Our F1 scribe previews what should be a cracking Austrian Grand Prix.
The F1 field heads to Austria off the back of a race weekend that produced more drama than an entire season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. What transpired at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has added fuel to an already rather large fire, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s title duel reaching insanely hostile levels.
Well, that certainly escalated quickly! The venue that produced one of the more sedate race weekends of 2016 became an absolute monster this year causing more crashes than a Victoria Secret model doing a Playboy photo shoot in the middle of Gillooly’s Interchange. And I have to say, I loved every single minute of the incident-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix. So much so, that if we get a similar sort of Grand Prix their next year I may just have to change my favourite race track from the Nuremberg Ring to the Baku Street Circuit.
I’ve opted to change the format up for this previous race segment as there’s just so much to talk about and not much column space to work with. I’ll take a look at how the top five finishing drivers performed individually.
Daniel Ricciardo: The grinning Aussie, who only qualified in a lowly 10th place and dropped as low as 19th place during the early salvos of the race, took full advantage of the long Safety Car stints and crashes to claim his first victory of the year. While all around him were losing their heads, the Red Bull man kept his cool and thanks to some smart strategy work by his support team was able to claim a vital.
Valtteri Bottas: The Finn’s second place looked rather improbable after he was forced to limp into the pits on the opening lap after he and Kimi Raikkonen were involved in an incident. Furthermore, the Mercedes man was actually in third place heading into the dying moments of the race but he somehow managed to pip the highly impressive Lance Stroll into second with the finish line just a few metres away.
Lance Stroll: Stroll followed up on a great showing in Canada with an even more impressive drive out in Baku. While some will say the 18-year-old Canadian was just in the right place at the right time, I beg to differ. To keep a cool head when the world around you is falling apart shows a great deal of mental fortitude, which is something you really wouldn’t expect from a rookie. Stroll produced a clean drive and avoided any major risks and was fully deserving of his third-place finish.
Sebastian Vettel: Seb was a very naughty boy out in Azerbaijan and was extremely lucky to escape with a fourth place finish. The duel between the Ferrari man and Lewis Hamilton reached Cold War-esque levels out in Baku with the former deliberately banging wheels with the latter after Hamilton – and don’t believe the PR nonsense that has been spewed by his camp because he did do this – brake-tested Vettel while the Safety Car was on track. While Vettel escaped with only a 10-second stop-and-go penalty on the day, he is still under investigation by the FIA and may face a sterner penalty this week.
Lewis Hamilton: I know I tip him most weeks but I really don’t like the Brit. And my animosity towards him has only increased after his child-like reaction to what occurred in Baku. Yes, Vettel acted like an absolute tit when he went full on Mad Max and banged his wheels against Lewis’, but come on mate, you were stirring the pot when you decided to stomp on those brakes of yours with Vettel a few metres behind you. To then come out and label Vettel as a disgrace is really calling the kettle black. It seems the pressure may be starting to get to the Mercedes man.
Top 10 Baku Classification
Daniel Ricciardo (1st), Valtteri Bottas (2nd), Lance Stroll (3rd), Sebastian Vettel (4th), Lewis Hamilton (5th), Esteban Ocon (6th), Kevin Magnussen (7th), Carlos Sainz (8th), Fernando Alonso (9th), Pascal Wherlein (10th)
Austrian Grand Prix | Sunday 9 July | The Red Bull Ring | 12:30
To Win Race
Lewis Hamilton 8/10 | Sebsatian Vettel 22/10 | Valterri Bottas 4/1 | Kimi Raikonnen 16/1 | Daniel Ricciardo 25/1 | Max Verstappen 25/1 | Sergio Perez 250/1 | Felipe Massa 250/1
Once one of the most formidable race tracks in the world – during its heydey as the Osterreichring – the Red Bull Ring is now a rather tame beast. While the circuit does still possess a few hairy corners, that will get the drivers’ blood pumping, it’s lost a lot of those fast high sweeping turns 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 1 only making a return to the track in 2014.
Since making its return to the Formula One calendar, the Austrian race weekend has been dominated by Mercedes with Nico Rosberg winning the 2014 and 2015 editions of the race and Lewis Hamilton taking top honours last year.
With the track bordering on the Styrian Mountains and the Styrian Forest, Drivers are often confronted with late afternoon thunderstorms. This could be the case again this weekend with the local weather bureau predicting a 50% chance of rain for Sunday.
As was the case last year, Pirelli has issued the three softest compounds for the race weekend with the ultra softs, super softs, and softs being nominated.
Podium Finish – Daniel Ricciardo – Yes – 11/4
The Red Bull man is on something of a hot streak at the moment and it’s ridiculous to think that you can get him at 11/4 to finish on the podium, especially considering Sebastian Vettel could be facing a time penalty. The cards are certainly in the Aussie’s favour as this is the venue happens to be the facility in which his team does most of their off-season testing. Get on a Ricciardo podium presence at an unbelievable 11/4!
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 27/20
This is another brilliant price as Hamilton seems to have rediscovered his qualifying touch. Yes, there’s a boatload of controversy surrounding him, and he’s even harder to stomach than he was a fortnight ago, but I’m here to make money and I’m extremely confident I’ll do just that by having a large strike on Hamilton to claim pole.
To Win Race: Valterri Bottas 4/1
This is a rather speculative punt and I wouldn’t recommend going large on it but the Finn could reap a healthy dividend if he manages a win here. For all of Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in qualifying out in Austria, the Brit has never really impressed during the main race, with former teammate Nico Rosberg beating him in both 2014 and 2015. I actually think Hamilton struggles with the setup of the track which makes Bottas a rather attractive prospect at 4/1!