Ferrari dominated Red Bull's home game in Spielberg. Max Verstappen was second and at least did maximum damage limitation. The high tire degradation left some question marks in the team. Red Bull are hoping to get an upgrade ready for the French GP in time.
It should be the perfect weekend. But after 71 laps of the race, people were scratching their heads in the Red Bull garage and at the command post. Ferrari was vastly superior to Spielberg on Sunday's race. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were able to set a higher pace and, on top of that, kept their tires alive much longer.
After pole on Friday and victory in the sprint on Saturday, Max Verstappen had to settle for second place in the main race. At least he got the extra point for the fastest lap in the race. Overall, Red Bulls spearhead lost the duel against his World Cup rival Leclerc with 27 to 32 points. "Even on a bad weekend by our standards, we only lost five points," Verstappen summed up.
Fatal attack by Perez
It was like Silverstone. Ferrari had the opportunity to make up significantly more points. In England, the Scuderia botched the strategy, in Austria the engine in Carlos Sainz's car burst. Just at the moment when he could have launched his first attack against Verstappen. "Ferrari could very well have had a one-two," says Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. "In that respect it was successful damage limitation for us."
Also in the Team World Cup. Ferrari caught up just seven points. The second Red Bull was already knocked out after half a round. Sergio Perez was sent into the gravel trap by Mercedes driver George Russell. It happened at turn four. Actually, Red Bull had warned its pilots against an attack there on the outside. Perez tried anyway.
Horner defended his Mexican driver. "Checo had the momentum on his side. He came out of turn three better than Russell. In turn four, the driver has to play on the inside lane. That wasn't the case here." Perez continued to struggle until the 24th lap and then retired. "The underbody was too badly damaged. It would have ended up two laps behind the winner. It was pointless to continue."
Problems on all tires
World championships are won by doing better than you actually are on race weekends. In this respect, both the team leadership and the number 1 driver could live with the outcome. But the fact that Ferrari was so superior gave food for thought. "They were better than expected, we were worse," Verstappen summed up succinctly.
It doesn't matter whether it's medium tires or a hard compound. The Ferraris flew while the world champion had his back against the wall from the first lap. "We had our problems on every set of tyres. After a few laps, the tires wore out."In contrast to the sprint, Leclerc stayed close to the man in front. Overtook him after twelve laps. And later twice more. Verstappen had only inherited the lead for a short time with staggered pit stops.
Red Bull doesn't hit the window
Red Bull puzzled. The sprint was won relatively confidently. It should have gone better in the main race. You can't change a lot on the car. Front wings and tire pressures. Was it the green track after a downpour overnight that slowed down? Or the fallen Track temperatures? Or was the setup not suitable for a racing car with full tanks? In the sprint, the petrol tanks were only a third full. "On Saturday, the tire degradation between Ferrari and us was practically identical," said Horner. "Especially in the first stint in the mediums it was significantly higher in our race."
Verstappen went to his pit crew after 13 laps to switch to hard tyres. Leclerc covered twice the distance on the yellow starting tire. Three laps more even than in the sprint race - despite a full tank of fuel. At Red Bull, a two-stop strategy had already been established before the Grand Prix, but with longer sections. Halfway through the race, Verstappen made a second change. So it was clear that he would come back into the pits on lap 58 in the VSC phase. The Ferrari strategists had it easy.
Too little grip, not the right balance, understeer and oversteer: the red opponent couldn't be beaten with the high tire degradation. "It was strange because we were still on the good side with the tires at Silverstone," recalls the team boss. "These cars are just so sensitive. If you don't move them in the right working window, you pay the price." Red Bull has a smaller voting window than Ferrari. The F1-75 is the more forgiving car.
Update for Paul Ricard?
The small retouches on the front tunnels on the Red Bull should ensure that the flow is kept constant at different ground clearances. Ferrari still had the better package. On a lap you moved at eye level. But the qualifying result could change. No driver managed a top lap at the end of Q3. Everyone was struggling with tire temperatures after the accidents caused by the Mercedes drivers caused two stoppages.
The pendulum swings back to Ferrari. Verstappen still leads comfortably by 38 points in the World Cup. Leclerc could have been much closer to him without technical and strategic glitches. "We also had a fast race car in Spain, Monaco, Baku, Canada and Silverstone, but we never had a smooth weekend," says Leclerc, who made a first with three overtaking maneuvers in a race against Verstappen. "We've known each other for so long. I know his weaknesses, he knows mine. We respect each other," says the Monegasque.
With Paul Ricard, a race track with fast and flowing corners is now waiting. It was precisely in these passages that the red car had a slight advantage at Silverstone and Spielberg. Red Bull hopes to launch the next upgrade in time. It's announced for France, but not sure yet if everything will be finished according to the schedule.
You won't just have to watch long-term rival Ferrari. But also Mercedes. "We expect that they will be quick in Ricard," says Horner. "Their cars aren't bouncing around anymore. It looks like they're getting back into the game."