Verstappen flying as Red Bull return home for Austria double

By Sports Desk June 23, 2021

Max Verstappen is taking the Formula One title race to Mercedes and he holds all of the momentum as Red Bull return home for two consecutive races in Austria.

The Red Bull Ring will host rounds eight and nine of the 2021 season, starting with the Styrian Grand Prix this week.

Triumphs for Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez were impressive at the street circuits of Monaco and Baku.

But the Dutchman's win at the more traditional French Grand Prix – a race Mercedes had dominated in the previous two years – was a huge statement.

Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 12 points in the drivers' standings, while Red Bull are 37 in front when it comes to the constructors' championship.

The leader is chasing his third career victory in Spielberg, which would make this his most successful track in terms of wins.

 

Verstappen is also looking for a fifth podium at the circuit, while a finish of seventh or better will make this venue his most productive for points. 

A fourth win of 2021 would also make this his most successful F1 season even though we are not yet at the halfway stage, highlighting his team's huge progress.

Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton won the two grands prix here last year, though there were sweet home successes for Red Bull in each of the two years prior.

Another triumph would pile further pressure on Mercedes, whose lead driver Hamilton has gone three without victory. Only in 2016 – the last time he was not crowned champion – has he had a worse run since 2014.
 

LAST TIME OUT

Red Bull rescued a dramatic victory for Verstappen with a bold strategy call at the French Grand Prix.

That came after an error from the Dutchman – who started on pole – saw Hamilton move into the ascendancy on lap one. 

Trailing the Briton after that poor start, Red Bull's strategy turned the race on its head with a powerful undercut. Once back in the lead, they then made the call to pit a second time and surrender track position. 

With Hamilton out in front on older tyres, Verstappen got to work cutting the gap and made the winning pass on the penultimate lap to cap a thrilling race.

Perez beat Bottas to the last spot on the podium, with Lando Norris the best of the rest in fifth for McLaren as neither Ferrari made the top 10.
 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SPIELBERG

While Red Bull are flying high and can draw upon past positive memories at home, the last time they had a race where both drivers retired in F1 was on this circuit last year at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Mercedes' two 2020 successes give them hope of a title fightback and, despite their torrid recent run, the championship damage has been limited to an extent with 12 points still a manageable gap for Hamilton.

Failure to win, though, would give the German team their worst run in the Hybrid Era of four races without victory.

The improved form of Perez and Bottas over recent races has brought an added dimension to a season where Hamilton and Verstappen had taken centre stage.

But Bottas is yet to finish in the top two this season and the under-pressure Finn will be particularly closely watched in Austria.

He expressed frustration over strategy on team radio in France – which team boss Toto Wolff insisted he was fine with – amid continued speculation over whether George Russell will take his seat next season.

Ferrari are in need of a boost after a dreadful outing in France which allowed McLaren to seize the advantage in the race for third.

 

TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

Brilliant Bottas – The Finn needs a result and will hope it can come at a circuit where he has more poles (three) than at any other. Mercedes have been on pole in six of the last seven Spielberg races, with the exception being Charles Leclerc in 2019.

Spielberg Saturday – Qualifying could be crucial – since 2014 (when Spielberg returned to F1), the eventual winner at the Red Bull Ring has begun the race on the first two rows of the starting grid. Six of those eight races had a winner start on the front row.

Frustrated Ferrari – Both drivers for the Italian team have finished without scoring points in two out of the last eight grands prix (2020 Abu Dhabi and 2021 France). That is as many times as it happened in Ferrari's previous 214 races.

Prime Perez – The Mexican comes to this contest after reaching back-to-back podiums for the first time in his F1 career. He is also enjoying his best streak of consecutive top-five finishes (5).

Lively Lando – Norris has scored points in his last 12 GPs, the best run in his F1 career and longest active streak on the grid. The last McLaren driver to record a better sequence than the Briton was Fernando Alonso in his opening 14 races of the 2007 campaign.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers


1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 131
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 119
3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 84
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 76
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 59

Constructors

1. Red Bull – 215
2. Mercedes – 178
3. McLaren – 110
4. Ferrari – 94
5. AlphaTauri – 45

Related items

  • Inter Miami 0-4 New York Red Bulls: MLS streak snapped as Neville's 10-man hosts swept aside in rout Inter Miami 0-4 New York Red Bulls: MLS streak snapped as Neville's 10-man hosts swept aside in rout

    Inter Miami had their six-match unbeaten streak snapped by New York Red Bulls, who cruised to a 4-0 victory in MLS.

    Former Manchester United utility Phil Neville – current head coach of the franchise co-owned by ex-Red Devils team-mate David Beckham – had overseen a club-first run of three consecutive victories.

    Inter Miami were also in the midst of their best undefeated run in the team's young existence, having kept four straight clean sheets for the first time in their history.

    However, 10-man Inter Miami crashed back down to earth at the hands of the visiting Red Bulls on Friday.

    Patryk Klimala opened the scoring in the 18th minute before Red Bulls team-mate Omir Fernandez doubled the lead just past the half-hour mark at DRV PNK Stadium, where Inter Miami defender Nicolas Figal was sent off following a second yellow card prior to the interval.

    The Red Bulls had collected just six points over their last 10 matches (W1 D3 L6) following a 2-1 loss to Columbus Crew on Tuesday – the fewest points New York have collected in any 10-game span since totalling just four points (W1 D1 L8) in June-August 2009.

    But the Red Bulls emerged victorious after Fabio sealed the points with a second-half brace.

    Inter Miami are eighth in the Eastern Conference, a point outside the play-off positions, while the 11th-placed Red Bulls are six points further back.

