to show a proper track, with proper deterrents for F1 cars goes a long way in adding some intrigue to proceedings, even if the cars themselves still have problems that need addressing.

Of course, you can’t just go adding something like a sausage kerb to every corner of every track, but when placed as well as they are here in Spielberg, “ambition versus adhesion” actually means something, and that means that maybe, just maybe, this weekend will produce some honest-to-goodness excitement.

Friday Figures

0.078 seconds. Advantage Charles Leclerc (eight laps) held on average over Lewis Hamilton (9 laps) on soft tyre runs, which is a very good sign for Sunday’s race.

€150000. Costs to produce a front wing, courtesy of AMuS’ Tobias Gruner after nine were lost in first practice.

1:05.701. FP2 time for Romain Grosjean, good enough for P6. If there’s anyone in the grid who needed a positive session, it was him.

Quick Hits

Per Tobi Gruner (a big day for him!), a minor bombshell dropped on Friday with Max Verstappen reportedly able to leave Red Bull before next season. Certainly, it would be unsurprising for him to be exploring his options, but I wonder if Mercedes or Ferrari would deem him worth the personality clash.

A few close calls with in FP2, with Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, then Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly all touching wheels. Here’s hoping for a bit more come Sunday.

Long live Rich Energy’s “Stag” Logo, now officially dead come July 18. On the positive side, I hear they’ve already got their new logo ready to go, and this time it definitely doesn’t infringe copyright.