D he Red Bull Ring has been for Red Bull so far not a good patch. Since the comeback of the Austrian GP in 2014, archenemy Mercedes has always won. The landlord himself always held back elegantly: 8th place and failure in 2014. 10th and 12th place in the 2015 season. 2nd and 5th place in 2016. 3rd place and failure last year. Red Bull always had the same problem on home soil. The ring in Styria is an engine route. With 79 percent full load, more than ever.
That is why Mercedes entered the race as the favorite this time too. Ferrari assumed the role of outsider. Not even Red Bull. The drivers spent two days trying to find the right balance. As in France, the car was at war with the ultrasoft tires. In the end, too much time was lost on the straights. The track doesn't have enough corners to make up for it. In complete contrast to the traditional qualities of the chassis, the RB14 ate its tires in the long runs on Friday. And the gap of seven tenths to the best time in training did not lead to excessive optimism in the home team either.
The privilege of being in the lead
On Sunday the picture changed. “The key was the higher temperatures,” analyzed Helmut Marko. Tires that would have managed a whole race distance on Friday at 28 degrees asphalt temperature suddenly became a problem. On Sunday the track surface heated up to 50 degrees. The surprisingly high racing pace brought the Pirelli soles into the red zone.
That alone could not have thrown Mercedes out of their shoes. It was only the failure of Valtteri Bottas and the subsequent strategy error that brought Red Bull into play. After Lewis Hamilton's pit stop, Max Verstappen had the privilege of leading the race and Hamilton got stuck in traffic. It's a completely different matter if you can control the speed in the clean air at the front or have to fight for positions and catch up behind. Red Bull noticed that too. Daniel Ricciardo had to pit a second time because of a large blister on the left rear tire. The Australian couldn't give his tires a break.
That shouldn't detract from Max Verstappen's first win of the season. Two factors were decisive. The overtaking maneuver against Kimi Räikkönen on the first lap and later the tire management. Over the last 20 rounds, more and more bubbles nestled inthe tread of the tires. “Typical Max”, applauds Marko as his driver pounds past Raikkonen in Turn 7. “It overtakes in places where others don't expect it.” Hard racing: “It was just a small bump,” said Verstappen. Raikkonen didn't even complain. “I made a mistake in the curve before that.”
The problem with the exhaust
Verstappen's balancing act, on the one hand to keep the tires alive, on the other hand not to let the Ferrari get any closer , elicited the highest praise from Marko: 'Max showed his critics that he can not only fly off the track. I've never seen such good tire management, certainly not from a 20-year-old. ”After Ricciardo's retirement, Verstappen had a second problem to solve. Ricciardo's exhaust broke, which in the end affected the transmission. Because a similar problem appeared in the car with the number 33, Verstappen was asked to run the engine in overdrive. That cost three tenths per lap. “Still, Max kept the Ferrari in check. Only when the lead had dropped to three seconds did we allow him to step on the gas again, ”reveals Marko.
The man from Graz still sees outsider opportunities in the World Cup. Mainly because there are still some Red Bull-friendly routes in the rest of the program. The only thing that gives him a stomachache is his steadfastness. Ricciardo's damage was done by Red Bull. But the turbocharger damage to Nico Hülkenberg's factory car is also a wake-up call for customers. “We'll start at the back with Ricciardo at Hockenheim. We cannot allow ourselves many such punishments. Still, nothing is impossible. I only remember the 2012 season. We were a long way behind in the summer break. ”
Marko hopes for rain in England
Because reliability has priority, Red Bull is also doing without for the time being on the new MGU-K, which was used in the works cars. It is 2.5 kilograms lighter than the old version, but according to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner it is a nightmare to install. “Now let's take a look at how it works at Renault. Weight is not our most pressing problem, ”explains Marko. Red Bull didn't feel much of the announced party mode in qualifying. “We have party mode tonight. It's going to be celebrated, ”laughed Marko shortly before leaving the Red Bull-Ring.
Home wins are just victories, but still the best. “It's good that we have finally interrupted Mercedes’s winning streak. The victory at our home Grand Prix was the culmination of our motorsport program ”, Marko sums up with satisfaction. And then the next race at Silverstone is already on. “The Mercedes will be unbeatable there. Silverstone used to be good for us, but with the wide cars many corners are full for most. And then the power plays a role again. ”His greatestMarko sees allies in the weather: 'England could really live up to its reputation as a rainy country.'