Mercedes will be looking to continue their dominant run of form at the Red Bull Ring when the F1 field lines up for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Our regular Formula One writer is enjoying some well-deserved R’n’R this week, so we’ve got one of our old boys out of retirement to pen this piece. He reckons he’s made a bit of cash off the season so far and is keen to make our readers some money as well. Also, make sure you check out our 25% Bonus Promotion.
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The Grand Prix of Europe certainly didn’t produce the thrills and spills that many pundits were predicting. I personally was hoping to see an action-packed Grand Prix full of crashes and daring overtakes. Instead, I wasted an hour and a half of my life watching Nico Rosberg canter to victory.
While it was kind of interesting to see how much of a role the different tyre strategies played in determining the finishing positions, it wasn’t enough to really keep me on the edge of my seat. I’m not a huge fan of engineers and strategists ruling the day’s proceedings. Call me a dated purist, but I believe races should be won by drivers and not pit crews.
It was quite interesting to see the whole field of drivers take a conservative approach during the main race – I was certain ‘Mad Max Verstappen would bow out in a blaze of fire rather than a timid eighth place finish – especially considering that Friday’s practice sessions were littered with crashes. While I suspect this was mainly due to all of the team’s strategists’ fear of the unknown – this was the first time the Baku Street Circuit had been raced on and it’s a rather intimidating track – you would have still expected the likes of McLaren and Toro Rosso to have pushed a bit harder for top 8 finishing positions.
With all the drivers showing about as much attacking intent as a 1970’s opening Test batsmen, Mercedes were always going to have a huge advantage out in Azerbaijan. Nico Rosberg – who had qualified on pole – made good use of a solid start and left the rest of the field in his wake, never rescinding his lead. His teammate Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, had a weekend to forget.
The defending world champion’s miserable weekend started in Q3. Desperate to set a competitive hot lap, the Brit pushed his car beyond its limit and paid the price, making contact with a barrier on turn nine. With his front wing damaged, Hamilton was unable to return for the final few minutes of the last qualifying session and was forced to settle for 10th place on the grid. The Brit then struggled with power deployment issues during the main race and was forced to settle for a rather underwhelming fifth-place finish.
Speaking of underwhelming, Red Bull were the epitome of the word. While I fully understand that their car didn’t really suit the track, a seventh and eighth-placed finish is simply not good enough for a team that wants to challenge Ferrari for second place in the Constructors Championship.
Ferrari managed to extend the gap between themselves and Red Bull on the Constructors standings to 37 points with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen garnering second and fourth pace finishes out in Baku. Sandwiched between them in, third position, was the impressive Sergio Perez who will surely find a drive at one of the big teams next season if he continues to maintain his splendid run of form.
Valtteri Bottas managed to gain a few points for Williams by bringing his car home in sixth spot while Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa ensured their respective teams would both secure double points hauls by finishing in the top ten.
Austrian Grand Prix | Sunday 2 July | Red Bull Ring | 13:30
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 1/1 | Nico Rosberg 16/10 | Sebastian Vettel 6/1 | Daniel Ricciardo 18/1 | Kimi Raikkonen 22/1
Once home to the infamous Osterreichring, the race circuit out in Spielberg has seen not only a name change but a revamp that has turned it from snarling beast to playful kitten.
While the Red Bull Ring does possess a few hairy corners that will get the drivers blood pumping, it’s lost a lot of those fast high sweeping corners that made it such a wild drive back in the 70’s and 80’s.
While the track was totally rebuilt in the mid 90’s, it only became known as the Red Bull Ring in the late 2000’s. It took even longer for a race to be held there again, with Formula One only making a return to the track in 2014.
Since making its return to the Formula One calendar, the circuit has been dominated by Mercedes. Nico Rosberg won both the 2014 and 15 editions of the race, while Mercedes have claimed two consecutive one-two finishes at the track.
The track is notorious for playing host to afternoon thunderstorms and we may well be in for a shower or two this weekend with heavy thunderstorms being predicted for Saturday’s qualifying sessions. It seems that the weather will clear up for Sunday’s main race with only a few early morning showers being predicted by the local weather bureau.
Pirelli has issued the three softest compounds for the race with the ultra softs, super softs, and softs being nominated.
Sergio Perez Podium Finish 5/1
The Mexican has been in sensational form this season. He’s got that under-powered Force India car of his onto the podium twice thus far and I wouldn’t rule out him achieving this for a third time. He also enjoys racing at the track having finished sixth in 2014. While I wouldn’t stake the house on it, a cheeky 20 rand punt on the Mexican to win it, may just reap a nice dividend.
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 1/1
The Brit may be enduring a rather poor season but he knows how to get himself on to pole. He managed to claim first spot on the grid in Austria last year and he’s likely to do it again this season. I’m taking a hundred rand and sticking it on the Brit to claim pole.
To Win Outright: Nico Rosberg 16/10
Rosberg is enjoying his best season behind the wheel of a Mercedes. He just seems to be in more of a groove than his teammate and the rest of the field. Factor in his impeccable form at the Red Bull Ring and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a Rosberg topped podium. Back the Mercedes man to make it three successive wins out in Austria at the great price of 16/10.