A sea of orange flares marked the fervent support for Max Verstappen in Austria last year, although his triumph was thwarted. This year, however, he sails into the event on the back of consecutive victories in the last three Grands Prix from pole position, making him a formidable contender.
Charles Leclerc edged past Verstappen during F1’s previous round in Austria after a thrilling showdown. However, with Ferrari undergoing a transition under new leadership – Mattia Binotto making way for Fred Vasseur – the team seems to be grappling with some disarray.
Mercedes is gearing up for a powerful comeback, opting for a more conventional car design after abandoning their original concept. Their recent podium finish in Canada could be indicative of an impending resurgence, but will Lewis Hamilton manage to reclaim the top spot?
As we gear up for the F1 journey to the Red Bull Ring, let’s examine the current state of affairs.
The second sprint race of the season is set to take place in Austria. This is the third year of these adrenaline-fuelled events, and of the seven so far, Verstappen has clinched three, with Valtteri Bottas taking two, and Sergio Perez and George Russell each claiming one.
The format this year has evolved, with sprint races becoming independent events featuring their own qualifying rounds. Perez emerged victorious in the first sprint race of this year in Azerbaijan, outperforming pole sitter Charles Leclerc.
The winner stands to earn eight points, with points available down to the eighth position. However, barring any unexpected changes in grid positions during qualifying, the racing order is likely to remain fairly consistent.
It’s no shock that Verstappen is viewed as the clear favourite for the win, considering his astounding track record this year – six wins and two second-place finishes, losing out to Perez in both instances.
The odds of Perez securing another win hover around 7-1, but considering his recent string of disappointments, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, also with similar odds, might capitalize if Verstappen encounters problems.
That said, it’s been 27 races – going back to last year’s Australian Grand Prix – since Verstappen didn’t complete a race. During that span, he’s only missed the podium three times.
Mercedes managed a third-place finish in the most recent race in Canada, supposedly one of the toughest circuits for them. However, Hamilton trailed Verstappen by just 14 seconds at the finish line.
Mercedes’ engineering chief, Andrew Shovlin, downplayed their performance, mentioning the need for a pace increase to truly challenge Verstappen. But if they achieve that, Hamilton could be a dark horse with odds of 10-1 for a win.
Haas enjoyed a strong showing in Austria last year, with a double-points finish in sixth and eighth places, albeit a lap behind the leaders. McLaren and Alpine were the only other point-scoring teams apart from Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes.
Aston Martin, despite finishing 13th and 17th last year, have now joined the frontrunners, reducing the chances for other teams. However, Ferrari’s current struggles and Lance Stroll’s lacklustre performance could create opportunities.
Thus far this season, Stroll has only managed to place sixth or higher three times and has retired twice. Behind the top four, Alpine has the most points finishes, tallying up 10, including a podium finish.
McLaren showed potential in Monaco but have faltered in the last two races. Instead, Alfa Romeo Strike could be a team to watch, with points in the last two races – Zhou Guanyu in Spain and Valtteri Bottas in Canada.
LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE
Verstappen and Red Bull have established such a commanding lead in the championship that some bookmakers have stopped taking bets on them clinching the title. Now, the attention is shifting to who will secure the second spot.
With eight out of 22 races completed, patterns are beginning to emerge. Perez is feeling the heat at Red Bull, and it might be a good time to place your bets on a non-Red Bull driver for second place, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both holding 3-1 odds.
Mercedes’ George Russell is a long shot at 499-1 for the runner-up spot. Even though Hamilton seems to hold the upper hand at Mercedes currently, and Russell is 60 points adrift of second place, the remaining 14 races could have surprises in store.
NOTE: Odds are accurate at the time of publication.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Austrian Grand Prix
Who is considered the favourite for the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix?
Max Verstappen is considered the clear favourite for the Austrian Grand Prix, coming into the event after consecutive victories in the last three Grands Prix from pole position.
How has Ferrari’s performance been impacted by the change in management?
With Mattia Binotto replaced by Fred Vasseur as the new management at Ferrari, the team seems to be in a state of transition and grappling with some disarray.
What is the new format for the sprint races this year?
The sprint races have become stand-alone events, complete with their own qualifying rounds.
How are Mercedes preparing for a comeback?
Mercedes is planning a strong comeback by opting for a more conventional car design after abandoning their original concept. Their recent podium finish in Canada could be indicative of an impending resurgence.
How has Aston Martin’s performance changed compared to last year?
Aston Martin, despite finishing 13th and 17th in the Austrian Grand Prix last year, have now joined the frontrunners, reducing the chances for other teams.
Who are the potential contenders for the second place in the championship?
With the championship leader Verstappen and Red Bull seemingly far ahead, attention is shifting to who will secure second place. At this point, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are potential contenders, both with 3-1 odds.