2019 Austrian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The MotoGP grid returned from their mid-season break, along with the same story that has dominated this season so far, the dominance of Marc Márquez!

Márquez not only grabbed his 50th premier class victory, his sixth race victory of the season in the Czech Republic, being the only rider so far in 2019 to have more than one win to his name, but before that, Márquez in changeable conditions took a remarkable 58th premier class pole position to equal the record held by Mick Doohan!

So, the question about whether anyone can challenge or stop Márquez will be the main storyline, along with whether Márquez can break Doohan’s pole position record in the premier class as we head into the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, Round 11 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (210 points) leads the championship by 63 points for the Repsol Honda Team over Mission Winnow Ducati Andrea Dovizioso (147 points), and even Dovizioso, along with the rest of the grid, is wondering how are they going to get on terms with the five-time MotoGP World Champion, despite finishing second in Brno.

It is one thing doing it at one venue every few rounds, like what could happen this week at the Red Bull Ring, with Ducati being a strong chance of challenging Márquez, it is another thing doing every round, and right now, no one else on the MotoGP grid can match what the great Spaniard is doing!

Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (129 points) is third in the world championship, losing ground to his teammate in battle for second in the championship after a disappointing eighth-placed finish at the Czech Republic Grand Prix, while Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Álex Rins (114 points) maintained his challenge for third in the standings despite finishing fourth.

Behind the Top Four in the world championship, we have the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders in Maverick Viñales (91 points) and Valentino Rossi (90 points) after finishing sixth and 10th respectively in Brno.

As a team right now, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP should be embarassed about where they are right now, and with the exception of the single race victory by Viñales in Assen, they haven’t looked genuinely close to winning a race in 2019 on merit, and right now are being challenged by Jack Miller (86 points) from Alma Pramac Racing after finishing a brilliant third in the Czech Republic from second on the grid.

If he continues this kind of form for the rest of 2019, Miller will finish ahead of both factory Yamaha riders in the championship!

Cal Crutchlow (78 points) is eighth in the world championship for LCR Honda after finishing fifth behind Márquez, Dovizioso, Miller, and Rins, and is in a close battle for this position in the standings with Petronas Yamaha SRT rookie Fabio Quartararo (76 points), who finished two places behind the British rider in seventh, while Pol Espargaró (61 points) completes the Top 10 in the championship for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, ahead of Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (57 points), and Quartararo’s teammate Franco Morbidelli (52 points).

So, who is going to win the 2019 Austrian Grand Prix?

This race should suit Ducati because of the long straights, the hard-braking sections at the end of the long straights, and the general point-and-squirt nature of the Red Bull Ring. However, Marc Márquez was right there with the Ducati of Jorge Lorenzo last year, like he was with the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in 2017, and with Honda taking a big step forward with their bike in 2019 in regards to straight-line performance, Márquez has to be the man to beat at every circuit for the rest of 2019!

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2019 Austrian Grand Prix – Preview

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.

2018 Austrian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a sensational race in the Czech Republic, with the top three of Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Marc Márquez covered by just 0.368 seconds in the race, and the top six covered by just 3.768 seconds, the MotoGP grid back up quickly, and they head to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 11 in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, with Márquez having a healthy and strong cushion in the championship.

Márquez (181 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 49 points over Valentino Rossi (132 points) for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Márquez got his 71st MotoGP podium in his 100th MotoGP race in Brno in the Czech Republic, showing a level of maturity that hasn’t been needed to be displayed, mostly because he has been faster than anyone else, not willing to risk his large championship lead just to win in the Czech Republic as he didn’t quite (all relative) have the bike underneath him to win the race. If Márquez continues in the vain of form he is currently in, it is inevitable he will win his fifth MotoGP World Championship.

While for Rossi, he is slowly slipping out of championship contention after finishing fourth in Brno, and it appears like his main aim will be to finish the championship in second-place, but the good news for Rossi is that he has a 19-point gap over third-place in the championship Andrea Dovizioso (113 points) for the Ducati Team.

Dovizioso moved up from fourth to third in the championship after his victory in the Czech Republic, his second of the season, and on the Ducati, should be even stronger at the Red Bull Ring, a circuit suited to the engine power and straight-line performance of the Ducati. Dovizioso leads a six-way battle for third championship with Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (109 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Lorenzo (105 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (97 points), Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (94 points), and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (90 points).

Completing the top 10 in the championship is Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (81 points), and Petrucci’s teammate Jack Miller (61 points), both of whom have struggled in the last four to five races, with Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (58 points) and Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (57 points) just outside the top 10.

So, who will win in Austria?

You sense that both of the factory Ducati riders in Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo will be strong at the Red Bull Ring, but you cannot rule out Marc Márquez, especially after almost winning last year in Austria, so you get the feeling he will be the biggest challengers to Dovizioso and Lorenzo, but this weekend will be huge for Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, and Yamaha as far as their championship bid is concerned.

