Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2018

2018 Austrian Grand Prix Star Performers

2018 Austrian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen, Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the Austrian Grand Prix. Here’s why.


Max Verstappen

After a rough start to the season Verstappen finally put together a race win. The Red Bull didn’t have the pace of the Mercedes or Ferraris in Friday practice, but warm conditions on Sunday tipped the balance in their favour. It was Verstappen who made the difference, however.

After a strong start – forcefully elbowing Kimi Raikkonen aside – he was sitting comfortably in third when the VSC appeared. The Red Bull pit wall caught Mercedes napping, and Verstappen found himself on fresh tyres 13 seconds behind race leader Lewis Hamilton. Once the race resumed Verstappen stayed within the pit lane delta as Hamilton was unable to draw away.

After he inherited the lead Verstappen drove intelligently to keep his tyres from overheating even as Raikkonen made a late charge. An error-free weekend meant he was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of Mercedes’ errors.

Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Grosjean finally got the job done
Grosjean answered his critics in the best possible fashion as his first points haul of 2018 was a superb fourth place. He outperformed his team mate, Magnussen, in every session of the weekend, including all three stages of qualifying. Even better, he out-qualified Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull too.

In the race, Grosjean stopped under the VSC and was able to make his soft tyres last 55 laps to the end. It was a close thing, however: “Wait until you see the rear tyres, bro,” he told his team after taking the chequered flag, “I’ve got a blister like you’ve never seen.”

Fernando Alonso

Alonso looked set for another difficult day as he lined up to start from the pit lane after McLaren were forced to replace the front wing he damaged in qualifying with an older, 2017 specification example. He spent the first stint stuck behind slower cars.

Pitting early under the VSC, which most drivers did, gave Alonso the change to show what he could do. Having nursed his tyres patiently he was down in 13th when he began to push. Alonso got by both Saubers and Gasly in the final stages of the race as he recovered to eighth, bagging his first points since Spain.

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Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Vandoorne spoiled his race on lap one
Once again, Vandoorne was out-qualified by Alonso and eliminated in Q1. His weekend went from bad to worse as he damaged his front wing in a first-lap collision with Gasly. After he was forced to pit his problems were compounded when he spent 46 seconds in pit lane.

The contact was deemed a racing incident, but Vandoorne struggled to catch the back of the pack as he was blue flagged from lap six. A gearbox problem brought an end to his race six laps from home.

Brendon Hartley

Both Toro Rosso drivers had problems getting the most out of the team’s upgrade, which wasn’t helped by them damaging several wings in practice. Hartley broke his last example of the new wing in final practice which left him at a disadvantage to his team mate in qualifying, though Pierre Gasly looked the quicker of the two anyway.

Toro Rosso chose not to pit Hartley under the VSC and opted for a long stint on the super-softs. He had just let Gasly past under instruction from the team when a problem at the rear of Hartley’s car ended his day prematurely.

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And the rest

Start, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Raikkonen failed to capitalise on a good start
Raikkonen had an impressive start and almost passed the Mercedes drivers, though he threw his advantage away just as quickly. Following a botched attempt to pass Hamilton into turn three he allowed first Bottas then Verstappen to overtake him. He looked after his tyres well, however, and began closing in on Verstappen towards the end of the race. Had he not lost time locking up when scrapping with Ricciardo he might have been in a stronger position to attack.

Meanwhile, Vettel ran a clean race after a controversial three-place grid penalty for blocking Sainz in Q2. He lost out to both Haas drivers at the start but was able to quickly overtake them and catch the leaders. After Hamilton emerged in front of him after the pit stops Vettel was able to dive down the inside of turn three.

Bottas and Hamilton looked set for another one-two until strategic errors and technical problems intervened. Mercedes’ failure to bring Hamilton in during the VSC period left him needing to add eight seconds to his lead in order to make a pit stop and stay ahead of Verstappen in second. The gap remained roughly the same and Hamilton came out fourth after he stopped for fresh softs. He failed to get by Raikkonen on fresh tyres and was eventually passed by Vettel, pitted again, then retired.

