This weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix is a home race for world champion Max Verstappen, while offering a chance for Yuki Tsunoda to cool his brain and Carlos Sainz to start as a winner.
AFP examines three topics doing the rounds in the paddock at the RedBullRing.
Home benefits for Max
As befits a Formula One world champion with a few euros in the bank Max Verstappen can count on a number of places he considers ‘home’ in Formula One.
A particular favourite of the Dutch driver’s boasts an immaculately tarmacked 4.318km drive tracing a loop in the Styrian mountains.
For the past few years he has kept the tens of thousands of his fellow countrymen who descend on this verdant fir-lined patch of perfection for a weekend-long party in high spirits.
With four wins out of the last six races on the circuit he is the true master of the Red Bull Ring, the venue for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
And it falls at a good time the week after a substantial chunk of Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri hitched a lift on his car at Silverstone to put paid to his British Grand Prix chances.
He added half a dozen points for finishing seventh, but has strong ambitions for all 34 points on offer this weekend with the second of the season’s sprints on Saturday. He left Monza’s sprint with the maximum haul after winning the 100k dash, race and fastest lap.
“It’s always a really enjoyable weekend for me to have so much support coming from Holland,” he told Thursday’s press conference.
“But also it’s a home grand prix for us and we’ve had really good results in the past. So, somehow, it’s always been good to us.”
Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, whose deft command of some of the earthier words in the English language can turn the team radio exchanges midnight blue, is having a rocky time at the moment.
He followed his crash coming out of the pitlane in Montreal by colliding with teammate Pierre Gasly at Silverstone when both were in contention for points.
“We had our contact, fully my fault. I straight away apologised to the team,” he said on the eve of opening practise in Austria.
“And, also on top of it, my debris went into Max’s car as well. So, I mean, it was a really bad day for me.”
He confirmed he was working with a sports psychotherapist to curb what Red Bull special advisor Helmut Marko described as his fiery temper.
“I think definitely one of the limitations is that I start to get quite overheated…overheated, especially my brain, in the car,” he said.
And is the therapy working? “If it’s working well I think maybe I didn’t have the crash but I have to take a bit more time because he has to understand more about myself, and also we have to understand what direction we have to take.”
Party? What party?
After 150 races Carlos Sainz can finally approach a Grand Prix weekend unencumbered by thoughts of claiming his maiden F1 win.
Last Sunday’s Silverstone success was a landmark for the Spanish half of the Ferrari garage. Instead of painting the town his team’s colour, Sainz was at pains to reveal he had kept celebrations low key to be at his best for this weekend.
“I didn’t party because we’re in the middle of a back-to-back. I was lucky that it coincided that six of my best friends came to Italy right after Silverstone, so I did get to have a few beers with them and open a bottle of champagne with them back at home.”
One man certainly not in party mode was team-mate Charles Leclerc whose early season title charge has been hit by what he considers suspect tactics from the pits.
But Sainz paid tribute to Leclerc for keeping his cool at the postmortem immediately after the race.
“Like always he behaved like the gentleman like he is and the briefing went normally like the way it should go.”