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Ten things we learned at the 2024 F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Ten things we learned at the 2024 F1 Austrian Grand Prix

The biggest talking point from Formula 1’s 2024 Austrian Grand Prix was, of course, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris colliding in the main race’s final laps, which decided the contest in George Russell’s favour.

The result made the Mercedes driver a two-time GP winner and was a fine reward for his efforts, in a challenging W15 car, to put himself in position to capitalise on the collision ahead. Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri and the Ferrari drivers failed in that regard.

The mix behind Red Bull and McLaren got another detail dose with what we witnessed in Austria, but the biggest new element concerned the racecraft limits of the two drivers leading the standings. Elsewhere, Red Bull’s management war sparked into life, there was plenty of 2025 driver market news and finally a lot of mostly good chat about track limits.

Here’s the pick of what we learned at the Red Bull Ring.

1. Verstappen hasn’t changed since 2021

Verstappen's driving tactics came under the spotlight again, with many drawing comparisons to his 2021 battles against Hamilton

Verstappen’s driving tactics came under the spotlight again, with many drawing comparisons to his 2021 battles against Hamilton

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“He’s driving with great maturity.”

So said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner of Max Verstappen’s efforts against Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in early 2022 at that year’s French round – evoking how they hadn’t collided when the Dutchman had all those times against Lewis Hamilton in 2021.

This was the lazy theory. That Verstappen’s 2021 title success had led to a change in mindset when battling others at key moments. But Verstappen’s needless crash with Hamilton at Interlagos 2022 surely fatally holed that idea, even before the Baku sprint clash with Russell and “Dickhead”-gate further undermined it.

And yet, because there had been so few controversial racing moments since late-2022 amid Red Bull’s crushing dominance – a factor in exactly why Verstappen didn’t race Leclerc so hard anyway – the theory could lay dormant. Not so after Austria.

Especially after McLaren team boss Andrea Stella said: “The problem behind it is that if you don’t address these things honestly, they will come back. They have come back today because they were not addressed properly in the past when there was some fights with Lewis that needed to be punished in a harsher way.”

2. Norris is willing to give exactly what he gets from Verstappen

Norris didn't back down from the tough fight against Verstappen

Norris didn’t back down from the tough fight against Verstappen

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Norris had already shown he was prepared to make a point against Verstappen with his start chop from pole in Spain. Many in the paddock in Austria had sensed the Briton would possibly put down another marker to try and atone for his sprint error in allowing Verstappen to repass the day before they clashed.

Norris wasn’t blameless in the saga. The stewards called Verstappen only “predominantly” to blame for the crash, after all. Because when attacking on the outside as Norris was, a driver must live or die by the sword in such circumstances. Plus, his track limits violations pushing hard when he sensed a sniff of victory post-pitstop two were desperate at best and cynical at worst.

But Norris adapted his attacks to what he was getting from Verstappen. Going from attacking from too far back, locking up and going off on the inside line, to nailing his second dive and then switching to trying on the outside.

And here is key to how things ultimately ended. Norris chose not to move onto the outside kerbs as Verstappen had done against the Ferrari drivers in similar circumstances at the same spot in 2023. Contact ensued. But Norris as already reached the point Hamilton did in 2021: that the only way to ever best Verstappen in such brutal battles is to give as good as you get.

3. Red Bull really is fallible in 2024 if rivals get everything right

It wasn't only Verstappen's clash with Norris that undid the Red Bull driver's race...

It wasn’t only Verstappen’s clash with Norris that undid the Red Bull driver’s race…

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“We basically did a lot of things wrong today,” Verstappen said post-race of his Red Bull team. “I think for me personally it started with a strategy, then the pitstops were a disaster.

“The first one was already bad (at 2.7s it wasn’t that bad –Ed), the second one was even more of a disaster. And then of course you give free lap time. It’s seconds that you give away, six seconds over those two pitstops. And then it’s a race again.”

Quite the call from Verstappen to throw his squad under the bus, given he’d thrown away a victory that was still possible even if Norris had ever got ahead for more than a few seconds. That’s given how good the Red Bull is with DRS and both would soon have knackered their tyres.

