Dust off the lederhosen! Formula One is heading to the picturesque Styrian mountains for the ninth round of the 2018 season at the Red Bull Ring.
Are Mercedes on a roll? Can Red Bull perform well at their home event? And can Romain Grosjean finally score a point? Here are your reasons to watch all of the F1 action this weekend!
Mercedes struck back last weekend in France as Lewis Hamilton retook the title lead. There’s every reason to believe he’ll extend that advantage this weekend, too. Mercedes have won every race at the Red Bull Ring since the Austrian Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 2014. Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas are the two drivers who’ve scored the most points here in the past four seasons.
Bottas is due some good luck, and this is a track at which he took pole and won last season. A good result here could see him re-take third in the Drivers’ Championship, while a good result for Hamilton will see him heading into his home race with a spring in his step.
A lingering concern?
Mercedes may be concerned over their new engine parts which were present at the French Grand Prix. Force India’s Sergio Perez was forced out of the race with a Mercedes engine issue, which Toto Wolff admitted had him worried in the closing stages of the Grand Prix:
“If one of the six power units has a problem, which we understand was a loss of water pressure…obviously, you’re listening very carefully what happens to your own engines.”
In Free Practice 2 in France, Valtteri Bottas was forced to miss most of the session with a similar water leak issue. Wolff isn’t sure that the upgrade has put them ahead of their rivals, but every inch of performance is vital in this year’s tight race to the title.
The upgraded engine may have brought extra performance, but has it come with an increased reliability risk?
Red Bull on home soil
Fresh off the back of their first consecutive podium finishes of the year thanks to Max Verstappen’s second place in France last weekend, Red Bull head to their home track with a sense of optimism. The team haven’t had the best of luck here in the past, but have had two podiums from the past two Austrian Grands Prix.
You can expect Red Bull to be dressed for the climate as they have been in past years. This season, they’ve even brought a log cabin-themed motorhome in place of their regular one – which has travelled straight from France to Silverstone in time for next weekend’s British Grand Prix.
Red Bull con motorhome edición especial Redbull Ring. Tres carreras seguidas eran demasiado para la Energy Station. Nuevo y estilo austríaco. pic.twitter.com/MzrnZRrsyI
— Albert Fabrega (@AlbertFabrega) June 27, 2018
Red Bull may benefit from Renault’s newly updated MGU-K this weekend, though it is understood that not all of Renault’s customer teams will opt to use it yet.
How fast will the lap times get?
A lap of the Red Bull Ring is short, with the track comprising of between eight and ten turns, depending on which driver you ask. This year, a third DRS zone has been added between Turns 1 and 3, on the run up the hill. It’s hoped that DRS in this area will further aid overtaking in the middle sector of the track, and will also present more opportunities for bold overtakes into Turn 3.
A knock on effect of this will be even quicker lap times in Qualifying. Last year’s pole lap was a 1:04.251. With cars lapping faster than last season at most tracks so far in 2018, and with the additional DRS available in Qualifying, the pole time will surely be getting close to a sixty-second lap.
A change in fortune?
Aside from Bottas, Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso are perhaps two of the unluckiest men so far this season. Grosjean has reason to be quietly confident this weekend. The Haas cars performed well last time out in France, with the Frenchman just missing out on his first points of the year at his home event. Grosjean has scored in both of the Austrian Grands Prix he has competed in for Haas so far. Will that trend continue this season?
Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, has reason to be more concerned. He’s only ever seen the chequered flag in Austria once in his career, in 2014. If Alonso does indeed retire from the race once again, it will be only the second time in his career where he’s failed to finish four Grands Prix in a row.
The 2018 Austrian Grand Prix gets underway at 2:10pm BST on Sunday. In the UK, coverage is live on both Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1.