Red Bull finally ended Mercedes’ winning streak with victory in Canada, but it is Mercedes who will still be considered favourites to prosper at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
Both Mercedes drivers suffered from mechanical problems in Canada. Lewis Hamilton (pictured) was forced to retire, while Nico Rosberg limped home to a second place finish. He was overtaken two laps from the end by Daniel Ricciardo, who secured his first Formula One victory.
Sebastian Vettel finished third for a double podium finish for Red Bull. Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa were involved in a final lap collision that eliminated both cars, which, combined with a last-ditch overtake on Nico Hulkenberg, saw Jenson Button take fourth for McLaren – their best result since the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Both Ferrari drivers finished in the top 10, but they were some way off the ultimate pace. The team tested some new parts during the pre-race running and are hopeful they will perform better this weekend. Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) were the other drivers to finish in the points.
Formula One returns to Austria for the first time since 2003 at the revamped and renamed Red Bull Ring. The circuit layout remains the same as when it was known as the A1 Ring: four straights connected by three tight right-handers and a twisty infield section. It is a medium-to-high downforce track at which top speed and good traction are paramount.
Weather forecasts suggest that rain is possible during Friday’s practice sessions but that Saturday and Sunday should be dry. As in Canada, Pirelli will bring their soft and supersoft tyre compounds to this weekend’s event. Most cars are likely to two-stop.
Magnussen is one of the few drivers on the grid to have recently competed at the Red Bull Ring, having run well there as part of his victorious Formula Renault 3.5 Series campaign last year. He qualified in second place for the first race and in third for the second, going on to finish third in both.
This weekend will clearly represent a very different challenge, but prior knowledge of the circuit could provide Magnussen with a slight edge during qualifying.
McLaren ran well in Bahrain, which is probably the best measure for likely performance in Austria of the circuits driven to date, with both Magnussen and his teammate Button qualifying in the top 10. Magnussen has only reached the final session of qualifying in four of the seven races this season but can be fancied to do so for a fifth time on Saturday.
Hamilton’s retirement in Canada allowed Rosberg to build a 22-point advantage at the top of the Drivers’ Championship, and the British driver will be desperate to reduce that gap with a strong weekend in Austria. Mercedes continue to dominate the Constructors’ Championship, with 258 points to Red Bull’s 139.
The pace advantage that Mercedes enjoy was made clear by the fact that Rosberg was able to hold onto his lead until the final couple of laps in Canada – and onto second place thereafter – despite suffering from both a power deficit and braking problems.
Mercedes have worked overtime to understand the issues that affected their cars in Canada and there is unlikely to be a repeat this weekend. Pole position and the race victory will be contested by their two drivers alone. Having given up points to Rosberg in each of the last two races, we believe Hamilton will come back strong with victory in Austria.
Hulkenberg secured his sixth top six finish in seven races by finishing fifth in Canada. The German has been one of the most impressive drivers throughout the season, consistently bringing his car home in strong positions. His teammate Perez has occasionally been quicker but has only amassed just over a third of Hulkenberg’s points tally.
The Red Bull Ring should suit Force India. The Mercedes power unit is currently the class of the field, while their car has excellent traction and again showed itself to be impressively light on tyres in Canada, with both drivers running long stints on the softer compound. Hulkenberg can be backed to again finish in the top six this weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen has really struggled since returning to Ferrari at the start of the season. He has been outscored by his teammate Fernando Alonso in every race and has twice (Malaysia and Monaco) failed to finish in the points. He has been unable to get to grips with the car’s braking system, which will be put to heavy use on a few corners this weekend.
The four Mercedes-powered teams are all likely to be strong in Austria. Red Bull, too, have consistently had the pace to finish in good points-paying positions this season. That could leave the two Ferraris scrambling for points on the cusp of the top 10 and we believe there is a solid chance Raikkonen will fail to score this weekend.
F1 Austrian Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Kevin Magnussen to reach qualifying session three @ 5/4 with Ladbrokes.
- Bet on Lewis Hamilton to win the race @ 4/6 with Ladbrokes, William Hill, Boylesports or Paddy Power.
- Back Nico Hulkenberg to finish in the top six @ 6/4 with BetVictor.
- Bet on Kimi Raikkonen not to finish in the points @ 2/1 with BetVictor.
Latest Austrian Grand Prix Odds from the Top Bookies