You feel that Rossi or Viñales must win this weekend to keep their slim championship hopes alive, but you just can’t see them winning any race at the moment, but are certainly a strong podium hope.

 

2018 Austrian GP – Preview

After a weekend where Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes seized the initiative in their battle with Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari for the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship by winning the French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the grid heads to Austria, and the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for Round Nine of the championship, and the second leg of Formula One’s first-ever triple-header.

Hamilton (145 points) leads the world championship by 14 points over Sebastian Vettel (131 points) after dominating the first French Grand Prix since 2008 from pole position, leading all but one lap to claim his third victory of the season while all the carnage happened behind him, with Vettel being given a five-second time penalty for colliding with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, which damaged both of their cars, with Vettel managing to drive his way back through the field to claim fifth, although over a minute behind Hamilton, in what was a strong damage limitation effort.

And with the difficulties for Bottas, Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer driver Daniel Ricciardo (96 points) has jumped back up to third in the championship, despite some difficulties during the race caused by a damaged front wing, which ultimately cost him a podium finish, finishing in fourth position, while Bottas (92 points) moves down to fourth position after a tough race in France, finishing seventh with a wounded car.

Kimi Räikkönen (83 points) is fifth in the world championship for Ferrari after securing his 25th podium in his last 103 races (102 starts), but with no victories in those 25 podiums after finishing third in France after showing some strong pace after a bad start, overtaking his ailing teammate in Vettel, who was struggling with his tyres, as well as the ailing Ricciardo, who had a damaged front wing, to secure his fourth podium of the season.

Max Verstappen (68 points) is sixth in the championship, but is quickly finding some strong form after picking up his third podium of the year, finishing second, and keeping Hamilton honest for much of the race. However, the hopes of Ricciardo, Bottas, Räikkönen, and Verstappen catching Hamilton and Vettel in the world championship battle appear to be evaporating by the race, and are slowly becoming non-serious championship contenders.

Behind the top six in the championship, Nico Hülkenberg (34 points) moves up to seventh in the standings for Renault after finishing ninth at the Circuit Paul Ricard, a position behind his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in what was a tough weekend for the German after starting in 12th position on the grid.

Fernando Alonso (32 points) has dropped a spot in the championship to eighth after being classified 16th after stopping late in the race with suspension issues with his car in what was a disastrous weekend for McLaren-Honda, while Sainz Jr. (28 points) and Kevin Magnussen (27 points) complete the top 10 in the championship for Renault and Haas-Ferrari.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship standings, Mercedes (237 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (214 points) in the championship to 23 points, while Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (164 points) continue to lock down a comfortable third in the championship. Behind them, Renault (62 points) have pulled away from McLaren-Renault (40 points) in the battle for fourth, while Force India-Mercedes (28 points) hang onto sixth position by a point ahead of Haas-Ferrari (27 points), while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points), Sauber-Ferrari (13 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points) complete the standings.

So, who will win the Austrian Grand Prix?

I think if the new power-unit from Mercedes gives them the sort of advantage that they had in France, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will be very hard to beat, but I suspect Ferrari will also be a strong contender for the race win, particularly with Sebastian Vettel.

MotoGP Austria GP – Preview

The 11th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria, a week after the Czech Republic Grand Prix that amazed in so many ways.

Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 154 points after taking his second-successive victory of the season at the Brno Circuit after him and his team made some very smart calls in regards to their race strategy.

Starting in very intermediate conditions, bordering on dry conditions, Márquez and his Repsol Honda Team decided to start on the soft wet rear tyre, a tyre which in the eyes of many would degrade quicker than the medium wet rear tyre in those conditions. However, when Márquez realised that this wasn’t working, as he was falling back down the field, he pitted at the end of Lap Two to change bikes for one with dry tyres (medium front, medium rear), and it worked!

Most of the field were slow to realise that the track conditions had changed, and were made to look like fools by the fast-thinking Márquez, and his team, cruising in the end to a 12.438 second victory over his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who now sits fifth in the championship on 123 points, 31 points behind Márquez.

Second in the championship is the man who finished third in the Czech Republic, Maverick Viñales. The factory Yamaha rider was lucky not to lose more points against his main championship rival after pitting two laps later than Márquez. Viñales is now on 140 points, 14 points behind his fellow Spaniard.

Andrea Dovizioso is third in the world championship for Ducati on 133 points, 21 points behind the championship leader after finishing in sixth in the Czech Republic.

Dovizioso pitted three laps later than Márquez, and one lap later than teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who got caught out by his team not being ready for him to pit, meaning that he finished 15th in the race, and leaves Lorenzo down in 10th position in the championship on 66 points in what has been his worst season to date.

Valentino Rossi is fourth in world championship on his factory Yamaha on 132 points, 22 points behind Márquez after finishing fourth at the Brno Circuit, pitting three laps later than the race winner and championship leader.

