Lewis Hamilton needs to maintain Mercedes’ winning streak at the Red Bull Ring and close in on Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel by securing victory at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
The two championship contenders clashed during an action-packed Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks ago. Vettel received a stop-go penalty for ramming into the side of Hamilton’s Mercedes after feeling his rival had unnecessarily slowed while leading the pack behind the safety car. That sanction ended his chances of emerging victorious.
But Vettel wasn’t punished in the championship as a loose headrest required Hamilton to pit from the lead, dropping him behind Vettel as the pair of them ended up fourth and fifth. Daniel Ricciardo was the primary beneficiary, securing Red Bull’s first victory of the season and also the first race win for a non-Ferrari or Mercedes driver.
Normal service is, however, likely to resume this weekend. Mercedes have dominated the Austrian Grand Prix since its return to the calendar in 2014. While they do not enjoy the same performance advantage over Ferrari this time around, they can still be expected to extend their run of three consecutive victories – two of which were achieved with one-twos – at the circuit.
Valtteri Bottas continued his good form by recovering from an early collision to pip the Williams of Lance Stroll to second right at the death in Azerbaijan. The Finn has a pretty solid record at the Red Bull Ring, but Hamilton won last year’s event and still has a decent pace advantage over his new teammate. That makes Hamilton the favourite to secure victory on Sunday.
Williams enjoyed a very strong weekend in Azerbaijan and could even have been in with a shot at victory had Felipe Massa not suffered a suspension failure at the restart. Both he and Stroll had been running ahead of Ricciardo prior to that and it is not beyond the realms of possibility to think that Massa would have been able to hold the Aussie off.
Stroll’s first podium came on the back of his first points finish at his home Canadian Grand Prix and provided further evidence that he is starting to get to grips with Formula One. The pace gap to Massa is decreasing, and if he can continue to finish in the points, Williams may yet feel they can challenge Force India for fourth in the constructors’ standings.
Williams always run well at the Red Bull Ring. Both cars finished in the top five in both 2014 (where they filled out the first row of the grid in qualifying) and 2015, while only a brakes failure for Massa prevented them from converting two top-10 grid positions in two points-paying finishes at last year’s event.
Stroll won two of the three races at the circuit in his championship-winning European Formula 3 campaign last year and can be fancied to back up Massa to a double points finish on Sunday.
It says much for just how chaotic the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was that nine of the sport’s 10 teams scored points. Esteban Ocon came home sixth for Force India, and Kevin Magnussen finished seventh for Haas, while the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz, McLaren of Fernando Alonso and Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein filled out the final top-10 spots.
Ocon was involved in an avoidable accident with his Force India teammate Sergio Perez that prevented the team from securing a strong double finish but has otherwise driven impressively in the first eight races of his first full season in F1. Perez may have out-qualified him in every race and currently enjoy a nine-point lead in the standings, but Ocon is doing well to be so close to a driver of Perez’s calibre at this stage of his career.
The Frenchman has finished in the top six of three of the last four races and will fancy his chances of beating Perez this weekend. He has experience at the circuit in both Formula One (a test for Force India in 2015) and lower-formulae machinery and will note that Perez’s former teammate Nico Hulkenberg always had a pace advantage in Austria.
Force India will probably fancy their chances of getting both cars into strong positions this weekend, but Ocon looks the better value to secure a top-six finish.
Our Preview’s F1 Austrian Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- So the first of this Austrian GP preview’s three betting tips is to bet on Lewis Hamilton to win the race @ best odds of 5/6 with SkyBet, BetVictor or Paddy Power.
- Back Williams to secure a double points finish @ 13/8 with Bet365, William Hill or Paddy Power.
- Take Esteban Ocon to finish in the top six @ 13/8 with Bet365 or SkyBet.