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From storied Silverstone, the Formula 1 circus rolls on to Spielberg for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Austria. While Silverstone is considered a home race for many of the teams, including Red Bull Racing, this track bears the name Red Bull Ring, so it is certainly considered the home track for Red Bull Racing, and Ferrari and the rest of the field will be looking to spoil the homecoming for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
The sprint race Saturday was a display of Verstappen skill and Red Bull Racing’s pure speed. Perhaps just as impressive was Perez again finding trouble but fighting his way through the field to finish fifth behind the Mercedes of George Russell.
And while Charles Leclerc insists that all is fine at Ferrari, the tussle he and teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. had during the sprint, where both battled each other for position, is an indication that all is likely not well in the Scuderia garage. Ferrari put more of an emphasis on the Constructor’s Cup than the individual glory of the driver’s championship, and with both Leclerc and Sainz so close in the driver’s title chase, they will not favor one or the other until a clear favorite emerges out of their battles.
Drivers will run 71 laps over the 10-turn, 2.683-mile (4.318km) circuit, one of the shortest if not the shortest track on the F1 calendar. Interestingly, there are three DRS zones for the Red Bull Ring (as opposed to only two the previous event at Silverstone). The first DRS zone is between Turn 1 and 2, the second at Turn 3 to just before Turn 7, and the final one just after Turn 9 and halfway down the front straight.
Previous races have shown that the zone entering Turn 3 and through the hairpin to Turn 4 is the bit of the track that sees the most action on passes.
Pirelli will be bringing their softest compound tires to this race. As last year’s event was won on a two-stop strategy, look for drivers and teams to likely opt for the medium compound of the “softs” to start and then go to the harder compound of the “softs” to the finish.
And there’s a better than even chance there will be at least a virtual safety car, if not an actual one, this race.
Alpine: Since Canada, Fernando Alonso has found his love for F1 again, but this will be another race where they are more likely competing with McLaren rather than at the top against the Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.
McLaren: Daniel Ricciardo’s poor performance at Silverstone almost drops this team into the “On the back foot” category, but Lando Norris’ points finish pulls them up into “Running in place.” McLaren will certainly be looking to capitalize on Norris’ momentum and finish in the top 10.
Mercedes GP: Lewis Hamilton is not expecting the Silver Arrows to replicate the pace they showed at smooth Silverstone, as the Red Bull Ring’s low-speed corners and high downforce does not play to their strengths. “We’ve always struggled in Austria, so it’s going to be hard to win here, I think,” Hamilton told Formula 1’s official website.
Alfa Romeo: Alfa gets moved up to this category simply for the fact that Zhou Guanyu has been cleared to race and will start 14th at the Red Bull Ring. Considering the violence of his crash at Silverstone, that alone makes them a winner on the season.
Ferrari: A fantastic weekend at Silverstone for the Scuderia that also came with a few warts. Charles Leclerc was a little upset over the strategy calls, Carlos Sainz Jr. ignored team orders and went on to win, and somehow what should have been a big positive for a team looking to regain its mojo had a dark cloud around it. Leclerc told Formula 1’s official website that what looked like a scolding from Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto on TV was actually the latter trying to cheer him up and look at the bright side. Sure. From the display they put on in the Austrian GP sprint race, while Leclerc has it in his mind that he is the No. 1 driver, and Binotto may have told him as much, Ferrari will not put their full weight behind him until he demonstrates that he is the team’s best chance at the driver’s title.
Red Bull Racing: This is the team’s other home track, but the conditions may actually favor the Ferraris, which have shown themselves to be very quick on tracks with low-speed corners and high downforce. Still, Verstappen has erased the bad memories of Silverstone, where he struggled from Lap 15 on with an ill-handling car, with a dominating performance at the Red Bull Ring in qualifying and the sprint race that will likely carry over into Sunday’s grand prix.
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