But the crack Red Bull squad did buckle on Sunday. Just as at Monza 2021, its botched pitstop preceded driving disaster. And critically, as Helmut Marko pointed out, Verstappen might not have needed to race as he did had he possessed all the information about Norris’s track limits investigation. That’s assuming he would choose not to lay down another of his major markers against rivals…

4. Russell’s 2024 brilliance paid him back handsomely

Russell picked up the pieces when the two and the front collided

Russell picked up the pieces when the two and the front collided

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Russell scored a second GP career win in the aftermath of all the controversy. He had to swear at his “forever ashamed” boss, Toto Wolff on the way, but soon they were celebrating joyfully.

The Briton was brilliant last weekend – extracting as much as Mercedes can against Red Bull and McLaren right now. He led two cars from that leading quartet and beat the Ferrari drivers in both qualifying sessions. He put himself in a position to capitalise.

Key to this – and his 2024 form overall – has been how Russell has been pushing himself harder to score even better results with the still-tricky Mercedes package this term. Plus, how he’s been working to shrug off mistakes such as those at Montreal. Where once that all might’ve had Russell reeling, now he was able to bounce back and battle beautifully in Spain, then eclipse Hamilton amid many errors from the seven-time world champion in Austria.

5. Ferrari might now have F1 2024’s fourth fastest car

Ferrari's upgrades have seen the team go backwards in the pecking order

Ferrari’s upgrades have seen the team go backwards in the pecking order

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Ferrari was hampered in Austria by how “we’re not great in high-speed corners and at the same time we are bouncing which makes our high-speed exaggeratedly slow” – per Carlos Sainz. That’s now two weekends in succession where the issue as afflicted the SF-24, which the team feels is down to the upgrades introduced in Spain.

What’s concerning for the drivers is how that robs them of confidence in car handling when they need it most. It’s seemingly similar to how the Mercedes pair were feeling earlier in the season.

But Ferrari team boss Fred Vasseur insisted afterwards that “if we finish the lap in quali, I think I will have the comments that ‘you are back, you are fighting with Red Bull, you are less than one tenth of the pole position, blah blah blah'”. That’s on how Leclerc not going off in GP qualifying might’ve transformed Ferrari’s weekend amid its post-sprint set-up gains.

Leclerc certainly appeared to be on course to bother Verstappen and Norris given his showing on used softs in Q2 and a higher grid spot would’ve likely saved his GP. But he blew his chance to get that and in doing so, with Sainz beaten by Russell in both qualifying sessions but ahead of Hamilton in each, allowed questions over whether Ferrari is now F1’s fourth-fastest car to creep in.

This also wasn’t helped by Leclerc’s anti-stall engine issue wrecking his SQ3 chances. That Monaco wins seems a long time ago now…

6. Ricciardo’s RB future set to be decided in the summer break

Is Ricciardo's time in F1 coming to an end?

Is Ricciardo’s time in F1 coming to an end?

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Daniel Ricciardo was one of the stars of the weekend – after his awkward SQ1 exit. Yuki Tsunoda disgraced himself afterwards with his Q1 team radio ableist slur and he made all sorts of other errors on a weekend where RB really didn’t need them.

But Ricciardo rose to the fore with battling sprint and GP drives either side of his Q3 near-miss.

Marko’s pre-weekend comments about Ricciardo’s future with Liam Lawson waiting in the wings seemed to foreshadow an inevitable announcement of the Australian’s ‘Prodigal Son’ story concluding. But now, the question is whether Marko was simply trying to fire up Ricciardo to achieve better results.

In any case, his future will be determined in in “the summer break” with a “quiet discussion” between both Red Bull teams – per RB CEO Peter Bayer.

7. Red Bull’s management war can get hot again

Just when the Red Bull management saga appeared to be over...

Just when the Red Bull management saga appeared to be over…

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Another familiar theme of the 2024 season reignited at the Red Bull Ring, with Jos Verstappen and Christian Horner purportedly having a bust-up over the former’s involvement in a Legends Parade demo at the track.