    On Friday, Beckham increased his stake at Inter Miami, with the former United, England and Real Madrid winger "more committed than ever" to the MLS club.

  • Thiago like a 'world-class golfer', says Liverpool boss Klopp Thiago like a 'world-class golfer', says Liverpool boss Klopp

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said Thiago Alcantara is "like a world-class golfer", while insisting there is much more to come from the Spaniard at Anfield.

    Thiago joined Liverpool from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich amid plenty of fanfare ahead of the 2020-21 campaign but the Spain international experienced a mixed start to life on Merseyside, where injuries hampered his maiden season.

    The 30-year-old midfielder has featured in three of Liverpool's opening four Premier League matches, starting once, while he came off the bench in Wednesday's Champions League victory over Milan.

    A year on from his arrival, Klopp hailed Thiago ahead of Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace.

    "The start was not perfect," Klopp told reporters during his pre-game news conference. "He got Covid, got injured early which of course makes things much more difficult. But he showed what kind of player he will be for us. There is much more to come of course.

    "It has been a year, but if you want it is only half a year because of all the things which happened. Coming to a new club, in the most difficult period in all our lives, he settled really well. His family is here, he loves it here, he was in the middle of the team very quickly. He's a really good character, really good personality and obviously a world-class player. It is all fine!"

    Klopp added: "He played more often at Munich in a double-six role, but for us it's a complex position; you have to be offensive, you have to be defensive, you have to be between the lines, you can drop into the last line to receive the ball, but not always. 

    "But he is such a natural footballer it is not like we have to give him 15 or 16 different things to do in the game. I don't ask him for constant runs beyond the last line. He is a playmaker, obviously, who can sometimes be a little deeper, but he must be there in the two ‘interesting’ lines of the opponent as well.

    "He has great vision and can change things with his passing. In a closed area with his passing he is really good, and he can chip balls into each area like a golfer, actually. A good golfer. A world class golfer! He does that without even thinking. 

    "I love the way he plays. It's a complex position to be the number eight for us. We have different skill sets and we use different skill sets from time to time when we think a particular skill set makes more sense against a particular opponent."

    Liverpool are on the longest current league unbeaten run in the top four tiers of English football, going 14 league games without defeat since a 1-0 home loss against Fulham in March (W11 D3).

    Klopp's Liverpool have had more shots than any other Premier League side this season (100). Their 30 attempts against Leeds United last time out brought up their 100, making them just the second side since 2003-04 to have 100-plus shots in their first four games of a season, after Chelsea in 2009-10 (109).

  • Clippers 'optimistic' about success despite Kawhi injury as LA franchise unveil new arena Clippers 'optimistic' about success despite Kawhi injury as LA franchise unveil new arena

    The Los Angeles Clippers remain "optimistic" about their chances in 2021-22 despite Kawhi Leonard's injury after the NBA franchise unveiled the team's new arena.

    Leonard signed a four-year contract extension with the Clippers in the offseason, but the two-time champion is expected to miss much of the 2021-22 campaign as he recovers from a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.

    It is a blow for the Clippers on the back of their first trip to the Western Conference Final last season, but owner Steve Ballmer is not prepared to take a backward step in Leonard's absence.

    "Every year I want to win," Ballmer told ESPN. "Some people will talk about 'We're taking a step back' or 'We got an injured year.' No.

    "Our fans can count on the fact that we are going to try to win as many ballgames as we can every year. Now, we took a little setback.

    "We got to get Kawhi healthy. And when he's back, we're back at full strength."

    Leonard suffered a serious knee injury during the 2020-21 playoffs, going down in the Western Conference Finals. Without him, the Clippers went on to lose the series 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns.

    A five-time All-Star, Leonard has averaged 26.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists since joining the Clippers in 2019, arriving at the franchise after an impressive title-winning campaign with the Toronto Raptors.

    The Clippers went 36-16 when Leonard was active in the regular season last term, outscoring their opponents by 9.0 points per outing. In the 20 games he missed, however, their record was 11-9 and they were outscored by 1.1 points on average.

    In the playoffs, the Clippers have lost in the Conference semi-finals and Conference Finals respectively in the past two seasons.

    "It was painful," Ballmer said. "Painful for Kawhi, painful for our team, painful for me and, most importantly, painful for our fans. But yeah, we gave it a go. We gave it a good go. We managed to push past Utah, even without Kawhi.

    "I was proud of our guys. We were within a whisker or two of taking care of business in the Western Conference Finals, even without Kawhi. We'll see when we get him back, but we basically have most of the same team back for next year. ... I remain optimistic."

    Ballmer was speaking as the Clippers introduced their future home – Intuit Dome – which is scheduled to open ahead of the 2024-25 season as they move away from Staples Center, where the Los Angeles Lakers and NHL franchise the Los Angeles Kings also play.

    "I've never been in a place where you had two teams in a town," Ballmer said. "I grew up in Detroit. Everybody's a Pistons fan. And I think for enough years the Clippers were bad enough, everybody could just ignore the Clippers.

    "We're good now, and we're going to be good year in and year out. We're going to build our own building, more of our own identity, more of our own personality. And I think some of the fans on the other side, if you will, it's like, 'What? You dare to question our supremacy?' No, we do.

    "There's 30 teams in the league. There's 29 others. And we got one that happens to be based in L.A. And we got our fans. We use our expression, 'LA Our Way.' And we're building our own presence, identity. And if the other guys feel a little threatened -- the other guys' fans, I mean; the players are actually a little different deal -- but if they feel a little threatened, that's OK. It means we're doing good."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.