Lewis Hamilton can be fancied to build on his victory in France last weekend by topping the podium once more as the Formula One paddocks travels east to Spielberg for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 9:10am ET).
Hamilton qualified on pole position and then recorded a comfortable win in France. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel ran into Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas at the first corner, sending both of them down the field and taking Hamilton’s main threats out of contention.
It was a silly error from Vettel. While he did well to recover to fifth, it was nevertheless a result that saw him hand Hamilton the championship lead. Vettel has led well over twice as many laps as Hamilton over the course of the eight races to date, but they still have three wins apiece. Hamilton has only failed to make the podium twice; Vettel four times.
It is Hamilton’s consistency in picking up results that currently sees him top the championship, and he should have an opportunity to extend that advantage this weekend. Mercedes have dominated since the Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar in 2014, winning all four of the races, and they seem confident of again having good pace this time around.
Hamilton has only actually won once before in Austria, and it was Bottas who triumphed from pole position last year. But Bottas, who recovered to seventh in France with a damaged car, is having such rotten luck this season that it is difficult to suggest backing him. Hamilton looks the better bet for victory on Sunday.
Max Verstappen secured his third podium finish in four races by coming home second to Hamilton in France. His Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth after front-wing damage slowed him down and allowed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to nip in to take the final place on the podium.
As the name of the circuit would suggest, the Austrian Grand Prix acts as a home race for Red Bull. The Red Bull Ring looks relatively simple from above, with four straights of varying lengths connected by a series of sweeping, medium-speed corners. But there are elevation changes and a few blind crests that challenge the drivers more than it would first appear. Maintaining rhythm through the lap and carrying good speed onto the straights is key.
Red Bull’s relative lack of straight-line pace will handicap them to a degree, especially with the addition of a further DRS zone for this year’s Grand Prix, but it hasn’t prevented them from running near the front over the last couple of years. Verstappen finished second two years ago; last year, it was Ricciardo who secured a podium by coming home third.
Verstappen has recovered from his chaotic start to the season with some very solid finishes in recent races and has a decent chance of extending that run this weekend by giving Red Bull a top-three finish on home soil.
Given the number of straights at the Red Bull Ring, it is perhaps unsurprising that Mercedes-powered teams have flourished there. Last year, six of the 10 points-paying positions were taken by cars with Mercedes power. Since 2014, 24 of the 40 points positions have been so filled.
Force India came home seventh and eighth at last year’s race and will be hoping to secure a similar points haul this weekend. They felt they had the pace to achieve a good result in France, only for Esteban Ocon to be crashed out on the opening lap and Sergio Perez to retire with an a engine problem just as he was on the verge of getting into the top 10.
Instead, they lost ground to some of the other midfield teams. Kevin Magnussen secured an excellent sixth-place finish for Haas, moving them to within a point of Force India in the standings, while Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg came home eighth and ninth respectively to significantly extend their advantage over the team. The final top-1o place was taken by Charles LeClerc in his Sauber.
The good news for Force India was that McLaren failed to score for a third consecutive race, meaning that their fifth place in the championship could still be up for grabs. Particularly so if the update package Force India bring to Austria provides the pace gain they hope it will. Ocon will be keen to make up for his early exit from his home Grand Prix last weekend, and he can be fancied to secure his team a points finish on Sunday.
Our Betting Preview’s F1 Austrian Grand Prix Predictions & Picks Verdict
For those interested in a wager with one of the popular USA online bookies, then these are this preview’s F1 Austrian Grand Prix predictions: