Lewis Hamilton has claimed his sixth race victory of 2019, and his fourth win in a row at the French Grand Prix in what was Mercedes sixth one-two finish of the season, and had extended his lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas. And with Ferrari failing to fire once again, can anybody stop Hamilton from winning his sixth world championship, and from moving to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships?
That is the questions that all of Hamilton’s rivals will be trying to answer this weekend at the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, Round Nine of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Hamilton (187 points) leads by 36 points over Bottas (151 points) after a near faultless performance. Pole Position (for the 86th time), race victory (the 79th of his career), led every lap of the race (for the 18th time to move to within one of Ayrton Senna’s record of 19). However, he did miss out on taking the fastest lap of the race, which would have given him his sixth Grand Slam of his career, and would have moved him into outright second behind Jim Clark for most Grand Slams.
However, despite this, you feel like Hamilton is starting to hit top form, and with some races that he loves coming up, most notably the British Grand Prix (Round 10), and the Hungarian Grand Prix (Round 12) within the next month and a half, you sense he could take full control of the 2019 championship.
Meanwhile, Bottas has got to lift if he wants to be any hope of defeating Hamilton, and winning his first world championship, but right now, you feel that Bottas is right at the maximum of his capabilities, and would need misfortune to hit Hamilton hard if the current trend is to be flipped on its head!
Sebastian Vettel (111 points) is third in the championship after Ferrari failed to overturn his penalty in Canada, and after a sub-par qualifying performance (7th), managed to came home in fifth over a minute behind Hamilton, but snatched the fastest lap (the 37th of his career) from Hamilton on the final lap of the race to salvage something on what was a hugely disappointing weekend in so many ways for Vettel.
Max Verstappen (100 points) remains in fourth in the standings for Red Bull Racing-Honda after out-performing his car again to finish in a strong fourth, but Charles Leclerc (87 points) is starting to close in on Verstappen after a second-straight podium finish for Ferrari.
Behind the Top Five in the world championship, we find Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (37 points), who just managed to scrape into the points in 10th, his sixth points finish of the year, but only three of those six have been Top Six finishes, and the questions will start to come asking whether Gasly’s performance has been up to scratch.
In my opinion, I think Gasly is performing largely to the potential of his car, but Verstappen right now is on another planet in comparison to his teammate, and if Verstappen gets in a better car than what he is in right now, he is surely capable of winning world championships!
Behind Gasly, Carlos Sainz Jr. (26 points) is seventh in the championship for McLaren-Renault after an impressive sixth-placed finish at Circuit Paul Ricard on a weekend where McLaren actually looked faster at times than Red Bull, and is ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (19 points), who finished the French Grand Prix in seventh for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari.
The two Renault’s of Daniel Riccardo and Nico Hülkenberg complete the Top 10 equal on 16 points after the latter’s eighth-placed finish, and after the former’s two separate five-second penalties due to gaining advantage by exceeding track limits, and then by failing to re-join the track safely.
In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (338 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (198 points) to 140 points, while Red Bull Racing-Honda (137 points) are continuing to be left behind by Ferrari.
And, then it is McLaren-Renault (40 points) and Renault (32 points) in a tight battle for fourth, while it is a dogfight for sixth between Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (19 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (19 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (17 points), and Haas-Ferrari (16 points), with Williams-Mercedes still stuck on zero points.
So, who will win the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix?
You feel that if Bahrain and Canada were good for Ferrari, and that for a large part of the weekend in Azerbaijan, Ferrari were on top of Mercedes, then the Red Bull Ring has to be Ferrari’s best chance so far to claim their first win of 2019. Sectors One and to a lesser extent Sector Two should suit Ferrari, and while the more technical final sector should suit Mercedes, you feel that Ferrari should have enough up their sleeves to claim their first race victory of 2019!
I am tipping Sebastian Vettel to claim the Austrian Grand Prix for Ferrari, just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, while it will be a tight battle between Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc, and Max Verstappen for the final spot on the podium.