The 2023 Austrian Grand Prix delivered plenty of on-track excitement, but it was the controversies off the track that stole the headlines. The issue of track limits became a major talking point, with over 1200 reports of violations recorded throughout the race weekend. While penalties were initially handed out for crossing the white line at Turns 9 and 10, Aston Martin‘s protest led to further penalties and a rearranged final order. The uncertainty surrounding track limits and the lack of a physical deterrent turned the race into a circus, prompting calls for gravel traps to be implemented to prevent further violations.
On the track, Max Verstappen continued his dominant form, securing his seventh win of the season. Red Bull‘s stranglehold on the 2023 championship shows no signs of weakening, with Verstappen seemingly unchallenged within his own team. Despite early performances from Sergio Perez, his title aspirations have faded due to compromised qualifying sessions and lackluster race performances. Ferrari provided sporadic challenges to Red Bull in Austria but ultimately fell short. Verstappen‘s victory, which included claiming the fastest lap on soft tires, highlighted the superiority of the Red Bull package.
Ferrari‘s performance in Austria showcased their inconsistency. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz demonstrated strong form in practice and qualifying, but the team struggled to maintain that level of competitiveness throughout the weekend. Leclerc‘s grid penalty and an unsuccessful pitstop for slick tires hampered his progress. However, Ferrari‘s ability to overcome these setbacks and return to their strong form on race day indicates progress in ironing out their race performance issues. While they still have a way to go to catch up with Red Bull, they have shown they can regularly outperform Mercedes and Aston Martin.
Despite Ferrari‘s overall positive performance in Austria, there were signs of disagreement within the team regarding strategic calls. Sainz expressed frustration with the team’s decision to prevent him from attacking his teammate, feeling that it hindered his chances of securing a podium finish. The subsequent slow pitstop for Leclerc further delayed Sainz, who then found himself behind Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton after the virtual safety car period. Sainz‘s determination to regain lost positions led to track limits violations, dampening his race. The Spaniard suggested that taking his own initiative and passing his teammate earlier in the race could have yielded better results.
On the McLaren front, Norris benefited from the team’s new floor and sidepod package, which showcased promising performance gains. Qualifying fourth for the Grand Prix and third for the sprint race highlighted the impact of the upgrades. The disparity in performance between Norris and teammate Oscar Piastri, who didn’t have access to the updates, further emphasized the positive effect of the new components. Despite a setback during the race due to anti-stall issues, Norris’s improved pace bodes well for McLaren‘s progress.
Overall, the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix provided plenty of action both on and off the track. Verstappen and Red Bull continued their dominant form, while Ferrari showed signs of improvement but also highlighted areas where they need to work. The controversies surrounding track limits and the need for a physical deterrent add to the ongoing debates within Formula 1. McLaren‘s upgrades showcased promising results, providing hope for the team’s future performances.