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.

Advertisements

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).