Clip The Apex
Well, the Austrian Grand Prix has a lot to live up to. Barcelona, Montreal and Baku have all proved excellent races and we're all hoping that the same can happen in the lush, green hills of Central Europe.
The title race has had its first real flashpoint with Vettel's wheelbanging at turn 16. This could have represented a massive swing to Hamilton but for an ill-fitted headrest. As it was, Vettel eked out 2 points on his British rival. Watch for fireworks.
It's not a case of Finnish friends in the second cars either. Bottas and Raikkonen collided again in Baku. While the chaotic race enabled Bottas' recovery, the two need to keep out of each other's sides to boost their chances in the Constructors' Championship.
Max Verstappen will be outrageously frustrated. He's getting into very good positions - almost certainly a race win in Baku - but is not completing the races. It looks like a finish will coincide with a decent result, but to finish first...
Ricciardo, meanwhile, stayed calm in Baku to take the win while so many others screwed up around him. Chief amongst them were Force India, who'll not rival Red Bull if they allow acrimonious team rivalries to bin huge points.
Williams return to the scene of their 2014 front row with Lance Stroll on a huge high. Massa was just ahead of him too before a DNF. Toro Rosso may well be closer to them here though!
Renault contributed only to the attrition in Baku, so Magnussen took the big points in the 7/8 battle that Hulkenburg vacated. I've heard that Grosjean has been having brake issues.
McLaren scored points! So did Sauber! The McLaren/Sauber/Honda podium at Silverstone in 2008 has never seemed further away...
As for the circuit; it is not the Österreichring. Nevertheless, this small circuit is awkward and challenging, and often provides interesting racing. Last year was dramatic - wet qualifying, Vettel's tyre blowing, Rosberg getting ahead, the chase, Nicosteer. More of the same, please!
No, fear not fellow clippers, it's not my hayfever getting the better of me but it's the next F1 venue in the 2017 F1 season. Designed to be the worlds fastest street circuit, this year the grand prix carries the name of the host country unlike last year when, for reasons never fully explained it carried the European GP title.
Last years race was effected by kerb bolts not being fully tightened down, causing a number of tyres to be shredded and a flying drain cover that re-arranged the underside of one of the cars. These little issues to one side, on the whole, the circuit did set out to achieve its aim of speed with some of the highest straight line speeds ever recorded in F1, along the long back straight.
The race itself saw the top 6 spread out by over a minute showing that the key to success was a powerful engine and a high top speed. Hamilton suffered badly due to starting in the wrong mode. This highlighted the 'radio driver instructions' issue once again and was the catalyst for this rule being quietly slide into oblivion not long after. The track itself drew praise from several drivers.
So, to this seasons GP. Given the criteria for success at this track, Mercedes and Mercedes powered cars must start as favourites to do well. With Perez rounding out the podium spots in 2016 and with Force India's strong performane in Canada, they will surely be in the mix as the next best Merc runners.
Ferrari will be looking to bounce back after a difficult GP in Canada where Vettel did brilliantly to recover to 4th however, his pace over the weekend could have delivered more, and Kimi suffered from failing brakes which meant his race disolved into nursing the wounded car home over the last few laps.
Red Bull's season continues to underwhelm with pre-season predictions of title challenges now very much a distant memory. With Ferrari and Mercedes clearly a measure better than RBR and with this track requiring power, Force India should be right on Red Bull's tail. Max will be looking to bounce back after his DNF, and hopefully not over Seb's front wing this time while Danny will want another good finish.
Williams should do well here. They have the Merc engine and Stroll will have a certain spring in his step after a strong enough performance in Canada to show why he's in the car. Massa is also confounding some critics this season by driving pretty well. It's clear that neither driver have a great car underneath them but they should be able to do something here.
Torro Rosso, Haas and Renault will be pounding around looking for a sniff of some points. Of these three teams, none of them seem to be setting the world of F1 on fire and mediocrity is the best they can expect. Of the 6 drivers, Jolyon Palmer has the most to loose. He MUST start out performing his team mate or come the next set of European races he'll be watching from the sidelines. The Hulk looked pretty on it in Canada so Palmer has no easy task.
Last up comes Sauber who, running last years Ferrari engine, will stand little hope of doing anything here and will be praying for a race of high attrition. Much to everyone's suprise, last year there wasn't a single safety car period and only 4 cars DNF'd so it's not looking good for the team.
So I can't see much further than a Hamilton win and should anything go wrong, Bottas will more than likely pick up the pieces.
Oh..... hang on.... I missed one team out.
Hmmmm, it's a high powered circuit that requires a lot of grunt from the engine. It's a street circuit so the car needs to be able to handle bumps well, be well balanced but at the same time have a high straight line speed.
I'll give both cars about 10 laps before they are smoking and stationary track side.