Max Verstappen wants to pull away in the quasi-home game. His form, the support of his fans and the clumsiness of Ferrari speak for it in Spielberg.
A little relaxation in the mountains is just right for Max Verstappen. “Silverstone was a tough race,” says the world champion, “but now we’re looking ahead.” Because waiting up front: The home race for Red Bull, more than 300,000 spectators, most of them in orange.
Last Sunday in England, Verstappen only dragged his damaged car to the finish line in seventh place, but this weekend there is much to be said for compensation – Spielberg has been particularly good to Verstappen for years. Nobody has won here more often, and the fans in Austria have long since adopted the Dutchman as their pilot.
“I love the view of the grandstands,” he says, “I have a lot of good memories of Austria.” He’s been on the top step of the podium three times already, this time he’s even got the opportunity to do so twice: on Saturday (4:30 p.m.) the sprint takes place, on Sunday (3 p.m.) then the classic Grand Prix.
“I hope we can get the maximum out of it,” says Verstappen. That’s what one hopes at Ferrari too, because in theory this weekend offers a great opportunity for Charles Leclerc. Monegasse is now 43 World Championship points behind leader Verstappen, 34 points are up for grabs in Austria.
Ferrari with the ability to self-destruct
And in theory, the Ferrari should also be able to cope well on this short, fast track with its hard braking points – as it has on almost every course on the calendar so far. Leclerc has been on pole position six times in the ten races of the season so far, but only two measly wins have come out of it.
Because Ferrari’s ability to self-destruct is a reliable factor this year, a look at Leclerc’s past five races is sufficient evidence. In Spain and Azerbaijan the drive went on strike, in Monaco and Silverstone the team’s mistakes paved the way to success – and in Montreal the title candidate had to start from the end of the field due to an engine change.
The Scuderia has a car fast enough for the title and a driver that could become world champion with it. So far, however, she has once again stood in her own way. Even Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz’s recent win at Silverstone was a failure in that sense. Because Leclerc lost the possible victory due to a questionable strategic decision, and Verstappen’s lead in the World Cup remained huge.
“I expect”, says the Dutchman, “that it will be a good weekend for our team.” And he has good reasons for that.