After the drama of Azerbaijan, Formula One turns its attention to Austria this weekend for the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix. This race is also Red Bull’s home race but will be overshadowed by off track events.
That is because attention will be on the FIA and Sebastian Vettel following Monday’s indiscipline over his behaviour in Baku apart from some agreed community service. Surely for action to have consequences, drivers shouldn’t be able to negotiate a punishment that suits them???
Away from that fiasco, there are several other things to keep an eye on over the weekend but there is only one place to start…
Will Vettel crack?
Despite the FIA’s lack of guts in disciplining Vettel for his irresponsible behaviour, he has nine points on his license. Two of those points will come off on Monday per FIA rules but there’s still time to pick up a ban from the British Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver needs to keep his head down because if he cracks and pick up three more points, he will incur a race ban thus handing Hamilton a potential break back point in the championship.
With this in mind, we could see a subdued Vettel focusing on just bring the car home with as many points as he can and no trouble to boot. Alternatively, the other drivers could try and provoke him into destroying his own title ambitions by earning a race ban.
Peace at Force India?
Force India team boss, Bob Fernley will be keen to see his drivers not clash again for rest of season.
The last two races have seen tension rise at Force India following on track race drama.
Canada saw Sergio Perez refusing to let Esteban Ocon pass to chase Daniel Ricciardo down for third place costing them a potential haul of 25 points, when Vettel knocked them down to fifth and sixth by race end.
Baku then saw both drivers collide, when could of easily finished 1-2 on the podium following chaos at the front. In the end, Perez retired whilst Ocon mustered up sixth place.
Will a trip to the Alps prove to be the tipping point in F1’s newest teammate rivalry as tempers start to sizzle in one of the sport’s rising teams?
Stroll on roll
After a lacklustre start, Lance Stroll has finally come alive with his first points coming at home in Canada. He then followed it up with a calm drive to third in a chaotic Azerbaijan race.
Now that the car has finally come to him, could the 70 second odd lap around Austria see him show his real pace?
Williams have often gone well here with both cars into Q3 on each visit since the track returned in 2014. Their qualifying position has however dropped each year, having locked out the front row in 2014 with eighth and tenth being last year’s results in qualifying.
Will this be the year that Williams bounce back towards the front of the grid in Austria and reverse their fortunes?
Improvement for McLaren?
Having tested their new ‘Spec Three’ upgrade in Azerbaijan practice with Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda are planning to race it on both cars in Austria.
Lap times are expected to be 0.3 seconds quicker with the new engine but is this enough to get them higher up the grid?
Honda boss, Yusuke Hasegawa speaking to Sky however said that the high altitude however will create extra challenges for the turbocharger and energy deployment system.
Given all of Honda’s woes, Austria was their main highlight of 2016 with Jenson Button qualifying third before finishing sixth in the race. Could that highlight provide some solace for Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne providing we get similar weather again?
The weather forecasts that I have been reading have been unpredictable. Friday is forecast to be warm and sunny but the rest of this weekend is unclear.
At one point, all day rain was forecast for both Saturday and Sunday but the rain is now expected to come on Sunday just in time for the race.
Last year when it rained, cars struggled to stay on track with GP3’s sprint race run in awful conditions under the safety car.
F1 experienced the downpours in second practice and qualifying 12 months ago. Given how harder it is to drive the 2017 cars, expect to see the wet weather masters step up when others fall foul of the wet track conditions.
If missed other races and want a brief round up, click on the links below.