RACE DEBRIEF

    It’s Red Bull’s home race as the field descend on the team’s eponymous circuit for the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. But with Carlos Sainz having become F1’s latest winner at Silverstone, who will shine at this Spielberg circuit? Join in with the F1 Play predictor game.

    Vying for pole

    Mercedes have claimed the most poles at the Red Bull Ring with six between 2015 and 2020 – but things aren’t quite that simple this weekend as we have a Sprint.

    That means qualifying is on Friday afternoon, setting the grid for Saturday's Sprint, which in turn sets the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix. There’s a chance of showers on Friday morning but dry conditions are likely for the sessions themselves.

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    So while Mercedes have the most poles in Austria, the story has been different in recent seasons – Verstappen the pole winner for both the 2021 Styrian and Austrian Grands Prix – and one might back the Red Bull driver to get back on the pace seeing as he aced Canadian GP qualifying.

    However, with Austria’s tight confines and higher altitude, this might be another venue that favours Ferrari’s F1-75 in qualifying. With that, Leclerc could well secure his first pole since Azerbaijan, or Sainz might be in for a second consecutive P1 grid slot (for the Sprint, mind). But it’ll be close, and Verstappen will be hungry to start first for Saturday’s dash to the line.

    Pole positions in the last five Red Bull Ring races:

    • 2021 (Austria) – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2021 (Styria) – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2020 (Styria) – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2020 (Austria) – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
    • 2019 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

    FAN VIEW: Max Verstappen is hotly fancied to be fastest over a single lap at the Red Bull Ring despite the misfires which cost him dearly at the British Grand Prix. He has a massive advantage over his nearest challenger Charles Leclerc, with Lewis Hamilton now coming in for increasing support as third best.

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    In the upgraded RB18, Verstappen might be gunning for a third consecutive Red Bull Ring pole

    In the mix for victory

    P1 is pretty crucial for victory at the Red Bull Ring, with the qualifying winner having won the Grand Prix six times since 2016 – the last four races here having been won from P1 on the grid. This weekend, Sprint will dictate the grid for the Grand Prix.

    As for Ferrari, they havent won in Austria since Michael Schumacher won from pole in 2003. In the hybrid era, coinciding with this circuit’s return, Red Bull and Mercedes have shared the spoils. This might well be the Scuderia’s best chance of success at the Red Bull Ring, Sainz having opened his account at Silverstone at team mate Charles Leclerc’s expense.

    READ MORE: Multiple teams in the mix for victory as the Sprint returns – 5 storylines we’re excited about ahead of the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix

    However, Verstappen will be hoping to bounce back after damage curtailed his hopes – and leading pace – at Silverstone, and the championship leader has a great record here. So, this weekend we very much have a four-way fight between the Red Bull drivers and the Ferrari drivers, and it might well be too close to call.

    Whoever triumphs in the Sprint will have a great chance at repeating that success in Sunday’s Grand Prix – and with a slight chance of showers in the afternoon, we might even see some chaos.

    Another thing to note are tyres. Pirelli have nominated the softest three compounds for this weekend, which opens up a number of different strategies, meaning that we might not see the winner come from P1 this Sunday.

    Wins in the last five Red Bull Ring races:

    • 2021 (Austria) – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2021 (Styria) – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2020 (Styria) – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2020 (Austria) – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
    • 2019 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

    FAN VIEW: Verstappen may have missed out on victory at Silverstone on Sunday, but F1 Play gamers see that as a mere blip. He is an overwhelming favourite for the win in Austria at a track where he has been dominant in recent years. So far, he has almost five times as many votes as nearest challenger Leclerc.

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    Leclerc is hunting for his first win since Round 3 in Australia

    Podium outsiders

    The softest compounds might also open up the podium to Mercedes, who have taken to the rostrum in the last two races – while adverse weather might even play to the Silver Arrows even more.

    Add to that the fact that we’ve already seen 33 DNFs this season and the fact that Austria itself is no stranger to retirements with a high of seven in 2020, and Mercedes could well have an outside shot at the top three. But that’s very much an outside shot: Team Principal Toto Wolff doesn’t expect them to perform as they did in Great Britain.

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    McLaren’s Lando Norris will be another driver hoping to hit the top spots, having done so twice in the last two seasons, his P6 finish at Silverstone another solid show of pace.

    Fernando Alonso has also struck a rich run of form in recent races, P5 at Silverstone underlining his and Alpine’s pace, and the two-time champion will be hungry for a podium. It’s very much neck-and-neck between McLaren and Alpine in terms of pace at the moment. And if Mercedes aren’t in the hunt, those midfielders will be gunning for the podium on Sunday.

    Of course, this all depends on how the Sprint plays out…

    Podiums in the last five Red Bull Ring races:

    • Mercedes – 7
    • Ferrari – 2
    • Red Bull – 4
    • McLaren – 2

    FAN VIEW: It is fair to say gamers expect few surprises in Austria, with the usual suspects expected to figure on the podium. The two Mercedes of Hamilton and George Russell have some support along with Lando Norris (McLaren). But outside of that it's tumbleweed when it comes to the rest of the field.

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    Hamilton shone at Silverstone but this race is expected to be tougher for Mercedes

    Points potential

    George Russell’s run of top-five finishes ended in unfortunate circumstances at the start of the British Grand Prix but the Mercedes driver should be back in the mix this weekend, as will Lewis Hamilton – and that’s if the podium doesn’t open up.

    McLaren and Alpine will also be expecting to finish in the top 10, though McLaren might enjoy the low-downforce, lower-speed demands of the Red Bull Ring more. Still, as the championship shows, the two teams are practically on par with each other.

    PALMER: Were Ferrari right to allow Sainz and Leclerc to fight it out for victory at the British GP?

    Aston Martin will also be hoping to score a top 10 in Austria, Sebastian Vettel having harnessed the recently re-shaped AMR22 to score P9 at Silverstone – but the ninth-place constructors will have Alfa Romeo to contend with. Even if the team in red and white suffered a double-DNF at Silverstone, they’re constant threats to score points.

    As for Haas and Williams, both teams will need some fortune to land in the top 10 this weekend. Although Haas nailed a double-points finish last time out in Britain, they did so amid a flurry of retirements. Note that this weekend, points are also up for grabs for the top eight finishers in the Sprint (from eight points for P1 down to one point for P8), meaning a driver could come away from Austria with a maximum haul of 34, as Verstappen did in Imola.

    Points in the last five Red Bull Ring races:

    • Mercedes – 169
    • Red Bull – 130
    • McLaren – 82
    • Ferrari – 77
    • Aston Martin/Racing Point – 26
    • Alpine/Renault – 11
    • AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso – 10
    • Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 5

    FAN VIEW: Fernando Alonso absolutely dominates this category after following up his fine weekend in Canada with another super show at Silverstone. There is also plenty of support for Chinese star Zhou Guanyu despite that horror crash at the British Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel also has a lot of friends in the voting.