Despite winning the Sprint race at their home Grand Prix, Max Verstappen couldn’t convert his pole position into a victory at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Thousands of Dutch and Red Bull Racing fans cheered on the reigning World Champion and the home side, as they watched Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc reignite his championship bid with victory.
Verstappen was easily overtaken three times by the Monegasque driver during the race, with the Dutchman having no answer to Leclerc’s superior pace.
The 2021 World Champion suffered from significant tyre degradation during the race, which saw his acceleration out of corners severely hampered.
Ferrari, on the other hand, were able to keep their tyres in great condition, giving them a grip advantage over their Constructors’ rivals.
The degradation issue left Red Bull team principal Christian Horner confused, with the team unable to understand how their degradation became drastically worse between the Sprint race, and the main one.
“With the degradation, when you look at the Sprint race, we pushed a bit harder at the beginning, paid a little bit at the end, but over the whole stint was – in our analysis – identical to that of Ferrari,” the Red Bull boss explained after the Grand Prix.
“The only thing that changed overnight is the rain. The temperature changed slightly and of course, the fuel load. We just need to understand why, in that first stint, our degradation was significantly worse than Charles’ and Carlos’.”
The race at the Red Bull Ring saw Verstappen’s gap in the standings drop to 38-points, from Leclerc, who moved above Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez.
The Mexican was forced to retire from the race following an opening-lap collision with George Russell.
Pérez’s form has somewhat dipped as of late, ever since his second-place finish at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Mexican did perform well at the British Grand Prix; however, after recovering a second-place finish despite pitting very early on for a new front-wing.
Pérez even finished above Verstappen at Silverstone, due to the Dutchman having to deal with issues of his own.
Overall, though, Pérez has seen himself slip to 57 points behind his team-mate, leaving the Mexican a long way-off the championship battle.
It’s led to many questioning Red Bull’s strategy, and whether they are developing upgrades to support Verstappen rather than Pérez.
Horner categorically denies the allegations, insisting that they’re not “entirely correct”.
“I’m not sure that’s entirely correct,” the 48-year-old said.
“I think the set-up is crucial. I think that Checo was very competitive in the race at Silverstone, and I think that he’ll have races that we know that he’ll perform very well at.
“Certainly, the developments aren’t being driven in one direction, just an overall car performance improvement.”