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Formula 1

Winners and losers from F1’s 2023 Austrian Grand Prix

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
7 min read

A seventh win of the season in the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix has elevated Max Verstappen to an 81-point lead – and past Ayrton Senna in the all-time Formula 1 win rankings.

But while Verstappen’s win never looked in any meaningful doubt, even when the virtual safety car pitstops threw a wrench in, there were a lot of interesting storylines unfolding behind him.

Here are our picks of winners and losers from the race:

Winners

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez Red Bull F1 Austrian GP

Of the fightbacks from self-induced lowly grid positions Sergio Perez has had to produce in 2023 – and there have been a few – this was easily the most convincing.

The Red Bull Ring layout no doubt helped, as Perez was able to exploit the RB19’s ultra-effective DRS when overtaking, but he was decisive with those moves, especially early on; clearing George Russell with a forceful pass was perhaps the best evidence of this, as getting stuck behind the Mercedes could have been race-defining.

Red Bull did a good job too of coaching him on track limits as he chased down Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. And while he could perhaps have placed his car better earlier on into Turn 3 while fighting the Ferrari, Sainz’s role in offering a good deal of resistance shouldn’t be underestimated – but there were no signs of frustration in his driving from Perez, who bided his time and got the job done.

A very good recovery after the frustration of Friday qualifying that Red Bull openly lamented, and a third place that, given the pace of the Ferraris, probably wasn’t expected pre-race. – Jack Cozens

Ferrari

Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz Ferrari F1 Austrian GP

Sometimes it’s all in the optics – if you told Ferrari heading into the season that a 2-6 at the Red Bull Ring (2-4 on the road) was going to look like a great day, all of Maranello would rightly hit the bottle.

But a first Sunday podium since Baku in April – and, remarkably, just the second of the season – on a day on which the car looked like the no-doubt second-best package on the grid, coming after a Canadian GP where it also looked like the no-doubt second-best package on the grid (at least on Sunday), has to count for something.

Charles Leclerc rediscovering some of his mojo has to be a plus, too – he’s not been consistent in the SF-23, with Carlos Sainz having honestly looked more dependable, but that Q3 on Friday and the final stint in the main race, in which Perez made no meaningful progress towards him, were extremely encouraging.

Whether it’s all evidence of the right direction, and whether that right direction will be right enough to address what is still an absolute hideous chasm to Red Bull, remains to be seen.

We toyed with dropping Sainz down to the Losers section once the post-race penalties came through and he was demoted to sixth. But while that outcome is going to leave him even more disgruntled than he was in the immediate aftermath, in pure performance terms he remains a winner in our eyes this weekend given that brilliantly dogged effort to hold Perez off that made Leclerc’s life much easier. – Valentin Khorounzhiy and Matt Beer

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen Red Bull F1 Austrian GP

Now that he’s cleared Senna with win #42, Verstappen has Alain Prost in his sights next on 51. It is massive testament to Verstappen and Red Bull – and also frankly awful for F1 – that him reaching that number before the season is out feels more than plausible.

There were things today to be tripped up by – the track limits penalties, the VSC that Red Bull elected not to stop under, the subsequent need to clear the two Ferraris on track. Verstappen’s in-race and post-race demeanour made it clear none of those were concerns; when you know the car is quick enough and so are you, in any conditions, the pressure isn’t really on.

There will be weekends this year in which he’ll have it harder. But there will also be those in which he’ll have it easier. Much easier. Ain’t that something. – VK

McLaren (and Lando Norris)

Lando Norris McLaren F1 Austrian GP

We’ve only seen part one of McLaren’s three-part upgrade so far, but on this evidence the whole thing is going to be transformative.

Two top-four qualifying results and what eventually became a fourth place in the race – passing a Mercedes along the way – and then not far off the podium fight at all, was hugely encouraging. Helped by Sainz’s penalties and Perez’s poor qualifying admittedly, but Lando Norris’s result was far from inherited.

