2014 Austrian Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

Well, its been too long, in more ways than one. Not only is this the first F1 weekend that I will be covering properly since Malaysia, but it is also the first Austrian Grand Prix since the V10 glory days of 2003. The circuit in Spielberg, (or is it Zeltweg) may look simple in theory, but it is a challenging circuit and what it lacks in technical, tight and twisty sections it make up for in raw speed. The circuit is undoubtedly a power track, with three daunting straights, climbs and descents. It may be called the Red Bull Ring, but the Austrian Grand Prix is theoretically, another Mercedes circuit.

Check out Sky Sports F1’s photo gallery from Thursday in Austria

The Facts…

  • This weekend is the first Austrian Grand Prix since 2003
  • The circuit was known as the Osterreichring, built in 1969. It held its first race in 1970 but was dropped from the calender in 1987. It then returned to the calender in 1997, with a new layout, (which is used today) and dropped again after 2003. 
  • Alain Prost is the most successful driver in the history of the Austrian Grand Prix, taking three wins in 1983, 1985 and 1986.
  • None of the current crop of drivers have ever won the Austrian Grand Prix and only four have ever competed at the venue before: Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.
  • Kimi Raikkonen came second in 2003, behind Michael Schumacher.
  • The race will take place over 71 laps  

12 Months Ago…

The paddock was arriving in Silverstone, ready for the British Grand Prix. Of course, this is the part of the preview where I usually reminisce on the events of the previous season’s equivalent event. Last year, it was around this time, that Austria confirmed that it would return to the F1 calender – news which brought a great reception. The Red Bull Ring, as it is now known, has been revamped in the eleven years since the sport last arrived. A new grandstand has been erected along the pit straight, tarmac has replaced gravel in some spots and a new Bull statue has been constructed at the heart of the circuit – just in case you forgot who owns the track. 

The Happy One

You would be forgiven for thinking that Daniel Ricciardo’s smile could not get any wider. However, following his unexpected and simply astounding victory in Canada, the young Aussie seems to be wearing a hyper-extended grin at the moment. In today’s press conference, Daniel reflected on his victory, equipped with his trademark expression, but ensured the media that complacency would not be a factor for him in the coming races. “It’s just going to make him more motivated,” he stated. “I obviously can’t rest now and can’t get too complacent. Keep pushing and hopefully it works well for both of us to get further up the grid.”
While thoughts of Canada will undoubtedly put a grimace on the faces of those in silver, (non more so than Lewis Hamilton,) Ricciardo’s victory should largely be taken with a pinch of salt. Mercedes are still overwhelming favourites for anything they enter at the moment. Be it single lap pace, or long run pace, they are just that. Even their pit-stops are far from shabby affairs. On the long straights, Mercedes will surly kick the likes of Ricciardo into the long grass this weekend, in a similar manner to the first half of the Canadian Grand Prix. Assuming they do not all foul of more technical issues, two in a row for Ricciardo will be a tall order, to say the least.

The Argument Continues

Sergio Perez or Felipe Massa? Who’s to blame for the accident on the penultimate lap of the Canadian Grand Prix, which put both drivers into the barriers at frightening speeds. It has been an argument which has raged for the past two weeks, with fuel added to the fire by Force India, who are supposedly preparing to appeal the decision made by the stewards to give Perez a five place grid-drop. Twitter has been at the heart of the disagreement, with Force India taking to the social media site to defend their driver.
Even in today’s press conference, Perez was quizzed on the incident. The question was in relation to Massa’s recent comments, suggesting that he would no longer trust Sergio on the circuit. In my opinion, this situation can only affect both drivers negatively – it has to be solved quickly. I expect both Perez and Massa to speak to each other in regards to the collision this weekend, as what seems to have been a racing incident, (at least from my perspective) is becoming a saga which could threaten the prospects for their weekends.

Prediction Corner

It’s that time again! Prediction Corner, which has been remarkably successful for me in the first three races this season, is where I make predictions, (bold or otherwise,) as to the results for the weekend. Firstly, Saturday should be a case of normal service resumed, with two Mercedes drivers split by a fraction for pole position. On such a short circuit, the margins between the drivers are likely to be minimal and Mercedes, despite their strength, are unlikely to take pole by over a second from P3. Considering his bounce-back-ability, (for use of a contemporary term) and his usual impressive ability to squeeze every last thousandth out of the braking zones, I predict a Lewis Hamilton pole. For these same reasons, it will be another Hamilton victory, with Rosberg in close company behind and Sebastian Vettel, taking P3.

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