Spielberg - Championship leader Lewis Hamilton and his
Mercedes team will be hoping for more of the same at this weekend's Austrian
After dominating last Sunday's French Grand Prix to claim
his 65th career victory, the four-time champion arrives in the Styrian Alps
with a 14-point lead in this year's title chase and a sense of reinvigoration
thanks to his updated engine.
On another picturesque circuit with traffic access problems
this weekend, where power will again be a major factor, Hamilton and his
Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas will start as favourites for Sunday's race,
After a disappointing performance on one of Hamilton's
favourite circuits, at Montreal in Canada, their French triumph came on a day
when chief rival and fellow-four-time champion Sebastian Vettel experienced
another of his periodic days to forget.
His opening lap collision with Bottas ruined both of their
races and ensured Hamilton had a straightforward afternoon as he regained
championship lead. He will do all he can to avoid a repeat.
Both Hamilton and Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff stressed
after last Sunday's win that they can take nothing for granted in this yo-yo
season, the Englishman saying he intended to stay grounded and to approach each
race the same.
Wolff strove to play down any newly-perceived advantage in
speed, thanks to the upgraded Mercedes engine.
"Do we have the best engine now?" he said.
"Very difficult to say because when you look at the data, the quickest car
on the straight was Kimi (Raikkonen of Ferrari), but we believe he was maybe
running a different aero configuration.
He added that both Hamilton and Vettel have enjoyed 17
points leads already this season and forecast that their fortunes would
continue to swing on a race by race basis.
"I think what you saw in Montreal in comparison to Le
Castellet is that marginal gains matter," he added.
"We fell back in Montreal because we couldn't bring the
new power unit and we were racing power unit number one for the seventh consecutive
race. The others introduced their upgrades... That certainly didn't help."
While Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull ponder their prospects
of big points hauls in Austria, it is a very different story for one-time great
teams McLaren and Williams.
The two British outfits, once rivals for the championships
in the heyday of such stars as Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and
Nigel Mansell, are now besieged by crisis stories.
Last weekend, just a week after his triumph for Toyota at
the Le Mans 24-Hours race, two-time champion Fernando Alonso endured his worst
outing with McLaren and gave vent to his feelings on team radio.
Already fighting a rear-guard PR campaign following talk of
staff unrest, McLaren are in desperate need of an Alonso revival.
"This was by far the worst performance of the year so I
really hope that this is a one-off," he said. "I hope that this is
"Out of qualifying in Q1 with both cars and then both
out of the points in the race. We need to raise our level for Austria and for
Silverstone. We need to find solutions."
"Ideally, we would like a little time now to study the
data and the produce new parts for the car, but there is no time for that so we
have to try to do our best. I trust the team. I know there are some good things
on the way for the next races, but now we are in the middle of a triple-header
and we have five races in six weeks."
He played down talk of a team crisis and said he retained
his motivation because he felt very privileged to be one of 20 drivers in the
world "doing this job".
"The question is how I manage to be positive, how I
manage to smile, how I manage to breathe, to eat, to sleep... I manage very
well. I feel very privileged."
World championship standings ahead of Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 145 pts, 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 131, 3. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 96, 4. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 92, 5. Kimi Rikknen (FIN) 83, 6. Max Verstappen (NED) 68, 7. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 34, 8. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 32, 9. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 28, 10. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 27, 11. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 18, 12. Sergio Prez (MEX) 17, 13. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 11, 14. Charles Leclerc (MON) 11, 15. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 8, 16. Lance Stroll (CAN) 4, 17. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 2, 18. Brendon Hartley (NZL) 1
1. Mercedes 237 pts, 2. Ferrari 214, 3. Red Bull 164, 4. Renault 62, 5. McLaren-Renault 40, 6. Force India 28, 7. Haas 27, 8. Toro Rosso-Honda 19, 9. Sauber 13, 10. Williams 4