The caveats: both McLaren and Norris have a habit of starring at the Red Bull Ring. More evidence is needed to prove McLaren is properly back in business. But more upgrades are coming too. – MB

Losers

Mercedes

Sergio Perez Red Bull Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1 Austrian GP

Fifth on the grid looked encouraging for Lewis Hamilton, but oh what a race he and Mercedes endured.

Its toils were best summed up by Toto Wolff’s interventions over the radio, with his second a rather terse “Lewis, the car is bad, we know, please drive it”.

That was in response to Hamilton asking about the perceived breaching of track limits by rivals – rivals who he simply didn’t have the pace to stay in touch with.

A subdued seventh for Hamilton became eighth after the post-race penalties were applied, just to add to Hamilton’s misery, though the fact it didn’t change Mercedes’ points haul – his demotion merely elevated Russell – illustrated that Mercedes still hasn’t got the definitive edge in the battle to be second behind Red Bull. – JC

Aston Martin

Lance Stroll Aston Martin Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri F1 Austrian GP

OK, Aston Martin ended up doing pretty well out of that race once the penalties were applied. But in performance terms that’s now two of the last three races where Aston Martin’s early-season spark has been conspicuously absent.

It was only fourth fastest this weekend (which was at least better than main second-in-championship rival Mercedes) and being leapfrogged by the upgraded Ferrari and McLaren will be unnerving.

While this wasn’t Aston Martin’s strongest weekend, in intra-team terms it was looking like being Lance Stroll’s best of the year so far as he outqualified Fernando Alonso on Friday then overcame him in the sprint on Saturday after starting behind.

But Stroll’s rather tentative bid to pass Norris at the first corner of the grand prix allowed Alonso – who rarely gets first-lap positioning wrong – to flip the intra-team battle and things didn’t get any better for Stroll from there.

Being in the pits just as the virtual safety car ended was costly too. He did at least salvage a point on the road with his late move on Alex Albon and was later moved up to ninth.

But the performance itself was a flat end to a weekend that had looked like a personal upswing for Stroll even as his team stumbled a little. – MB

Haas

Nico Hulkenberg Haas F1 Austrian GP

A Haas slide was to be expected, but it wouldn’t have enjoyed seeing both cars right at the foot of the end-of-race leaderboard.

Nico Hulkenberg’s descent had started by the time his pitstop came, then his race came to an abrupt halt a lap after the start of his second stint.

Kevin Magnussen meanwhile was mired in it from the off, and while he had a brief stint at the head of an entertaining four-car scrap to avoid being last he was inevitably eaten up by those around him in much the same way that the VF-23 had chewed through its tyres – with the final indignity a five-second track limits penalty that Haas had on social media gloated mid-race about steering clear of.

A stark reminder of its worrying trait after the highs of a spell at the front and a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s sprint. – JC

Oscar Piastri

Oscar Piastri McLaren F1 Austrian GP

When a big upgrade arrives but there are only enough parts for one car, the driver in the old spec is always at risk of having a painful weekend. And that was certainly the case for Oscar Piastri – nine places behind Norris in qualifying, 12 behind him in the race, and not all because of the brush with Magnussen that left him with a broken wing.

It wasn’t a weekend where you could make a fair comparison between the McLaren drivers’ performances, and overall this year Piastri has fared far better relative to Norris than his far more experienced predecessor Daniel Ricciardo did.

But as ‘stuck in the old car’ weekends go, this was definitely less than Piastri would have hoped he might salvage. – MB

AlphaTauri

Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri F1 Austrian GP

The upgraded McLaren has checked out. Haas has picked up a vital three points in the sprint. Williams has the straightline speed that routinely gives it opportunities other teams don’t have. Alfa Romeo has a plainly better all-rounder.

How is AlphaTauri supposed to score points? Nickel-and-diming 10th places will not save it from a bottom-of-the-rung finish this year, but for anything else you need luck – and there’s just no guarantee AlphaTauri will start catching the breaks it needs.

It’s not looking good. – VK

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