Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Austrian Grand Prix: Why Lewis Hamilton can still win at the Red Bull Ring

He may be starting fourth after a penalty but the Briton can still come out on top in Sunday's ninth round of the Formula One season

Lewis Hamilton starts fourth for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. Getty
Lewis Hamilton starts fourth for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix. Getty

Lewis Hamilton has won the past four races of the 2019 Formula One season, but his chances of making it five in Austria on Sunday were dented by a grid penalty.

The five-time world champion was due to start second in his Mercedes-GP but now starts fourth after being penalised for blocking Kimi Raikkonen during qualifying on Saturday.

Mercedes have won all eight races this year so far (Hamilton 6-2 Valtteri Bottas), but that 100 per cent record is under threat at the Red Bull Ring, with Charles Leclerc dominant in qualifying in his Ferrari.

However, Hamilton, who leads the title standings by 36 points, could still be standing on the top step of the podium in Spielberg when the 71-lap race comes to its conclusion.

Ahead of the race, which begins at 5.10pm UAE time, here are the things that can help Hamilton triumph for the first time since 2016 in Austria.

Strong start

One of the keys to Hamilton's success this season has been his good getaways off the line. Since the second race of the year in Bahrain he has not lost a position on the opening lap, and passing teammate Bottas at the beginning in China and Spain effectively won him those grands prix.

It would take a stunning effort to lead into Turn 1 on Sunday, but if he can pass Max Verstappen's Red Bull, which is third on the grid, it will allow him to pursue Leclerc and Bottas unhindered by traffic.

Race pace

The Mercedes has been better on the harder compounds of Pirelli tyre then Ferrari for much of the season.

In Canada, for example, there was a similar scenario to Austria where Ferrari were quicker than Mercedes in qualifying as Sebastian Vettel took pole.

He initially kept a three-second lead over Hamilton in the race, but lost his pace on the harder tyres after pitting and the pressure from the five-time world champion eventually led to the mistake that cost the German the race.

This might not happen on Sunday as Austria is a different track to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but Leclerc will have to run the harder tyres at some point and if Hamilton is in range of him when that happens, then that could be his opportunity to get close and try to pass.

One-stop strategy

Both Hamilton and Bottas, who starts second, will be on the harder medium tyre.

Leclerc starts on the soft tyre. That should give Leclerc an initial pace advantage but will mean he has to pit earlier then the Mercedes duo. With high temperatures at Spielberg that could force Leclerc onto a two-stop strategy.

Mercedes are hopeful they can do the race on one-stop thanks to starting on the medium, and it might well be they get track position if Leclerc has to make multiple visits to his pits.

Overtaking

You can pass in Austria, unlike at many of the tracks on the F1 calendar. There are two key chances at the ends of the long straights at respectively Turns 3 and 4. Hamilton remains one of the best overtakers in the sport and he will remain hopeful of moving up the order if he does not make quick progress on the first lap.

Ferrari's unreliability

Leclerc has been in the position before. He should have won from pole in Bahrain but was let down by an engine problem.

Teammate Sebastian Vettel was slowed in qualifying on Saturday by an air pressure problem, which caused him not to take part in the final part of the session.

He starts ninth when he should have been on the front row and the continued technical problems at Ferrari will be a concern to Leclerc while giving hope to Hamilton and Mercedes.

Updated: June 30, 2019 12:25 PM

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