F1 2014 Austrian Grand Prix
Mercedes once again are the most dominant team on the grid, with the battle for pole crucial to championship standings.
Local Time: 11 AM (Austria)
Top 3 Qualifying Position: Valtteri Bottas @ 2.90 See the Latest Odds
TV: Sky Sports F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
Formula 1 returns to Austria after a near 11 year absence with the locals hoping Red Bull might receive the same fortune afforded to them last time out in Canada.
Being the first non-Mercedes driver to win a race in season 2014, Daniel Ricciardo certainly sits with the bragging rights over the rest of the field. The competition quickly becoming known as the ‘best of the rest’ is currently being led by the ever consistent Fernando Alonso, but Red Bull’s recent upturn in performance sees them as a perennial threat to the podium.
This of course, is all based on the assumptions that both Mercedes lead faultless races, which wasn’t the case in Montreal. Their reliability issues probably aren’t going to prove as costly in terms of winning a championship, for that they’ve all but won.
The more interesting aspect is if reliability issues do arise, like the ERS problem that dogged both Mercedes cars forcing Hamilton to retire from the lead and Rosberg to drop to second, which car will they hit hardest?
Hamilton has already come out and said he fears another problem could be the fatal blow for his quest for a second World Championship. Considering he finds himself sitting 22 points adrift of Rosberg heading into round 8, you’d have to say its slight exaggeration. Had this exact situation played out another five races into the season, you might say he’d be right.
There are still 325 points to be won, and considering the double edged sword that is the introduction of double points for the final round in Abu Dhabi, the title is extremely likely to head down right to the wire.
The battle still captures the minds of all F1 fans alike. On one side the erratic yet sensationally brilliant Hamilton, on the other the methodical, studious and seemingly assured Rosberg. So far, barring his two retirements, Hamilton’s method appears to be paying off.
But it might very well be Hamilton’s gung-ho, max-speed-at-all-times attitude is the very reason that when a problem is thrown his way, retirements inevitably follow due to his inability to adjust his style and adapt to the issues he faces. Contrastingly Rosberg was so clever to understand the limits of his car once the ERS system issue started in Canada, conserving his race for second place rather than risking everything for the victory.
Here in Spielberg, Austria nothing appears to be different. At the end of Friday practise Hamilton lead Rosberg by a comfortable 0.4 seconds, who then led Alonso by a more comfortable 0.5 seconds. Williams again showed their pace finishing P4 and P5 and will be very strong contenders for the first two rows again in qualifying tomorrow.
Red Bull appeared to struggle with their absolute pace, with neither Ricciardo nor Vettel appearing settled with the set-up of the RB10. While it is their race pace which has shown itself to be the best, save for Mercedes, over the last few races
The two disappointing aspects of the season so far have been the apparent inability of McLaren to capitalise on the sensational start they had in Melbourne. Since then they’ve failed to register a podium and, apart from Jenson Button’s P4 in Canada, haven’t appeared like contending.
Similarly Kimi Raikkonen, expected to challenge Alonso so strongly at Ferrari, has failed to live up to expectations and his reputation so far. 51 points behind his teammate and again struggling to get to grips with his Ferrari at the Red Bull Ring, Raikkonen really needs a lift otherwise the season could turn into a complete nightmare.
There is quite simply no indication that anything other than the status quo will prevail in Austria. While Williams are the strongest challenger to Mercedes dominance, Hamilton and Rosberg will fight it out for pole.
That said, it might be time for Bottas to step up, in the same way he stole the show in qualifying in Canada last year.
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