After the barmy race in Baku – complete with week-long tension over an FIA tribunal – Formula One’s next location on its whistle-stop tour of the world sees it land at the Red Bull Ring. But what storylines are dominating the build-up to the Austrian Grand Prix?
Will Verstappen finally get some good luck?
Formula One has had its share of excitement at the front of the grid in recent races, but the lack of the exciting young Dutchman Max Verstappen has robbed fans of possibly even more. As the season has progressed his luck has turned south in terms of reliability of his Renault power units – the last two races has seen Verstappen retire at around the 10 lap marker thanks to failures, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo has gone on to score four straight podiums, including a victory in the chaos of Azerbaijan.
If this run does continue, then the relationship between Verstappen and Red Bull could sour to a point. There have been comments that may have been made in the heat of the moment by an immature head, but Austria would be a great place to gain a much-needed result. As long as that Renault power unit holds out.
Red Bull seek more success on home soil
Speaking of Red Bull, the team haven’t had the greatest of results at this track, one that’s another asset in team owner Dieter Mateschitz’s impressive portfolio. Last year was their most successful – Verstappen finished 2nd and Ricciardo 5th – but the result was skewed slightly by the Mercedes duo’s scrap in the final moments. All things considered, it’s not a happy hunting ground.
The RB13 has also been a troublesome car this season, falling behind its rivals due to a different philosophy in design and a slightly underpowered by Renault in comparison to Ferrari and Mercedes.
Yet hope is high for Speilberg, especially coming off the surprise victory in Baku. Can Red Bull keep up the progress made in recent races and be the fly in the title fight ointment?
Honda hopes pinned on Stage Three
As much as it’s great to look into the chances of McLaren-Honda each and every race, the whole debacle now feels like a stuck record on Groundhog Day.
Despite a 9th place finish and two world championship points in the last race for Fernando Alonso – which for him must now feel like a victory – Honda is planning on improving fortunes by implementing upgrades to improve performance and reliability.
Whether these actually work is now in the hands of the racing gods, but with Fernando continuing to use team radio as an outlet for criticism, it’s only a matter of time before something gives. And it might just be a contract clause.
Vettel vs. Hamilton is now toxic as well as competitive
All it took was a few seconds of Sebastian Vettel losing his head and the mood of title fight has turned, from a back-slapping mutual love-in to something a bit more feisty. We now have on our hands a more traditional “I don’t like you” one-on-one battle that feels, well, a bit more Formula One.
Any ramifications of Vettel escaping any further punishment from the FIA will come from the media at the event, as the pre-race press conference will now be a hotbed of questioning for the German, as well as for Hamilton too. Every facet of their emotions towards each other will be prodded and cross-examined before they even get into a car and compete on the track.
No matter how you feel about both parties, if you’re a fan of either, both, or just the sport in general, the Austrian Grand Prix now has another layer to it for all involved. Both Vettel and Hamilton have experience of animosity towards title rivals and the psychological mind games involved, so seeing everything play out is going to fascinating – not just at this race, but for the rest of the season too.