Austrian Grand Prix | Sunday 21 June | Red Bull Ring | 14:00
After a surprisingly uneventful Canadian Grand Prix the field heads back to European shores. Will the status quo of Mercedes dominance be maintained or will it be Ferrari feasting on victory in the land of Stroh Rum and schnitzel?
Mercedes claimed their fourth one-two finish of the season in Canada with Lewis Hamilton dominating the race weekend. The Brit claimed pole in qualifying and lead the main race from start to finish. He was closely followed across the line by team mate Nico Rosberg who, despite a valiant effort, could not get within the DRS zone at any time in the race. The Silver Arrows duo were joined on the podium by Finn Valtteri Bottas, who took advantage of a Kimi Raikkonen spin at the exit of turn ten midway through the race. Raikkonen would go on to claim fourth whilst teammate Sebastian Vettel - who had endured a horrendous weekend - salvaged some points with a fantastic drive from the back of the grid which saw him claim fifth place. The Ferrari duo were followed across the line by the Williams of Felipe Massa whose sixth place finish took Williams over the 100-point threshold on the Constructors’ Championship table. It was another positive race weekend for Lotus with both Maldonado and Grosjean scoring valuable points. Pastor claimed seventh whilst Romain saw his over enthusiasm get the better of him. He was pushing for sixth place when he clipped Max Chilton’s front wing and the Lotus man’s subsequent pit stop ensured he was out of the fight for a Top 6 finish. The Frenchman recovered in time to claim tenth, crossing the line behind ninth-placed Daniil Kvyat whilst Nico Hulkenberg claimed eighth-place.
After a ten year hiatus the Austrian Grand Prix returned to the F1 calendar last year. The track, which is located in the Spielberg provincial territory of Austria, underwent a facelift in the early 90s. German architect Hermann Tilke was behind the redesign which saw a significant number of the track’s longer corners cut shorter in order to ensure driver safety. Although the redesign meant the track lost some of its excitement factor it still has a bit of that magic that made it a staple on the F1 calendar pre-2003. Amongst the remnants of yesteryear are the Texaco Bends, which despite having some adjustments made to them, still present a challenge to drivers. Overall the track consists of only eight corners most of which are hairpins, with the Remus and Wurth Kurve hairpins being two of the more challenging prospects. The race distance covers 307km with each of the 71 laps being 4.326km in length. The Spielberg district is frequently hit with late afternoon thunderstorms and this weekend may be no different with showers being predicted for Friday’s practice sessions as well as Saturday’s qualifying. Although no thunderstorms are being predicted for Sunday’s race there is still a chance of rain which may mean that tyre strategy becomes integral. Speaking of tyres, Pirelli have decided to continue with the softs and super softs for the fourth race in a row. Last year’s race saw Nico Rosberg claim victory. He was joined by teammate Lewis Hamilton and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas on the podium.
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 5/10
Nico Rosberg 9/4
Sebastian Vettel 10/1
Valtteri Bottas 20/1
Kimi Raikkonen 25/1
Felipe Massa 33/1
Lewis Hamilton - To Win Outright (5/10) / Fastest Qualifier (7/20)
After the disappointment of Monaco, the Brit responded in the perfect manner at the Circuit De Gilles Villeneuve a fortnight ago. He claimed pole in qualifying, pipping teammate Rosberg by a few fractions of a second and then went on to lead the race from start to finish. He will be keen to take victory this time out in Austria having finished in second place last year behind his title rival. There is a bit of a statistical quirk to this one with both Ferrari and Mercedes having won 25 Grand Prixs each in Austria. By the time this year’s race is over I think Mercedes may be edging the results column 26 to 25.
Kimi Raikkonen - Fastest Lap (13/2)
The flying Finn may be struggling to put a complete race together but he is having no such issues when it comes to setting the fastest lap on race day. Kimi added another fastest lap to his ever growing list of pace setting achievements last time out in Canada. Last year’s edition of the Austrian Grand Prix would have been a bit of a disappointment for Raikkonen, qualifying in seventh and finishing the main race in tenth. He will be looking for a much improved race weekend this year. 13/2 offers great value for a man whose alias says it all. I will definitely be putting some money on this one.
Sebastian Vettel - Podium Finish (5/10)
Like his current teammate, last year’s Austrian Grand Prix was a major let down for the four-time World Champion. Vettel started the race in thirteenth place on the grid and had to retire in the 34th lap due to his Red Bull suffering electronic issues. The German is coming off the back of an incident-filled Canadian Grand Prix which saw him lose valuable points in his pursuit of the Mercedes front runners. He will want to turn things around at the Red Bull arena and close the growing gap in the Constructors’ Championship. Although 5/10 doesn’t offer the greatest value Vettel is more than likely to find himself on the podium come the conclusion of the main race.
Pastor Maldonado - Top 6 Finish (7/4)
It has been quite a season for Pastor Maldonado so far. A few retirements early on in the year saw him fall off most people’s radars. His seventh-place finish in Canada was a reminder that he is still one to watch. His team also seem to have worked out the reliability issues which hampered them early in the season and are now starting to wrack up some valuable points. Last year’s edition of the Austrian Grand Prix saw Maldonado start fourteenth on the grid and he went on to claim twelfth at the conclusion of the main race. Things are on the up at Lotus and although they are yet to break into the coveted Top 6 places that could all change this weekend. 7/4 offers great value for a driver who is beginning to hit some form.