Ricciardo’s struggles began in qualifying when he complained about being used by the team to provide a tow for Verstappen, which he claimed cost him two tenths of a second. He lost out to Grosjean in Q3, but passed the Haas and Vettel at the start to pressure Raikkonen. His lap 19 pass on the Ferrari looked to be the making of his race, but proved his undoing as his tyres couldn’t take the strain. He was forced to pit again, then retired with an exhaust problem.

Sergio Perez, Force India, Red Bull Ring, 2018
Perez complained about team orders
Magnussen ran a quiet race in Grosjean’s shadow. Force India swapped the running order of their drivers twice as they tried to help Perez attack the Haas; he was not happy when told to hand sixth back to Ocon.

The two Saubers rounded out the top ten as Leclerc finished in the points for the third consecutive race, and Ericsson claimed his first points since Bahrain. Sauber used the same tactics as Force India: Ericsson was let by Leclerc to have a go at Gasly. As both got by the struggling Toro Rosso, Ericsson handed the place back to Leclerc.

Gasly suffered floor damage after his lap one hit from Vandoorne. Struggling to prevent the Toro Rosso from sliding, his tyres went off in the closing stages and he dropped out of the points. “That was one of the most difficult races I’ve had,” he said.

Williams continued to struggle as they failed to challenge any other team. Stroll made it into Q2 and had a quick start before slipping back and collecting a penalty for ignoring blue flags. The resulting 10-second penalty meant he was officially classified behind Sirotkin despite Stroll gaining an advantage when he stopped under VSC.

Over to you

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Author information

Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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22 comments on “2018 Austrian Grand Prix Star Performers”

  1. Is this Josh’s first article? Welcome, and a nice summary, particularly as I missed F1 this entire weekend.

    1. Yes it is.

      On another note, incredible how bad the Williams appears to be that even though their drivers have awful races I never think of them as strugglers

  2. I’d have put Danny Ric as a struggler. He was outpaced by his team mate, had a woeful race, and made a lot of noise for the wrong reasons on Saturday before Horner and Verstappen explained the logical strategy for their team.

    1. made a lot of noise for the wrong reasons on Saturday

      From the article I read here, it seems to have been very uncharacteristic of Ric to have complained, particularly after Horner’s explanation of the alternating car philosophy used by them (and others, like Merc, IIRC). It does make one wonder if it was just an isolated incident, or just Ricciardo feel like he’s losing control of what might have been a great negotiating position for a 2019 drive.

      1. I think Ricciardo is in fact the sour loser…. being the nicest guy on the grid he often has two faces when things aren’t going his way… sometimes for good reasons though.

        Monaco 2016 was understandable, though I felt he went to far when Verstappen hit him at Hungary 2017…waiting a complete lap to give him the middlefinger is rather immature for a 28 year old…

        This year he got on a natural high thanks to some good results, though to really stand out Ricciardo lack’s pace, Verstappen nearly always is faster… at Spain Ricciardo was on the radio asking for a free pass “I think I am faster”, duh, Verstappen was stuck behind Raikkonen and pulled an enormous gap as soon the track was free.
        Now Ricciardo did it again in quali, asking for things that don’t naturaly come his way

        It’s 6-3 in the quali standings, but reality is Verstappen missed two sessions and Ricciardo only beat him once so far.
        Laps ahead marks a very big difference between the two Verstappen 338, Ricciardo 154 meaning Verstappen has been 69%of all laps in front of Ricciardo. Sure Verstappen’s made a rough start, but in terms of speed he’s in another league than his team mate.

        1. Spot on! Verstappen has made some unnessesary mistakes this year, but his overall pace is insane.. aswell as in qualy as in the race. On top of that, his tyre management is way better. You can’t hate on Danny Ric, but he sure is a sour loser sometimes..

        2. Yes, but overall atm he’s not necessarily a better driver than ricciardo, too many mistakes, if you win 2 races and retire the 3rd due to a crash and the other driver comes 2nd in every race including the 3rd he gets 4 points more than you, so he has more potential than ricciardo but needs to deliver on that potential more frequently.

        3. RIC has finished six races this year, and won two of them. VER has finished seven and won one.

          1. Omg Max wins a race and he is a God again, Ric has won 2 races he and is a sook and 2 faced…seriously what load of rubbish you blokes type!!

