The Formula One season has been stuttering into life since the beginning of March which saw the opening event take place in Bahrain. The cancelation of the Chinese Grand Prix and the subsequent abandonment of the washed out race in Imola has led to something of a staccato feel during the first eight events of the year.
Now F1 fans are to be treated with four races in just five weekends before the mid summer break which takes place in August. Next up this weekend is the Austrian Grand Prix and a host of back stories are expected to evolve.
RB19 suited to Red Bull Ring
Most F1 pundits will agree the Red hot favourite for the weekend in ax Verstappen whose imperious form has seen him win six of the eight races so far this season.
Former driver and president of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association Alex Wurz explains why Red Bull dominance should continue in the Styrian hills.
“They have a car with good top speed, good downforce in slow corners and little drag on the straights. That’s what’s needed at the Red Bull Ring.”
“Of course Max Verstappen has every chance of setting the tone in Spielberg.”
Perez under huge pressure
Its a vital weekend for the other Red Bull driver whose poor form of late has seen Perez fail to make the final qualifying the last three times out.
Openly discussed in the paddock is the Mexican driver’s future given he is driving the same RB19 as Verstappen and yet has struggled to make the podium since the race in Miami.
With the weekend at the Red Bull Ring being a Sprint event as well as a Grand Prix, the teams and drivers have just one practice session to set their cars up for the weekend before Grand Prix qualifying on Friday afternoon.
Mercedes have been making bold claims about the upgrade they brought to Canada which saw Lewis Hamilton claim the third spot on the podium.
Mercedes bold claims
Whilst they failed to get both cars to the chequered flag in Canada, Austrian born Mercedes boss believes there are “encouraging signs from our updated package.”
“We will aim to build on the momentum we have generated over the past two races and continue our positive trajectory with the car,” says Wolff.
“It’s a venue where the W14 should perform better than in Canada, but we won’t take anything for granted. As always, we will be working hard to maximise our performance and deliver strong results.”
Clearly Toto Wolff is throwing down the gauntlet to Aston Martin whose star driver Fernando Alonso beat Hamilton to second last time out.
Marko believes Ferrari strong
Yet Red Bull have earmarked Ferrari to return to the front this weekend having expressed concern over the Ferrari pace in Canada. Qualifying tenth and eleventh in Montreal Sainz and Leclerc never had the opportunity to demonstrate their true race pace which the SF-23 had demonstrated in practice.
Speaking to Austria’s Osterreich newspaper, Helmut Marko believes, ”Ferrari had the fastest car in Montreal. And now the Red Bull Ring suits them.
“If Leclerc starts from row 1 or 2, it won’t be a walk in the park for Max.”
Ferrari tested a new floor during a filming day this week at the Fiorano circuit yet the wild swings in performance from circuit to circuit this year mean its impossible to know how the track temperature will again affect the setup of the Scuderia’s car.
Red Bull gap “bigger than expected”
Adrian Newey’s right hand man at Red Bull reveals the team were surprised at their performance differential this season claiming it to be “bigger than we expected” before the season began.
“It’s the efficiency, I would say,” said Pierre Wache. “On different tracks we are able to produce downforce without massive drag.”
At just over two and a half miles long, the Spielberg circuit is one of the shorter on the F1 calendar and in recent years is known for being draped in orange as the Dutch fans arrive en masse to support Max Verstappen.
F1 champ predicts Austria chaos
Damon Hill the 1996 F1 champion believes qualifying will be chaotic as it was last year.
“It’s all gonna be crammed into this ridiculously tight short track. It’s all over in about a minute, isn’t it?” Hill told F1 Nation podcast.
“The number of cars getting clear laps is gonna be a problem.”
“They’re all getting a bit tetchy because they’re doing their slow-down laps and blocking people inadvertently and getting accused of unsporting behaviour.” he added: “You can’t make your car disappear. These cars are huge.”
Crazy qualifying in 2022
Last year qualifying was frenetic with Sebastian Vettel having a lap time deleted in Q1 and failing to make the next session.
During Q2 Lando Norris fell foul of the traffic and failed to set a representative time seeing him knocked out. Yet race control were the centre of controversy when Sergio Perez ran wide on his last lap.
However the stewards failed to delete his time until the final qualifying session had already begun claiming they had failed to confirm their readings in time.
This meant Pierre Gasly was eliminated and denied the proper opportunity to take part in the final quali session.
FIA deleted time ‘cockup’
Perez set times in Q3 though later the stewards reverted the Red Bull driver to his best legal Q2 lap time demoting the Mexican driver to thirteenth on the grid.
The pole position shoot out saw Hamilton loose control on a quick lap, bounce across the gravel and wreck his car in the barrier. The session was red flagged while the debris was cleared.
On resumption the second Mercedes of George Russell spun at turn 10, again hitting the barrier and eliminating the British driver from the session.
Last lap qualifying wonder
On the final run in qualifying Leclerc set a provisional pole time ahead of Verstappen’s best so far and Carlos Sainz slotted in behind him in second.
Yet the world champion pulled out a last run thrilling lap to clinch pole by just 0.062 of a second.
This year under the new rules there will be two qualifying sessions, the first on Friday afternoon to set the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Then the drivers will do it all again on Saturday morning to decide how they will line up for the one third GP distance Sprint later that afternoon.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 28, 2023