F1: Post-Britain, Ferrari, Mercedes hope Austria will be alive with the sound of music to their ears – Sports Illustrated

After a strong run at his home track at Silverstone, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton looks to extend his streak of at least one win per season since 2007 this weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix. Photo: John David Mercer / USA Today Sports.
The 2022 British Grand Prix at Silverstone was one of the most exciting and chaotic races in recent memory, and there’s only time for a quick breath before the teams go back to work this weekend in Austria.
There can’t be much argument that the most memorable moment from this past week was the spectacular crash that saw Zhou Guanyu slide upside down across the gravel trap at high speed before flipping over the tire barrier into the surrounding fence.
If you’ve listened to some of the comments on the halo since it’s introduction (along with the aeroscreen in IndyCar), you’d be led to believe that these protective devices have kept racing from having levels of tragedy similar to the 1950s.
But Zhou sliding with a collapsed roll hoop goes along with Romain Grosjean’s car-severing fiery crash through the metal barriers in 2020 as incidents in which you can say “without the halo, this could have been really, really bad.”
Zhou appeared to have walked away almost without a scratch after the horrific looking crash and is ready to get back in the car this weekend – as is Alex Albon, who did experience some back pain following hitting a cement barrier.
The halo also played a big part in preventing disaster in an F2 crash during the Silverstone weekend, when Dennis Hauger’s car launched off a sausage curb (why do we still have those, anyway?) and landed directly on Roy Nissany.
Former FIA boss Jean Todt is justified in taking a bow over his insistence on the adaption of the safety device a few years back.
Heading into Austria, the focus at Ferrari has to be on the performance of team strategists, who once again sabotaged Charles Leclerc’s race with poor decision-making when they left him out on the track during a late safety car, while all his main rivals came in for new tires.
Team boss Mattia Binotto took Leclerc out to dinner in Monaco this week, where we can assume he attempted to reassure the driver that the issues are being addressed (the much discussed “finger wag” following the British Grand Prix was explained as Binotto telling Leclerc not to feel so bad about the result).
For his part, Leclerc continues to be diplomatic about the team despite the season becoming memorable for all the wrong reasons. Right now, it seems hard to criticize his teammate Carlos Sainz for his decision to ignore the team radio instructions en route to his victory at Silverstone, although Ferrari management’s feelings on the issue may be different.
Austria will be the second sprint race weekend of the year, with qualifications on Friday setting the starting grid for Saturday’s sprint, which in turn creates the lineup for Sunday’s race.
With the race taking place at the Red Bull Ring, the home team is expected to be dominant (provided they can avoid any mechanical gremlins) as the track layout suits the team’s straight line speed advantage. Max Verstappen has won three of the last four events at the track, his only blemish being in 2020 when he was forced to retire early with an electrical problem.
The long straights of the Austrian circuit will be an excellent test for Mercedes’ progress on solving its season-long porpoising problem.
After Lewis Hamilton’s strong performance at Silverstone, which briefly saw him in contention for the win, team principal Toto Wolff is optimistic that Mercedes can expect more of the same this weekend as he takes his turn at visiting his home country.
While Wolff doesn’t think his car can yet match Red Bull or Ferrari on pure straight-line speed, he seems encouraged by the team’s overall improvement.
Wolff’s thoughts were echoed by Hamilton, who said in an interview: "I don't think we're in a winning position yet. But we're not far away."
This week marks the half-way point in the season, as Hamilton looks to maintain his record of having won at least one race in every year of his Formula One career, going back to 2007.
ESPN’s new deal with F1, which will reportedly run through 2025, has yet to have all the details revealed. However, it is being widely reported that there will be a provision to allow some amount of racing to be exclusively shown through the network’s streaming service, similar to what we’ve seen with Major League Baseball having some games exclusive to Peacock and Apple TV.
While ESPN said earlier in the year that it hoped to continue commercial-free if a new deal was made, they could be considering an option where only the streaming broadcast would be shown commercial-free, and at an additional fee.
One positive change we’ve already seen with the broadcast that may be a result of the new deal is expanded post-race coverage in the United States. In the past, ESPN’s simulcast of the U.K.’s Sky Sports broadcast usually ended following the interviews at the podium presentation. But it now continues for approximately an hour longer, with race analysis and more driver interviews.
Considering that over one million viewers tuned in early Sunday morning to watch this past weekend’s race, I’d suspect more people are interested in seeing extended Formula One as compared to ESPN’s coverage of professional cornhole or tag.
Now if we could just get Sky Sports to cut down a bit on the crowd shots and switching to replays during the action.
Rising prices around the world have hit F1 the same as any other business, and while the teams aren’t crying poverty, some are having an issue with the sport’s mandated $141-million budget cap.
Not all teams are on the same page on the issue – most of the top teams see expanding the cap as a necessity, while Alpine and Alfa Romeo have come forward with their opinions that a change at this point would be unfair to teams without issues.
The FIA on Friday agreed to an immediate 3.1% increase in the budget cap due to inflation, raising the cap by roughly $4-plus million going forward, Up to now, the cap had been limiting some in-season upgrades and had threatened to cause problems for teams who have had to deal with heavy damage bills.
There have been rumors that Red Bull would be announcing an engine agreement with Porsche this weekend, but so far nothing has materialized to indicate it will happen, at least not just yet.
So if you’re one of the 50 people planning on spending $6 million dollars for the new Red Bull hypercar arriving in 2025, you’ll have to wait to see if the German automaker will have any involvement in the project.
Gregg Fielding has followed all forms of motorsports since watching the ABC nighttime broadcasts of the Indy 500 in the late 1970s. He lives in New York, is particularly keen on F1 and IndyCar, and has attended the Brooklyn Formula E events since their first running in 2017. Follow Gregg on Twitter @GreggFielding


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