Charles Leclerc seemed very confident about Ferrari’s chances in the Austrian Grand Prix, after Saturday’s sprint. And he was right. Leclerc spotted the tire degradation on Max Verstappen’s Red Bull during the sprint, capitalizing on the Red Bull’s tire degradation and traction issues to win the Austrian Grand Prix. Late race reliability issues struck Ferrari when Leclerc’s throttle pedal stopped returning to the zero point. Despite lacking the race pace, Verstappen began closing in on Leclerc over the final laps but began losing time amongst the backmarkers, never getting close to challenging Leclerc. Lewis Hamilton finished 3rd for the third straight race. Another race with a Mercedes on the podium.
Formula 1’s second sprint weekend on the Calendar delivered too much action to be entirely recapped here. At times, multiple cars were battling for the same patch of the track, squeezing four cars into one area, each looking for the opening toward a free track and higher grid spots.
There were breathtaking overtakes from Sergio Perez in the Sprint and Lewis Hamilton in the Austrian Grand Prix. Pierre Gasly continued the trend of having horrible Sprint weekends. Reliability issues could be found throughout the grid. More prevalent than reliability issues were track violations. Haas’ pace was mega around the Red Bull Ring, resulting in both Haas drivers scoring points in the Austrian Grand Prix for the second race in a row, in a car that hasn’t been upgraded yet in 2022. And there were reports of abhorrent behavior from spectators.
And a Ferrari engine failed and exploded. Again. We can’t forget to mention that Ferrari was on fire, in more ways than one.
Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix Sprint
Unlike Formula 1’s first experiment with the Sprint weekend format, the person who crossed the line first after the qualifying session would receive official recognition as the pole sitter. Unsurprisingly, members of the Formula 1 community were displeased by this whole sprint arrangement, let alone who gets credit for the weekend’s pole position. Track limits were heavily monitored by the FIA throughout the weekend at the Red Bull Ring. This became very noticeable in qualifying.
While a cast of familiar characters was eliminated in Q1, Lando Norris couldn’t keep his McLaren inside track limits and never set a representative lap, qualifying 15th. Sergio Perez needed a clean lap on his last flying lap to escape Q2. Perez set the fourth-fastest time of Q2 but failed to keep the RB-18 within the track limits. Yet, a slow reaction from the FIA to delete his lap time allowed Perez to participate in Q3. Perez was moved down from 4th on the grid to 13th. And who was unjustly eliminated from participating in Q3? Pierre Gasly.
On their final flying laps of Q3, BOTH Mercedes crashed, leaving Hamilton in 10th and Russell in 5th (4th after Perez’s penalty). The two Ferraris improved on their final laps and looked to have put both cars on the front row until Verstappen snatched pole position from Leclerc in the final sector.
The F1 Sprint
Verstappen jumped out in front of Leclerc and never looked back, leading from lights out. The top four qualifiers finished the Sprint in the order they qualified: Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, and Hamilton. Sergio Perez looked strong in the Sprint, finishing in 5th. Lewis Hamilton finished in 8th, passing Haas’ Mick Schumacher in the dying laps for the final points spot in the Sprint. Hamilton had to fight his way back into the race after recovering from a race-start turn 1 incident. An incident with who, you ask? Pierre Gasly.
The Austrian Grand Prix
Although he led the race from turn 1, it was evident early that Verstappen didn’t have the pace to keep the Ferraris behind him. Ferrari looked poised for an easy 1-2 finish when Sainz’s engine failed and exploded into flames while closing in on Verstappen into turn 4. This necessitated a virtual safety car, leading to pit stops and a sprint (no pun intended) to the finish.
For the second year in a row at the Red Bull Ring, Perez decided to try his luck around the outside of turn 4. Much like last, Perez’s attempt was unsuccessful and found himself in the grave, after contact with George Russell. Russell earned a penalty for the incident. Russel finished fourth, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in fifth and Haas’ Schumacher in sixth: his best finish ever.
There were penalties for track violations and collisions in practice, qualifying, and the Austrian Grand Prix. Only one driver received penalties for causing a collision AND track violations. You may be wondering, “Who was that driver?!” but you likely already know the answer: Pierre Gasly.
The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For
As you may well know, we tend to highlight one particular driver in our coverage of every Formula 1 race weekend. Not selecting a driver to focus on, rather we focus on one driver in particular. And we have arrived at the main event of Knupsports’ 2022 Formula 1 coverage: The growing legend of the Wiley Ol’ Campaigner, Fernando Alonso.
Alonso qualified a respectable 8th for the F1 Sprint. However, tragedy struck when Alsono’s Alpine sat on the grid with the tire warming blankets still on the tires as the grid took off for the Sprint’s formation lap. An electronics failure left Alonso in the garage for the Sprint and starting from the back of the grid for the Austrian Grand Prix. In reality, this only provides more opportunities for his legend to grow. And the Wiley Ol’ Campaigner did not disappoint.
Alonso began his recovery drive from 19th on the grid. After making, it as high as fifth, Alonso was required to pit twice under the Sainz virtual safety car. This put Alonso near the back of the pack on fresh tires to begin a second recovery drive. Alonso managed to make it into the points, finishing 10th. But as it is in life, it’s the little things, the details that matter the most in Formula 1, and this is where the Wiley Ol’ Campaigner is at his finest.
In the battle for 16th place, both Alonso (in 18th) and Yuki Tsunoda (17th) both caught and passed Williams’ Nicholas Latifi at turn 3, on lap 32, while battling with each other. A few corners later, the Tsunoda/Alonso battle resumed on lap 34. After a crafty line through turn three, Alonso moved down the inside to challenge Tsunoda. Tsunoda ran Alonso onto the grass, but our hero would not be deterred! Alonso proceeded to charge forward, take back the tarmac, and overtake Tsunoda while waging a finger at the Alpha Tauri driver as he passed him into turn 4.
Whether you think Alonso was scolding Tsunoda or doing his best Dikembe Mutumbo impression from the 90s, we can all agree that the Wiley Ol’ Campaigner added another memorable and unique chapter to his growing legend, in the Styrian mountains.
Up Next – Circuit Paul Ricard and the French Grand Prix.
We are officially at the halfway point of the 2022 Formula 1 season. Race 12 of the 2022 season is the French Grand Prix, from Circuit Paul Ricard. The 2021 French Grand Prix weekend was dominated by Red Bull. Will Verstappen and Perez dominate in France again? Will Ferrari continue their winning ways? Or will Mercedes exploit a track well-suited to their car and get their first win of the 2022 season?
Oh, and there is a French team, with a French driver, a competitive car, and a crafty ol’ campaigner looking to impress during their home race.
The French Grand Prix takes place from July 22nd-24th.
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