Austrian GP
June 29 - July 1, 2018
Red Bull Ring
Race Winner
Max Verstappen
Renault
1:21:56.024
1 Pit
Austrian GP
SESSIONSRESULTTIME
Free Practice 1
HAM
1:04.839
Free Practice 2
HAM
1:04.579
Free Practice 3
VET
1:04.070
Qualifying
BOT
1:03.130
Race
VES
1:21:56.024

Austrian Grand Prix preview: Can Lewis Hamilton capitalise on Mercedes' advantage?


The first French Grand Prix in a decade saw momentum swing back to Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton recorded another dominant lights-to-flag victory to open up a 14 point buffer in the drivers' championship standings.

Focus on... Has Mercedes finally broken clear of the pack?

If there was some panic in the Mercedes garage after a difficult weekend in Canada then you can be sure it's shifted to Ferrari on the back of a commanding Lewis Hamilton victory in France

The Silver Arrows introduced their delayed engine update at Paul Ricard and it paid immediate dividends with Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas locking out the front row of the grid before the four-time world champion led every lap bar one en route to win No. 65 of his career.

Mercedes had planned to run the update in Montreal but were forced to hold off due to a 'quality' concern and as a result were never in the fight with the Scuderia at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. So, have the tables turned yet again?

Unfortunately Sebastian Vettel's ambitious attempt to pass Bottas at the opening corner in France ruined any chance we had of discovering who now has the best race pace in a head-to-head scenario but luckily we don't have to wait long to find out with Austria the second race of Formula One's unprecedented back-to-back-to-back.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the French Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium after winning the French Grand Prix.
Octane/Action Plus via Getty Images

With three races in three weeks this could prove to be a crucial period in the season, particularly if Ferrari are entering it on the back foot. Hamilton could quite possibly open up a healthy lead in the drivers' championship over the next fortnight, beginning at the Red Bull Ring where Mercedes has secured pole position the last three years and won every race since it was added to the calendar in 2014.

In need of a win? Red Bull

It will probably come as no surprise that Mercedes has scored more points than any other constructor since May's Azerbaijan Grand Prix but you might not be aware that Red Bull has actually outscored Ferrari for the second greatest haul.

The Silver Arrows have tallied 127 points in that four race stretch while Red Bull have 109 -- nine more than Ferrari. In fact, if it wasn't for Red Bull's double DNF in both Bahrain and Baku, we'd most likely be witnessing a tantalising three-way battle for the constructors' championship.

As it stands, Red Bull is 75 points behind Mercedes and 50 off Ferrari heading into their home race and in need of another significant haul of points in order to avoid being well and truly dropped.

In the 2016 edition of the Austrian Grand Prix Red Bull claimed second through Max Verstappen before Daniel Ricciardo finished third last year. Can the Bulls complete a sweep of the podium places and re-ignite their championship challenge this weekend?

In need of points? Fernando Alonso

You get the sense that the next two weeks could be very telling for Alonso and whether or not he decides to remain in Formula One for season 2019.

After opening the season with five consecutive points scoring finishes -- one of only three drivers to achieve the feat -- Alonso slumped to back-to-back retirements in Monaco and Canada before again failing to take the chequered flag last time out in France.

Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren F1 talks with Felipe Massa on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren F1 talks with Felipe Massa on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Charles Coates/Getty Images

McLaren's season struck a new low at Le Castellet with the eight-time constructors' champions suffering a double Q1 exit just hours after the now infamous Freddo-gate surfaced.

It all could be quickly forgotten with improved performances in Austria and Great Britain but another pair of poor races could see Alonso running for the exit.

Tyre talk

Available compounds: Soft, Super-soft, Ultra-soft

Pirelli's pointers:

  • Austria is one of the shortest laps of the year (but the fastest in terms of lap time) with relatively low energy loads being placed through the tyres and good grip from the asphalt.
  • With lots of elevation, many corners are blind: finding a set-up that gives confidence is key.
  • A one-stop strategy was the most common choice last year, but with a number of different variations.

Minimum starting pressures: Front 22.5psi, rear 20.5psi

Weather forecast

There has been plenty of rain around Spielberg this week and while it is expected to continue falling on Friday, it should clear up for an overcast qualifying and race day.

However, given the Red Bull Ring's location in the Austrian mountains, rain can often be unpredictable so certainly don't rule out a shower at any point over the weekend.

Mercedes has won all four races held at the Red Bull Ring dating back to 2015.
Mercedes has won all four races held at the Red Bull Ring dating back to 2015.
Lars Baron/Getty Images

Betting

For the second race running Hamilton is offering up odds of 11/10 for a victory with Vettel back at 2/1. The Red Bulls are at the third line of betting with Ricciardo and Verstappen both at 7/1 for a win and more likely than Bottas who is offering up odds of 9/1 to notch up his first win of 2018. 

How about the race's first retirement? Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean are equal-favourties for this one at 10/1 while if Hamilton is the first into retirement you can make 33/1.

ESPN's prediction

Mercedes' recent engine upgrade looks ominous. Combine that with their recent dominance in Austria and you have a clear favourite this weekend.

Winner: Lewis Hamilton

Bonus prediction: Mercedes to record its second one-two finish of 2018