Red Bull laid down a marker in their ongoing title fight with Mercedes last weekend as Max Verstappen dominated the Styrian Grand Prix from start to finish in the first part of Formula 1’s Austrian double-header.
Part two takes place this week at the Red Bull Ring with Verstappen a strong
5/8 favourite to record his fourth successive Grand Prix victory. Mercedes are confident of closing the gap to the home favourites as they plan to introduce a series of upgrades, but will that be enough to set up a blockbuster race in Speilberg?
Silver Arrows Struggling to Find Their Mark
Last week’s Styrian Grand Prix will have set the alarm bells ringing at Mercedes as for the first time this year at a purpose-built track they found they had no answer to Red Bull. The Silver Arrows won three of this year’s first four races at traditional circuits and were close in France after a torrid time on the streets of Baku and Monte Carlo.
However, Verstappen enjoyed a trouble-free weekend in the Styrian Grand Prix, taking pole position in qualifying and then claiming the chequered flag, finishing 35 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second.
Mercedes were glad the race ended when it did as Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas completed the podium, Bottas holding off Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. The Mexican had been going a second a lap faster than Bottas after a late pit stop but ran out of time to reel in the Finn.
Team principal Toto Wolff has promised an improved performance from Mercedes this weekend due to a series of upgrades being introduced but that still might not be enough given the size of the gap previously. Hamilton is
2/1 to end a run of four races without a victory but that looks too short given Mercedes’ issues and the Brit’s wretched record in the Austrian Grand Prix, Hamilton failing to even make the podium in the last four editions of the race.
Hamilton’s team mate Bottas could be the one to take the fight to Red Bull given his love for the Red Bull Ring. He has finished on the podium six times at the Spielberg venue and is a very tempting
1/1 for a top-three finish on Sunday.
Ultimately though, Red Bull look like they will prove too strong for the Silver Arrows once again, with Verstappen a justifiable odds-on favourite to win his fourth race in a row. His team mate Perez can’t be ruled out at
10/1 having already won once this season, while he’s a solid
10/11 chance for a podium.
Norris Best Of the Rest
Away from Mercedes and Red Bull’s private duel, Lando Norris came home best of the rest in last weekend’s race as he extended his run of consecutive points finishes to 13. The Brit is enjoying an excellent season for McLaren and can validate his position as
10/11 favourite in the race winner without Red Bull or Mercedes market.
McLaren have proven to have the superior race pace over their closest challenger, Ferrari, with Norris finishing fifth in the last three races. The only worry for Norris is Pirelli’s decision to move to a softer tyre selection for the weekend, although that probably won’t be enough for Ferrari to bridge the gap.
Aston Martin Eye Double Points Haul
Aston Martin’s progress this season has been hindered by their struggles in qualifying but they look to have the race pace to sneak into the top-10 on Sunday. Lance Stroll finished P8 in the Styrian Grand Prix to claim his fifth points haul of the season, while Sebastian Vettel came home 12th.
Vettel admitted it had been a “tough” weekend at the Red Bull Ring but has the potential to bounce back at a track where he has finished in the top-10 five times previously. The four-time world champion is
6/5 to claim a points finish, while Stroll is
4/5 to maintain his recent run of top 10s.
*All odds correct at time of writing