As the F1 circus moves on to the Red Bull Ring in Austria, we review the form of the leading players at the track, which has proved to be a tricky one to master and not one that has been too favourable for any of the main contenders!
The checkered past form makes last nights ‘no further action’ verdict for Sebastian Vettel’s driving in Baku perhaps even more of a potential ‘leg up’ for the German driver. Lewis’s previous performances at the Red Bull Ring in the past has been somewhat up and down to say the least. That’s something the Ferrari driver will now look to capitalise on as he won’t be receiving any further penalties for the Baku incident.
Lewis Hamilton – Starts 3, Pole Positions 2, Wins 1
While Mercedes have dominated the Austria Grand Prix since it returned to the calendar in 2014, the track seems to be an unlucky track for Lewis, with his head to head record against Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg showing Lewis edging qualifying 2-1 but losing out in the races 2-1. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Looking back through the years, Lewis has had to overcome multiple incidents which have set him back, and even last year’s victory was won the hard way, with Lewis having to dig deep and get by Rosberg on (or off!) track on the last lap after Lewis was caught out with the timing of the safety car and missed out on retaking the lead after a botched stop and an error of his own on his out lap. In 2014 qualifying Lewis first run in Q3 was wiped out for exceeding track limits, and without a banker lap a costly spin on his second run would see him having to start from ninth place, but in the race he was quickly onto Rosberg’s tail and finished the race right behind him. In 2015, Lewis spun again on his final qualifying run, but this time had his banker lap count and still took pole position after Rosberg made a mistake of his own and spun as well. In the race a bad getaway for Lewis meant he was passed at the start and he was not able to get the jump on Rosberg in the pits, with any chance of the win disappearing as Lewis picked up a penalty for crossing the white line on the pit exit. So, as always, with Lewis the pace is most certainly there for him to take pole and lead from the front, but he’ll hope to have weekend free of the kind of mistakes and bad fortune that have plagued him at the track in the past.
Valtteri Bottas – Starts 3, Best Grid Position 2nd, Best Result 3rd
Over his three starts in Austria Bottas record against Williams team mate Massa shows Bottas losing out 2-1 in qualifying, but holding a 2-1 advantage in the races. In 2014 Williams were right on the pace, and Bottas qualified ahead of the Mercedes cars to take second on the gird, but a mistake on his final run allowed team-mate Felipe Massa to pip him to pole position. In the race, Bottas made amends by bringing the car home in third place behind the recovering Mercedes cars, after looking to be well quicker than Massa in race trim. In 2015 Bottas was edged by Massa in qualifying as he had to back off his final hot lap due to yellow flags, and was made to pay the price in the race, suffering behind slower cars and winding up well down on Massa, who took his turn to climb the podium. Last year Williams struggled mightily in the cool conditions, with Bottas edging Massa in qualifying but struggling to bring the car home in a lowly ninth position in the race, just ahead of the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein, while Massa retired with brake issues.
Sebastian Vettel – Starts 3, Best Grid Position 3nd, Best Result 4th
Under pressure after his ‘dangerous driving’ in Baku, Vettel will have to be on his best behaviour in Austria. As Seb knows well from his time with Red Bull, the best way to stay out of trouble is simply to take pole position and race clear of the filed – but that’s not something he’s ever had the luxury of doing in Austria! With no podium positions from three attempts, and a highest qualifying position of just 3rd, you could be forgiven for thinking Seb doesn’t like the Red Bull Ring. He has as 2-1 qualifying record here against his team mates (losing to Ricciardo in 2014 but comfortably beating Raikkonen for the last two years with Ferrari), while in the races either Seb (2014/2016) or his team-mate (2015) have always DNF’d. If Lewis has had misfortune in Austria, then the same clearly applies to Seb. Last year, after a grid penalty for a gearbox change put him on the back foot, Seb looked to be making the most of his race with a solid drive until his right rear tyre let go in spectacular fashion and ended his race. In 2015 he was comfortably best of the rest behind the Mercedes until a Ferrari pit lane blunder dropped him off the podium position, while in 2014 he was disappointingly beaten by Ricciardo in qualifying, with Seb failing to make it through to Q3 before retiring early from the race with engine trouble.
Kimi Raikkonen – Starts 6, Best Grid Positon 2nd, Best Result 2nd
The only one of the front runners to have started the Austrian Grand Prix back when the track was known as the A1 Ring, Kimi has hardly enjoyed great success here either. Kimi has been outqualified by his teammates 4-2 and split the races, but since the Grand Prix returned in 2014 he has been easily outperformed by his Ferrari team-mates. Still, he has at least a couple of podiums here, coming home second for McLaren back in 2003 and taking the last podium slot last year, but finishing behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull would hardly have been the target for Ferrari. Kimi’s most memorable moment in Austria though has to be the opening lap in 2015, when Kimi lost control of his car and flicked into former team-mate Alonso, with the McLaren going up and over the Ferrari as they came to rest along the barriers, with Kimi being lucky to walk away fromt hat nasty crash unscathed.
Daniel Ricciardo – Starts 3, Best Grid Position 5th , Best Result 5th
While Ricciardo has the edge on his team-mates 2-1 in both qualifying and race results, that doesn’t mean he has enjoyed much success at the Red Bull ring. Outqualifying Sebastian vettel in his Red Bull debut in 2014 was as good as it got, with the Red Bull woefully off the pace in the race and Ricciardo having to settle for eight place at the finish (courtesy of a fine last lap pass on Nico Hulkenberg around the outside of Turn 6!). It hardly got any better in 2015 for Red Bull, with Ricciardo being disappointing in qualifying, being beaten by Kvyat before getting the upper hand in the race, but only for a disappointing 10th place. Last year he outqualified Max Verstappen, but was firmly in the young Dutchman’s shadow in the race, his final fifth place finish his best result in Austria, but disappointing in light of Max’s fine drive to 2nd.
Max Verstappen – Starts 2, Best Grid Position 7th, Best Result 2nd
If there is one driver who has constantly delivered in Austria its Max. He has beaten his team-mates in both races here (he is 1-1 in qualifying, but we’ll give him some leeway for being edged by Ricciardo at the start of his Red Bull career). Max put in a wonderful drive for Torro Rosso in 2015, qualifying seventh and gaining places early on before dropping back an ending up in 8th place, the drop in places a result more down to the capabilities of the Toro Rosso than the young Dutchman. Last year Max put in another superb performance, overturning his qualifying deficit to Ricciardo and managing his tyres excellently to bring him a highly impressive second place finish ahead of the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, if Red Bull can provide him with a car that can get to finish, it could well be one step higher for Max this year, especially if the weather springs any surprises!
Now we invite the Jury to give us their prediction for the Austrian GP