Formula 1: The thrill of the chase
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Last week’s thrilling Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix was as much an antonym to the previous weeks dull French event as black is to white.
A great race topped off by the drama of two future world champions fighting wheel to wheel.
Was it all fair?
The stewards made the decision, end of story.
The referee has spoken no matter how many times Formula 1’s own ‘VAR’ is replayed.
But what made the Austrian Grand Prix a great race to watch?
The track often produces odd, thrilling races, different to the norm.
What elements made the race an entertainment, a festival almost, but connived to make the French version a dull procession, a wet blanket?
Leave aside the drivers or the cars as they are, more or less, a constant despite all of the updates introduced on a daily basis.
Of course it was the unrelenting pursuit of the win by Max Verstappen and the three or four lap shoot-out as he hunted down the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but what made that chase possible in the first place?
Whenever a fast car is out of position at the start of a race then some excitement is bound to follow and Verstappen, by getting his own start so wrong, was very much out of position after the first corner.
The game was on.
That can, and does, happen at all and any race tracks but the so called ‘Red Bull Ring’ (I prefer the original name of Österreichring personally) has qualities that come with an ‘old school’ track.
First and foremost it is a very short track with a lap time and that means traffic and continual overtaking.
The track has elevation, and plenty of it, introducing different performance qualities of the various cars.
A fast and flowing track but with slow corners appearing after fast straights meaning out-braking manoeuvres a-plenty.
The track has the occasional gravel run off area, which means that drivers cannot always just roll off track and roll back on again.
There are large concrete run off areas allowing a driver to go off track and re-join but that trip comes fraught with danger as those areas are guarded by the dreaded, sentinel, ‘baguettes’, those over sized kerbs that hurt and can rip the delicate under wing aerodynamics right off the car and cause some race ending damage.
As false as the DRS (Drag Reduction System or ‘flappy rear wing) is, the system actually seemed to help the racing with three distinct zones in which to deploy it.
This year all of the above was mixed into a cake and then layered with extreme conditions that sapped the strength of the Mercedes cars and drained the life out of the tyres of others.
All of this set in a beautiful, spectator friendly, bowl with a huge crowd of vociferous fans who appeared to have arrived in a similar uniform of orange.
Certainly the Austrian Grand prix can never be replicated, too many elements had to come together, but a note here to the FIA and Liberty Media.
Please do watch the race again, and again, and write down all the good bits about it.
As the new regulations are about to be formatted, just remember how that race put the sport back into a favourable light with so many fans.
The Austrian Grand Prix, as good as it was, should not be the high point of the 2019 season.
The flat airfield track of Silverstone is next, so will normal service be resumed?
I hope not.