The Austrian Grand Prix is set in Spielberg, one of the most picturesque places the F1 circus ever goes to. After three street tracks in Monaco, Montreal and Baku, going back to an “old school” track is a nice change.
It’s not very technical and only has nine corners and this means the gaps on the grid closes up a lot. Any tiny mistake can cost you a lot here. With short corners and long straights, you need an aero efficient car with good traction.
It’s set up high in the hills of Spielberg and the gradient changes make it quite nice to drive. The long straights also mean that overtaking is possible and we have seen good races here in the past.
As it’s a bit of a power track Mercedes should be looking good here. Lewis Hamilton may have had a bad weekend in Baku, but I’m sure he will be back stronger than ever here in Austria. He has been dominating qualifying this year and will be my favourite to grab pole position again this weekend.
What will be the biggest task for him will be whether he can sort out his starts. How Hamilton has been getting off the line this year is the biggest reason he is behind his teammate in the championship standings. And with a long run from the start line all the way up to turn one, another poor start could see him lose more than one position on the opening lap.
As for Nico Rosberg, he will want to show that he can beat Hamilton in qualifying fair and square and not when Hamilton makes a mistake or has car trouble. I think Rosberg is a different proposition compared to previous years and whether he beats Hamilton in qualifying or not, mentally, he will be prepared to re focus on the race to try and maximise his results.
As for the battle for the rest, it will be interesting to see if Force India can bring their strong form from the last race to Austria. The circuit should suit them but I’m not sure if they can still be best of the rest. I feel Ferrari and Red Bull underperformed in Baku and they should be able to do better here. However if I’m wrong, I won’t be displeased because seeing Force India up there is definitely one of the “feel good” stories of 2016.
The run from turn one to two is long, as is the straight from two to three. Austria usually has the most exciting opening lap of the season, so watch out for the start. Let’s not forget how Alonso ended up on top of Raikkonen last year on the opening lap. There was also a horrific accident in Formula 3 a few weeks ago too. Austria is a circuit that anything can happen, and it usually does.