          2. @nosehair Just as when DR won Monaco he was WDC material and going to choose which team he would like to drive for post-2018.

          3. @Stuart And Max has been on the podium four of the last five races, including a win, to DR’s one win and no other podiums in the last five races. When Max keeps it clean, DR is toast, but I’m sure not every day. They’re very close really. But it is turning out like last year, where the more times Max out qualifies DR, the more laps he’s going to lead him, and the higher up he is going to finish on average, such is the difficulty to pass with these cars. DR really needs to stop being out qualified by Max if he doesn’t want to be outraced by him too.

      2. @phylyp

        Ricciardo feels like he’s losing control of what might have been a great negotiating position for a 2019 drive.

        Very good point. After Monaco he was the star of the season, but since then he lost out to Verstappen by all measures.

        1. To add to my comment: I don’t think Verstappen is a better driver than Ricciardo at the moment, but he sure is the faster driver. Therefore I think Verstappen’s market value is higher.

  3. Again MAG doesnt get credit for a good race – missing the vsc for the pitstop he still managed to get a p.5!
    He did some nice overtakes and took the hard strategi as Haas didnt knew how to dobble shuffle their cars.. MAG was much faster in the race and was within 3 sec of GRO despite missing the vsc pitstop

    1. My thoughts exactly. Quiet race does not fit at all. I am guessing he made the most overtakes in any midfield car!

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        5th July 2018, 21:08

        Well, hardly anything was made of Grosjeans first weekend. He looked closer to Magnussen than than Magnussen did to Grosjean this weekend.

        Magnussen was 0.152 ahead in qualifying. In the race, Magnussen did get a better start, but once Grosjean was in clean air, he was catching Magnusson pretty quickly despite Mangussen himself being in clean air too. So for all we know, Grosjean could have pulled away from him if he was allowed through. I don’t remember much credit being given to Grosjean this weekend.

        This latest weekend, Grosjean beats a Red bull and was only 0.052s off beating the next one up too. Magnussen was 2 placed behind him although the time wasn’t that much slower. 0.159s. In the race, Magnussen was slower to start with. Steadily dropped behind Grosjean with the gap eventually getting to around 3.5 seconds until Grosjean pitted. After this, Magnussen was only quicker quicker once he pitted. But he just couldn’t get past Ocon for ages despite being on much newer tyres and being in a better car. Once he did, he then looked a fair bit faster than Grosjean, basically down to similar circumstances that Ericsson was faster than Leclerc due to pitting later. It wasn’t a bad race at all. But I thought Grosjean did have a better weekend by quite bit IMO.

    2. +1

      Awful oversight in the article not to acknowledge this.

  4. Small correction:

    Sauber used the same tactics as Force India: Ericsson was let by Leclerc to have a go at Gasly. As both got by the struggling Toro Rosso, Ericsson handed the place back to Leclerc.

    The Saubers were still running in the order LEC-ERI when they got by Gasly. The team orders in Ericsson’s favour were effected two laps later, and it was Alonso he was sent after.

  5. Stars: Verstappen, Haas, Alonso, Sauber, and Force India to a certain extent.
    Strugglers: Mercedes, Vettel, Ricciardo, and Renault.

    1. @jerejj how is Vettel a struggler? Qualified 3rd, demoted to 6th after his team failed to warn him about Sainz in Q2. Squeezed out at the start, he then passed both Haas and Hamilton to finish 3 seconds behind the leader. He wasn’t a star of the race, but I’d never consider him a struggler.

      1. @warheart My choice is mainly down to that Q2 incident with Sainz. Yes, he wasn’t warned about him by the team, but still, it was avoidable from his side as well had he elected not to stay on the racing line. The fact he wasn’t told about an approaching driver on a flying lap is indeed an even bigger reason to stay off the racing line just in case there is someone behind.

        1. @jerejj I agree that he could’ve stayed out of the racing line, but I guess he didn’t feel the need since, supposedly, nobody was behind him. Also, staying out of the racing line means going into the dirty part of the track, which I’m not sure if it’s something they want to do with the tyres they’re gonna start the race with unless it’s strictly necessary (as in someone’s coming on a flying lap).

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