Spielberg - Sebastian Vettel will face another trial of his
integrity and temperament this weekend when he arrives at the Red Bull Ring
circuit for the Austrian Grand Prix.
Just three days after celebrating his 30th birthday on
Monday by escaping any further punishment for his 'road rage' attack on Lewis
Hamilton at last month's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the four-time world champion
will need a cool head.
The German is sure to be put under scrutiny by the
travelling international media corps in a paddock that will keep him under
close observation, and he will likely be given an even more intense on-track
examination when he and Hamilton restart their scrap for the drivers' world
A tight fight between Vettel's Ferrari team and three-time
champion Hamilton's Mercedes outfit is in prospect in the Styrian Alps in the
30th running of the Austrian event.
Thanks to escaping without serious sanction in Baku, where
Hamilton was deprived of a near-certain race victory because his head-rest
worked loose, Vettel holds a 14-point lead over the Briton, whose silence this
week has spoken volumes.
One minor gesture, by 'liking' a reaction on Instagram,
appears to be all Hamilton wished to say following the decision of the
International Motoring Federation (FIA) to take no further action against
Vettel for his deliberate wheel-banging.
Vettel, who has a history of bad-tempered outbursts when
events conspire against him, had to accept full responsibility for his actions,
apologise to Hamilton and pledge to improve his future behaviour.
If he slips up again in Austria, he may be banned if points
are added to those already on his licence.
Many may believe that he escaped lightly, but Mercedes boss
Toto Wolff has made clear he believes it is now time to put the controversy to
bed and forget it.
"Every great season is marked by a great rivalry,"
he said. "Last year it was our internal battle between Lewis and Nico and
this year it seems that the fight is on between Ferrari and Mercedes and Lewis
"As calm as it started, it was only a matter of time
until the rivalry would eventually become more fierce and controversial. That
moment happened in Baku and we saw the results of that tension on track.
"We have moved past that moment now and it is a closed
Whatever Hamilton says in public to retain a calm approach
to a key contest, he is sure to be determined to claw back his lost points and
cut into Vettel's advantage on the sweeping circuit, where some of the fastest
laps of recent times are expected this weekend.
Improvements to the circuit, including re-surfacing, allied
to this year's 'fatter and faster' cars, may see lap times cut to some of the
lowest in 25 years.
Hamilton won last year's race after a clash with Rosberg and
also set the fastest qualifying lap ever at the track in one minute and 6.228
That time is likely to be lowered and may be inside Briton
Nigel Mansell's 1:4.402 set at the 1990 French Grand Prix.
Hamilton, on a run of stunning pole positions, will be
revved up for that and a payback victory, but will be aware too that Ferrari
will be vigorous rivals and that Red Bull, at their 'home' circuit, will want
to see a repeat of Australian Daniel Ricciardo's shock triumph in Baku.