Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Austrian Grand Prix talking points: Verstappen's poor luck and Hamilton's need to bounce back

The Red Bull Racing driver has only scored points in one of the past four races, which has not fairly rewarded his actual pace on track.

Max Verstappen has driven well in 2017 but is not getting results his driving deserves. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Max Verstappen has driven well in 2017 but is not getting results his driving deserves. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

Ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, the ninth round of the 2017 Formula One season, here are some of the main things to watch for this weekend.

Verstappen's poor luck

You had to feel sorry for Max Verstappen in Baku two weeks ago. For the fourth successive weekend he was quicker then his more experienced Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Yet it was Ricciardo who capitalised on the chaos at the front of the field to pick up an unlikely win, while mechanical problems sidelined Verstappen when he had been running in fourth early in the race, well ahead of his teammate.

Verstappen has really pushed on this season, after a very impressive first season with Red Bull last year, and has become more consistent in qualifying.

But a collision with Kimi Raikkonen in Spain, retirements through car failures in Canada and Azerbaijan and then poor strategy in Monaco, where he ended up fifth, have seen him pick up just 10 points in a time when Ricciardo has had four successive podiums and scored 70 points.

The long straights of the Red Bull Ring should not suit Red Bull, but mind you, that was the view in Baku too. Verstappen's main goal will simply be to score good points after a frustrating spell and again beat his teammate on raw speed.

Hamilton's need to bounce back

Bouncebackability was a phrase coined in the mid-2000s by then Crystal Palace football manager Iain Dowie to highlight his side's ability to recover quickly from adversity.

Lewis Hamilton has demonstrated that trait throughout his F1 career, and already this season as he has bounced back from poor races with victories the next time out.

It was a loose headrest, rather than the collision with Sebastian Vettel behind the safety car, that cost him the win in Baku, but the consequence is he is now 14 points adrift of the Ferrari man in his quest for a fourth world drivers' title.

A second successive win in Austria would really be a fillip for the Briton. Mercedes-GP have won all three races there since F1 returned to the track in Spielberg in 2014 and should be the team to beat again, on raw pace, this weekend.

There are 10 races after Austria before the final race of the season, the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and while it is by no means panic stations for Hamilton yet, he will want to put Vettel and Ferrari on the backfoot to reassert his authority.

Force India throw away points

Given their resources compared to some of their more established rivals, for Force India to be fourth, and comfortably so, in the constructors' championship, after eight races is an excellent effort.

But the growing rivalry between Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon is proving costly. The two got in each other's way in Canada last month allowing the slower Ricciardo to hold on to third place.

Then, even worse, they came together in Azerbaijan, the incident putting Perez out and dropping Ocon down the order, though he would recover to finish sixth.

Given both were ahead of race-winner Ricciardo at the time, a genuine chance to win the team's first race and potentially as many as 43 points scored, was thrown away.

The rivalry between the pair is good for F1. Perez has moved on from a rocky start to become a consistent racer, while Ocon is looking to establish himself.

For the team's sake they cannot allow a repeat of Baku, especially in Austria where their Mercedes engines should give them a good chance to score big points.

Reality check for Alonso

After the achievement, admittedly modest one, of scoring McLaren's first points of 2017 in Azerbaijan, Fernando Alonso will likely be back to lamenting the inadequate, and unreliable, Honda units powering him.

The Spaniard took advantage of the high attrition rate to finish ninth on a track that really should not have been good for McLaren.

There are three long straights at the Red Bull Ring, all of which will highlight just how little horsepower the Honda has.

Essentially it is going to take a lot of cars falling off the road for Alonso and his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne to finish in the top 10 on Sunday.

This will continue to push the main summer narrative of what does Alonso do for 2018? He has been linked with Williams, Renault and even outlandishly a return to Ferrari from who he left in 2014 on less than amicable terms, and then of course there is the possibility of a return to IndyCar as his attempt at winning the Indianapolis 500 may have given him the taste for more.

Updated: July 6, 2017 12:36 PM



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