The public spat calmed as the weekend progressed, with Horner careful but also non-surprisingly backing Max Verstappen forcefully in the Sunday night controversy. But it was a reminder of how the peace at the top of Red Bull is a fragile one.

F1 still doesn’t know the outcome of the appeal into the findings of Red Bull’s first investigation into Horner’s behaviour towards a female employee, plus the FIA’s probe into the matter too. This could all massively destabilise Red Bull and Verstappen’s place within it yet again in 2024, despite his eventual pre-event press conference uttering that “yes”, he is expecting to race with the team in 2025.

Perhaps that’s why Wolff only said “I don’t think there is correlation” when asked if the Verstappen/Norris clash really stemmed from those 2021 flashpoints?

8. Williams has completed a major hiring spree

Williams has splashed the cash to bolster its technical ranks

Williams has splashed the cash to bolster its technical ranks

Photo by: Williams

On Thursday, Williams announced it had signed a swathe of senior Formula 1 technical staff from rival teams, plus ex-Alpine technical director Matt Harman.

This includes five top hires in a group of 26 new engineers Williams has signed in a major recruitment spree the team has recently enacted, with a particular focus on bolstering its aerodynamics and design offices.

Team boss James Vowles said the recruitment drive showed how “we are on a mission to fight our way back to the front and being able to attract experienced, championship-winning talent from other teams demonstrates huge belief in the journey we are on”.

He added: “Williams is investing in what it takes to win, and this is just the start as we prepare to welcome more new faces from across the grid in the months ahead.”

9. Sainz’s 2025 options might be narrowing, with Aston and Alpine acting elsewhere

Sainz is on his way out of Ferrari, but his options are closing elsewhere

Sainz is on his way out of Ferrari, but his options are closing elsewhere

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Many in the paddock interpreted Williams’s announcement as a move to show suitor Sainz how serious it is about improving its F1 performance.

But then later in the Austria weekend, it emerged that Sainz’s options to sign with Williams and Audi might be unexpectedly narrowing after he took extra time to make a decision on his 2025 options after Alpine suddenly re-entered that choice with Flavio Briatore’s efforts in Spain. Sainz’s apparent asking of Williams for more time to make a decision has possibly jeopardised his chances of going there after all, with Sauber/Audi seemingly more inclined to wait.

It seems that the Sainz contract saga is now finally entering its endgame and could come with yet another twist. Meanwhile, Alpine moved to lock down Pierre Gasly’s services and Aston Martin confirmed Lance Stroll in a seat that’s his surely for as long as he and his father desire.

10. F1’s tracks limits farce 99% solved in Austria

The Red Bull Ring almost completely solved its track limits issue with new gravel traps

The Red Bull Ring almost completely solved its track limits issue with new gravel traps

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The FIA and Red Bull Ring’s efforts to solve this place’s track limits problem took a welcome step forward in 2024, with new, small gravel traps added behind smaller kerbs at Turns 9 and 10.

This had seemingly solved the issue once and for all, as the installations can be made to work for motorbike events too. That was until Oscar Piastri lost his best Q3 lap – a third-place GP starting spot and potential to inherit the win had things played out exactly as they did at the front on Sunday – with a track limits slip at Turn 6.

The Australian didn’t hold back afterwards, calling the situation “embarrassing” as he’d ended up right on the white line while missing the gravel Hamilton, Leclerc and so many others whacked over the weekend. McLaren’s protest over the FIA’s decision was always likely to be thrown out and Piastri put himself in peril, but it raised the question of why that kerb had not been painted black and made smaller to the same 1.5m size as those at Turns 9 and 10.

So close, for this tedious, very modern F1 issue. But perhaps with just a few more adjustments for 2025, one of the championship’s best tracks will fully lose what had become a farcical element of its tremendous challenge.

The Red Bull Ring provided another enthralling F1 weekend - now on to Silverstone

The Red Bull Ring provided another enthralling F1 weekend – now on to Silverstone

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images