Johann Zarco is sixth in the championship on his Yamaha on 88 points, 11 points ahead of his teammate Jonas Folger (77 points), who is ahead of both Danilo Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow, who are both on 75 points each.

Looking ahead to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, it looks to be a circuit on paper that suits the Ducati down to a tee. They were dominant last year at the Red Bull Ring, picking up a one-two finish with Andrea Iannone finishing ahead of Andrea Dovizioso at one of the most power sensitive circuits on the calendar, rewarding the straight-line speed and engine power of the Ducati.

The Red Bull Ring is also a circuit that also rewards a well-handling bike, with the Yamaha’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finishing under four seconds behind the race winner, despite the supposed lack of power and straight-line speed from the Yamaha and their engine.

Also, despite their bad performance last year at the Red Bull Ring, you cannot rule out the two factory Honda’s having a big say in who is going to win the Austrian Grand Prix.

The maximum temperatures for the weekend in Spielberg are set to be ranging between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius, and that will certainly suit the factory Yamaha’s of Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi over the factory Honda’s of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa if previous history is anything to go by in 2017.

However, as far as the track characteristics are concerned, all signs point to a Ducati win, and I believe Jorge Lorenzo will get his first victory for the Italian manufacturer in a one-two finish ahead of Andrea Dovizioso.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).

2017 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

The ninth round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Sebastian Vettel leads the world drivers’ championship for Ferrari on 153 points, extending his lead over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (139 points) to 14 points after both finishing off the podium in Azerbaijan in fourth and fifth respectively, making it the first race since the Malaysian Grand Prix last year where neither Vettel or Hamilton finished on the podium.

Both the championship protagonists had problems in Azerbaijan, with Vettel receiving a 10 second STOP-AND-GO penalty after causing a collision with Hamilton, while Hamilton had to unexpectedly pit to change his headrest after it wasn’t attached properly after the red flag midway through the race.

The penalty for Vettel received a lot of criticism for various media sources close to Formula One, as well as teams, drivers, and legends of the sport.

I have stated my opinion on the incident between Vettel and Hamilton last week and while I thought Vettel should have been disqualified for breaches of Article 27.4, and Article 39.8 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations, I can understand the difficulty stewards had in handing out a penalty that fit the crime due to the penalty-points system that has been introduced into Formula One in recent years, and thought it was the better way of handling the incident, although many people would disagree with this.

Valtteri Bottas is third in the world championship for Mercedes on 111 points after salvaging a miraculous second after being a lap down after two laps after a tyre puncture after a collision with Kimi Räikkönen.

Räikkönen drops to fifth in the world championship on 73 points after having a myriad of issues in Azerbaijan, eventually retiring with an oil leak. He needs to respond this with a podium (at worst), otherwise his place at Ferrari for 2018 will be under scrutiny.

The man in fourth position in the world championship is Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (92 points) after a remarkable victory on the streets of Baku, taking his fifth race win of his Formula One career, and capping off a run of four-consecutive podiums.

While he has never had to best car throughout his Formula One career so far, Ricciardo has this innate ability to put himself in at the right place, at the right time to pick up the pieces if rivals have problems, and run with it!

Talking about fierce rivals, Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen cannot a trick right now in his Red Bull, suffering his fourth retirement of the season, and his second retirement in a row at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, growing ever frustrated at his team’s inability to produce a reliable car.

Verstappen looked like a genuine contender for a race victory in Baku for most of the weekend until encountering issues with his car. Red Bull have got to sort out their reliability issues with both cars if they want to make sure they keep third place in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of Force India.

Before I touch on the Constructors’ Championship, I would like to give a special mention to Lance Stroll for his first podium in Formula One. Stroll drove a very mature race to become the second-youngest driver to finish on a Formula One podium, and while he is not the finished product yet, he does have some untapped potential and deserves to be persevered with.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (250 points) lead by 24 points over Ferrari (226 points), with both Red Bull (137 points) and Force India (79 points) comfortably in third and fourth respectively. There is a good scrap for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship with Williams (37 points), Toro Rosso (33 points), Haas (21 points), and Renault (18 points) all within 19 points of each other, with Sauber (five points) and McLaren (two points) battling for ninth and 10th in the Constructors’ Championship after Fernando Alonso scored McLaren’s first points of the season in Azerbaijan.

Looking at who will be strong at the Red Bull Ring, on paper Mercedes looks like the better package, who have all the ingredients for success in Spielberg, with a strong powerunit, a well-balanced car through the quick corners and changes of direction, and decent traction out of the slow to medium speed corners.

Ferrari also look close to Mercedes on paper, while it will be interesting to see whether Red Bull will have a good package in Austria to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari.

I am tipping a Mercedes victory, with Lewis Hamilton leading home a Mercedes one-two finish.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 71 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).