George Russell seizes a stunning victory at the F1 Austrian Grand Prix

We should just take a moment to catch our breath.

At the start of the Spanish Grand Prix last week a fight at the front of the field between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris off the start opened the door for George Russell to sweep into the lead. However, as you know by now Verstappen eventually wound his way by Russell, holding off Norris down the stretch to capture the Spanish Grand Prix.

Something similar played out at Red Bull Ring on Sunday, but with a much different result.

For around 50 laps of the Austrian Grand Prix it seemed as if Max Verstappen was going to run away from the field, as the Red Bull driver had built a commanding lead over Lando Norris and the rest of the field. The feeling that the other ten teams, the other 19 drivers, and perhaps the overwhelming majority of fans watching around the world was one of dread, at the sight – and potential – that Verstappen was going to run away not just on this day, but over the rest of the days this season.

However, moments later the door opened, just a crack, and the fight was on.

A slow pit stop from Verstappen and Red Bull on Lap 51 – coupled with a much quicker stop from Norris and McLaren – opened that door. Red Bull struggled with the left rear tire on Verstappen’s RB20, leading to a pit stop of 6.5 seconds for Red Bull. McLaren bested that with a 2.9-second stop for Norris, and the two lumbered off pit lane with Norris nipping at Verstappen’s heels.

For over ten laps the two friends-turned-rivals battled it out pushing their machines, each other, and themselves to the absolute limits. At one point Norris got by Verstappen, but the overtake came off the track and the McLaren driver immediately gave the position back. Both drivers were all over the track – and their radio – griping to their teams and airing their frustrations as they pushed their machines to the limit.

Then, on 63, the simmering pot that was this fight between friends boiled over.

On Lap 63 the fight was renewed, and it ended poorly for both drivers. The two drivers came alongside each other and contact was made, with a disastrous result for both. Norris and Verstappen both limped back to the pits with punctures, bringing out the safety car and seeing another driver sweep into the lead.

George Russell.

As the laps ticked down Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff looked on with a shy smile, seeing the silver and black W15 of Russell’s wind around the track. Oscar Piastri was more than two seconds behind, and Russell just needed to bring his W15 home to deliver his second-career victory.

He did just that.

“It’s not over, until it’s over,” declared Russell on the radio to his team after taking the checkered flag. “We wouldn’t have thought this in Bahrain. Well done.”

Starting at the Miami Grand Prix, Mercedes began a series of upgrades to the W15, their challenger for the 2024 season. Those upgrades have seen the team improve their performance in recent weeks, marked by their first grand prix podiums of the year. The first came from Russell in Montreal, and the second from Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona. But those were P3 finishes.

This is a win, the first for the team since Russell won in Brazil back in 2022.

“It was a tough fight out there at the beginning of the race,” said Russell to David Coulthard trackside. “The team has worked so hard, we’ve made so many strides since the start of the season. The last three races have been incredible, and there’s more to come … what an exciting time for us.”

Much will be said and written in the coming days about the fight between Norris and Verstappen, and whether these friends will see their relationship start to change given the fight at the sharp end of the grid. But on this day a winner emerged, and it was Russell, who fought to the very end and delivered a victory that Mercedes badly needed. A win that not only helps their standing in the Constructors’ Championship but also rewards the hours upon hours of work that the team has put in to solve the issues with the W15. At the Miami Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton described the car at that point in the season to the media, including SB Nation, as being on a “knife’s edge.”

That edge is something very different right now.

And it might be enough to get Mercedes to the sharp end of the grid too.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top