F1 returns to Spielberg for the third running of the revamped Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. After the Baku City Circuit failed somewhat to live up to expectations last time out, we return to F1’s European heartland for a race that can hopefully offer a little more in terms of varied strategy and on track battles.
After a couple of races where it all seemed to be going wrong for the championship leader, Nico Rosberg finally got the better of Lewis Hamilton, taking first place and 25 points as Hamilton struggled to fifth place in Baku. The impetus is now with Rosberg as we return to a venue he is undefeated at since its return to the F1 calendar.
Can he pull out another quality performance in Austria, or can Hamilton strike back in Spielberg?
Same circuit, different track?
A big difference from our last two outings in Austria will be the new track surface. Ahead of the upcoming race, the track has been extensively resurfaced and reports from recently held F3 races indicate that this new surface is much harder on the tyres than previously experienced by F1 cars and their Pirelli rubber.
Williams chief technical officer Pat Symonds expects this to place a significant part in the proceedings, predicting at least a two stop race due to this predicted increase in wear.
Also of note is that along with the new surface, new kerbs have been installed on many of the Red Bull Ring’s corners to try and prevent drivers from cutting corners or otherwise gaining any advantages by taking to the run off. Expect these to play a crucial part in qualifying, as getting out on some of the ‘sausage’ kerbs that have been installed could be a quick route to ruining a hot lap on Saturday afternoon.
Falling Temperatures + Haas
Rain is expected in Austria over the race weekend, with ten millimeters expected any time on Saturday or Sunday. Whether this will play a part in qualifying or the race will no doubt become clearer as we get closer to race day, but some teams will no doubt be praying for a bit of rain in order to mix up the order a little bit. Expect to see the McLaren boys at the end of the pit lane doing their rain dance on Sunday morning.
Whether the rain will affect proceedings or not, falling temperatures will certainly be a crucial factor for some teams, especially those like Haas that struggle with graining issues when they run in cooler conditions.
Following the Mercedes drivers’ struggles in Baku with their complicated engine settings, that Hampered Lewis Hamilton in particular on race day, the debate over F1’s radio rules has once again come to the fore and is being debated throughout the paddock.
Many have seen the situation last Sunday as ridiculous, and that teams should be allowed to help their drivers with the management of some of their car’s incredibly technical management systems, and that the restriction on the radio should really only apply to coaching drivers on how to physically drive the cars around the track. Others will argue that all the drivers have to know how to operate their cars, and that the current restrictions reward those drivers who work harder to understand the systems that they have to manage.
No doubt the debate will rage on over this weekend and beyond, but the current rules remain in place, at least for now.
New Contracts for the Bulls
Before F1 approaches its traditional ‘silly season’, it seems that Red Bull want to tie in two of their drivers in case any other teams get ideas and come sniffing around. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz have signed new contracts with Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso respectively. They will both race for their teams until the end of next season.
Having these two tied down, as well as Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat signed to partner them in their teams, the two Red Bull teams are in possession of four of the brightest young talents in F1.