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Pre-Spielberg analysis - Red Bull, McLaren set for penalties

19 Jun 2015

Grid penalties will be the name of the game for some in Austria, as both McLaren and Red Bull are set to incur them for having to use fifth engines. Fernando Alonso said he was sure he would thus be impaired, while Red Bull confirmed on Thursday night that both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will have fresh Renaults in their RB11s.

Both teams expect a tough weekend here anyway on a track that doesn't suit their relatively underpowered cars, and are thus expected to opt to take the pain of 10-place penalties here rather than at the more flowing Silverstone in a fortnight where their chances should be better.

McLaren have part of a major British Grand Prix upgrade here for Alonso, but Jenson Button, who may also incur penalties, won't use them as there are only enough parts for one car. Button got the last upgrade first, in China. The latest changes centre around heavy aerodynamic enhancements.

"It's going to be tough, where the results will not look good especially because there are probably some penalties to pay, so I think it's going to be a test weekend for us, very important," said Alonso. "There are some updates on the car, so hopefully we go out of this weekend with some answers and there is the test next week as well. Important days ahead for us."

At Red Bull, having admitted that they were definitely looking into taking the penalties before such plans were later confirmed, Riccardo said: "We have to see as well what chance we have coming up in Silverstone and Budapest. Wouldn't be a surprise if we see it here."

The Australian has a new chassis here in an effort to solve the problems that saw him finish a disappointed 13th in Canada.

"I probably came in there quite in a way emotional from what happened there a year earlier and probably just hoping for too much," he admitted. "So that already probably set the target too high from the start and it sort of spiralled into a poor weekend, for obviously some other reasons as well. We come here now with let's say a fresh approach on it all.

"I experienced some of the lows in Canada and then after that weekend I looked back on it all and said ‘Okay, we have to, unfortunately for now, lower the bar and just try to not really look at the big picture of getting a podium or getting inside the top five, it's just making sure we can just maximise our weekend for now and try and bring the team forwards as quick as possible. I know there's lots of updates coming, some have worked more than others - but obviously we're still pushing, we're still trying. Like all things, they do take time. You hope it turns around quicker but that's the nature of the sport sometimes. Just learn to be a bit more patient I guess, and just make sure at least that I'm maximising my weekend. 

"Obviously Canada wasn't a good weekend, so just try and get back, let's say, on the front foot this weekend and whatever position it puts us in, we'll accept it and just try and keep the head down and more forwards."

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, said that he definitely expects strong opposition not just from Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, but from Ferrari and Williams.

Insiders at Mercedes say this race could show the true gap between them and Ferrari, after the Scuderia's recent aerodynamic and engine upgrades.    

"This could be where we flatten out," Hamilton admitted yesterday. "Williams and Ferrari could be a lot closer; both have been making lot of improvements. Sebastian in particular will be on it here."

The German chose to play things down, however. "Ideally we always try to fight for win, and we have a strong car this year," he said. "If everything goes as normal we should be a little bit further up this weekend. But we have to be realistic; to challenge Mercedes we know we need a flawless weekend and we have to hope for them to have a little bit of a struggle too. In normal circumstances, it's quite difficult to beat them. It's still quite a big gap."

David Tremayne