The Styrian Grand Prix offered us a beautiful race from Ferrari, apart from the initial contact between Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly. The fight for the win does not reserve any emotion. Max Verstappen sprints well at the start and runs away. Sergio Perez and Red Bull will try in vain to remedy the mistake they made during the first pit stop with an alternative strategy, while Bottas this time gives his contribution by finishing third.
The Hard C2, Medium C3 and Soft C4 nominations allowed the drivers to be able to finish the race with only one pitstop: almost all the soft starters arrived at the end with Hard tires: Norris (McLaren), Stroll (Aston Martin), Alonso (Alpine) and Tsunoda (AlphaTauri). The only exceptions were Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.
The Monegasque was forced to mount a C2 train during the first lap when he had to return to the pits to replace the front wing damaged in contact with Gasly a few meters after Turn-1. Fate did not smile for the Frenchman, who had to retire on the occasion. Rather limited pit stop window: the first to replace the Softs was Yuki on lap 26 (together with Perez who, however, has decided to implement a two-stop strategy in an attempt to regain his position on Bottas), while the last was Lando on lap 31.
On the other hand, among the 12 drivers on Medium tires, 9 drivers decided to finish the race by switching to Hard: Verstappen (Red Bull), Bottas (Mercedes), Sainz (Ferrari), Vettel (Aston Martin), Ricciardo (McLaren), Ocon ( Alpine), Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Schumacher (Haas) and Mazepin (Haas). The best strategy from the point of view of tire management. It allowed the championship leader to get his fourth win of the season and Carlos Sainz to recover from 12th starting position to the sixth final. The pit stop window in this case was much wider. Mazepin and Giovinazzi were the first to replace the yellow compounds on laps 21 and 23 respectively. The Spaniard from Ferrari and the Australian from McLaren, on the other hand, were be the last to return to the pits on lap 41.
We all remember the amazing overtaking moves with which Charles enchanted everyone during the race, but what we would like to focus on is the good pace shown by the Monegasque: on Hard tires the #16 SF21 driver manages to get the better of Haas, Giovinazzi and Ocon alone, then unfortunately, once he reaches Ricciardo (at that moment of the race on Medium tires), Charle was forced to drive at his pace in the 14 laps in which he gets stuck behind him, or from the 25th to the 39th lap, when he decides to return to the pits to mount the yellow tire.
The advantage over his rivals, all on Hard except for Kimi (Alfa Romeo) who will have suffered the same conditions, is truly enormous. Thanks to the undercut, Charles was be able to get ahead of the McLaren # 3 returned to the track after the pit stop in P15 and by making six overtakes respectively on Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Vettel, Tsunoda, Alonso and finally Stroll, he was be able to regain on the 61st lap the position were he would arrive at the finish line: the 7th, which was also his starting position.
20 laps in which Charles certainly did not spare himself, between crashes and really close fights: the compounds were put to the test! Nonetheless, his pace remains impressive. In the last 10 laps of the race, Perez, on a Medium tire and in pursuit of Bottas, hammers on times between 1’08”4 and 1’08”8 (with rare exceptions in which he leaves the field both with better times, but also worse). Charles Leclerc at the same moment is much more constant, always remaining between 1’08’7 and 1’09’0. Sure slower, but very, very competitive. The third fastest driver on the track after Perez and Verstappen.
Charles Leclerc (named ‘Driver of the Day’) could have had an even better race if only he hadn’t been in contact with Gasly after Turn-1. The episode meant a lost opportunity to evaluate the pace on Soft tires, but unfortunately, racing sometimes goes like this. At least it made the race a lot more fun. Without that event, Carlos Sainz would probably have been the only protagonist of the day. Author of another great race.
Starting from 12th position, Carlos Sainz was always ready to compete in an uphill race. The goal was to get points and to do so it was decided to tackle the first part of the race on Medium tires. Just like all the drivers outside the Top-10 (excluding Raikkonen on Hard). At the start, the Spaniard loses his position to Ricciardo, but manages to jump into P11 thanks to the contact between his teammate and Gasly. A little later Daniel complained of a problem with the power unit and so the Madrid-born, during the 8th lap, is 10th behind Tsunoda. Position that he will hold up to the moment of the pit stop of the starters on the Soft compound which took place between the 26th and 30th lap. Carlos Sainz’s race starts now.
Perhaps the Spaniard may not have been the author of great overtakes like his teammate, but once he finds himself in P6 with a free track, he begins to put an important series of laps on the 1’10 ” low that allows him to keep a really pace good, even a few tenths faster than Stroll, the driver to lead the large group of midfield that recently switched to Hard.
So, on lap 43, 13 laps after the Canadian from Ason Martin had made the stop, Carlos decided to switch to the C2 tyre too. The overcut in his case allows him to recover the positions on Tsunoda and Alonso, while he will have to follow Lance with a gap of 2 ”.
A gap recovered in just one round. On lap 45 Carlos will be able to overtake and take the position that he will then keep until the end: 6th. At this stage the pace is much better than Norris, the Spaniard seems to be able to catch him. Unfortunately Hamilton will intervene between him and this goal. Sainz is faster than the Brit, but not fast enough to pass him safely: the unlapping procedure is very delicate. In the end Lewis decides to give him the way, but it’s too late now. There is no longer a chance for the Spaniard to go and get Norris.
The sixth and seventh final position is still very good. Ferrari with both of its cars has shown that it has found its rhythm, especially on the Medium compound. This bodes well for the next Austrian appointment. Event for which the Red technicians intend to try to maintain the good pace shown in the race trying to recover something in qualifying.
Carlos Sainz was the only one to show a powerful overcut in the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix, but perhaps this was made possible more than by the difference in performance between the compounds, by an excellent pace shown by Ferrari, certainly too fast to be worried by Aston Martin, Alpine and AlphaTauri, at least this time. On the other hand, the undercut did not have the desired effects. Many have tried to make an early stop on their opponents without reaping the hoped-for benefits. The explanation is to be found in the gap between the compounds, which is very small in Styria.