RACE DEBRIEF

    If Max Verstappen’s Styrian Grand Prix victory was dominant, his Austrian Grand Prix one was devastating. Enough to see him crowned Aramco F1 Power Rankings king for a second successive race? Or was Lando Norris’ third podium of the season the clincher for our judges? Read on to see how they scored the pack…

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    Max Verstappen became only the 25th driver in F1 history to score a ‘grand chelem’ at the Austrian Grand Prix, taking pole, fastest lap, victory and leading every lap to cap off a simply lovely two weekends at the Red Bull Ring for the Dutchman. Scored 9.8 after the Styrian Grand Prix, none of our judges could find fault in his performance this weekend, as he earned the second perfect score of the year – after Lewis Hamilton’s Bahrain Grand Prix showing.

    READ MORE: ‘The car was on rails’ says Verstappen as he extends title lead with third win in a row

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    While Lando Norris was frustrated after the Styrian Grand Prix to not have mixed it with the Red Bulls and Mercedes, the Briton was right in the thick of it with the frontrunners at the Austrian GP, following his stunning qualifying performance to take P2 on the grid. Norris was looking well placed to hold onto P2 ahead of Valtteri Bottas too, before receiving his penalty for forcing Sergio Perez off track. But still, a mighty weekend from Norris.

    RACE HIGHLIGHTS: Watch all the action from Austria as Verstappen takes third victory in a row

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    Even Fernando Alonso could take little pleasure in passing George Russell a few laps from the race end to claim the final points-paying position. Russell enjoyed a stellar Austrian Grand Prix weekend, making his first ever Q3 appearance as a Williams driver and then tenaciously running in the points right up until he was forced to relinquish P10 to Alonso’s faster Alpine. Poor lad – but let that take nothing away from a fine performance.

    READ MORE: ‘I drove my heart out’ says Russell after late Alonso pass costs him first points finish for Williams

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    Alonso’s Austrian Grand Prix could have gone very differently, with the Spaniard convinced that being blocked by Sebastian Vettel in Q2 had cost him a chance of starting in the top five – a fact backed up by his P3 in Q1. But typical of the more level-headed Alonso we’re seeing in F1 this year, the Alpine driver simply got his head down and ground out a solitary point from P14 on the grid (at the expense, as mentioned, of the luckless Russell), to extend his top 10 finishing streak to four races.

    READ MORE: Alonso says fight for P10 was like a title battle – but admits he was ‘a bit sad’ to snatch P10 from Russell

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    A failure to make Q3 before a strong run through the order to claim solid points – it was a similar outcome for Carlos Sainz at the Austrian GP as it was at the Styrian, with Sainz calling his own performance in the second Red Bull Ring race ‘very strong’. Our judges agreed, handing the Spaniard an 8.2 – a score which doubtless would have been higher had Ferrari managed to get Sainz’s one lap pace on a par with his impressive race pace.

    READ MORE: ‘I’m showing the Carlos I want to be at Ferrari’ – Sainz pleased with P10 to P5 drive after bold tyre choice

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    Another impressive qualifying from Gasly – his seventh top-six start in nine races this year – was followed up by a slightly tougher race for the Frenchman, who was forced to start on the soft tyres and thus stop early. In the event, Gasly was moderately satisfied with his ninth place – although having only once finished higher than he’s qualified in 2021, the AlphaTauri driver will probably be keen to find some more race pace in the coming Grands Prix.

    READ MORE: 6 Winners and 5 Losers from the Austrian GP – Who ended the triple header on a high?

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    The Austrian GP was a second consecutive weekend of ‘what might have been’ for Charles Leclerc, who was left furious by his brace of trips into the gravel at the hands of Sergio Perez. In the circumstances, Leclerc’s hard-driving recovery to P8 was a decent result, with the Monegasque obligingly letting team mate Sainz through six laps from the end given the Spaniard’s bolder, and seemingly better, strategy.

    READ MORE: Binotto praises Ferrari team spirit after Sainz and Leclerc position swap in Austrian GP

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    Now we come to our brace of Mercedes drivers, with Valtteri Bottas narrowly outscoring Lewis Hamilton after claiming P2, for his second podium in a row. Fortune – in the form of Norris’ penalty – ultimately played a part, but it was good to see the smile back on Bottas’ face after a rough recent run, with the Finn hoping the Red Bull Ring double marked the start of a 2021 renaissance for him.

    READ MORE: Bottas hopeful he's turned a corner over Austrian doubleheader after recovery from P5 to P2

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    You could make a case that Hamilton deserved a better score than his team mate, given that he out-qualified Bottas on Saturday, while it was only damage to the aerodynamic appendages on his rear ‘cake tin’ that saw Hamilton slide down the order to finish fourth at the flag. In the event, the judges scored Hamilton lower than Bottas by just 0.2 points, with the seven-time champion now having failed to win a race since the Spanish Grand Prix.

    READ MORE: Bodywork damage cost Hamilton over half a second per lap, say Mercedes

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    After the agonies of the Styrian Grand Prix, the Austrian race couldn’t exactly be called a decisive turnaround from Daniel Ricciardo. But it was both decent and restorative, Ricciardo strong on both the Lap 1 start and Lap 4 Safety Car restart and in the mix throughout the Grand Prix before taking P7. Starting P13 for the second weekend in a row was less impressive though – particularly with team mate Norris on the front row – so still work to be done.

    READ MORE: ‘I needed that’ – Ricciardo happy to overcome qualifying struggles with ‘fun’ run to P7 in Austrian GP

    MISSING OUT

    Mick Schumacher was the driver who finished just outside our top 10 this week – an admittedly lower scoring week compared to his Styrian race – with the Haas driver finishing just ahead in the standings of his avuncular Aston Martin compatriot Sebastian Vettel, who ended his race in the gravel trap after bizarre contact with Kimi Raikkonen.

    2021 Austrian Grand Prix: Räikkönen and Vettel collide on final lap

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    Verstappen’s sterling year continues apace, with his 8.3 from the Portuguese Grand Prix marking the Dutchman’s worst score of the season so far, while his first ‘perfect’ score of 2021 in Austria sees him move to an average of 9.2. Impressive.

    Also impressive is Norris’ 8.8, while the climbers this week are Leclerc and Alonso, Leclerc joining Hamilton in P3 on 8.0, while having re-entered the leaderboard last week, Alonso has now moved up to P8.

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