By Neil Leverett
- Round nine of the Formula season arrives in Spielberg, Austria this weekend
- Britain’s Lewis Hamilton leads World Drivers’ Championship by fourteen points after win in France last weekend
- Sebastian Vettel penalised after being adjudged to have caused crash in Paris
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – Will Lewis Hamilton take a vice-like grip on the F1 world title this weekend in Austria, or can Sebastian Vettel bounce back after France penalty?
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Can Hamilton take control of Drivers’ Championship in Austria?
Having won his third race of the 2018 Formula One season in Paris last weekend, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton arrives in the shadow of the Austrian alps this weekend, looking to put a stranglehold on the destination of this season’s World Drivers’ Championship.
After coasting to victory at Circuit Paul Ricard in Paris seven days ago, the 33-year-old leapfrogged rival Sebastian Vettel with victory and now leads the standings by fourteen points after the German was penalised for causing a crash on the first corner with Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel fought through the field valiantly after being shunted down the field after the opening-lap accident, but was then handed a five-second penalty and finished down in fifth place.
Following his re-installment as world title leader the Briton is now eyeing a run of victories ahead of next weekend’s visit to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, but Hamilton has been quick to jump to the defence of Vettel, who has been criticised for his part in last weekend’s incident after initially calling the penalty too lenient in the wake of his finish ahead of Bottas – who was involved in the early crash.
Hamilton told BBC Sport:
“I don’t feel like Sebastian needs criticising.
He is a four-time world champion and has won more than most. Everyone jumps at one single fault from any of us.”
Bottas lurking in shadows
Whilst for the time being the challenge of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has fallen by the wayside, Mercedes’ number in Bottas is poised to strike this weekend to shake up the order in Austria.
The Finn having finished second on the podium in four races this season in Canada, Spain, China and Bahrain is looking to break his duck this season at Spielberg, after winning last year’s race at the Red Bull ring after what can be considered a campaign of misfortune – pinpointed in Paris last weekend.
Bottas has played second-fiddle to his more decorated number one in Hamilton, but the Mercedes team are a united one and Hamilton himself remains in the highest compliment of Bottas for his team ethic.
After nine races without a win this season however, could Spielberg see Bottas earn a much-deserved top spot on the podium come Sunday, with his team set to dominate after Hamilton finished fastest in both first and second practice earlier on Friday – even without their much-mooted engine upgrades.
Spielberg set to weave its’ magic?
After two largely uneventful races in Canada and France, hopes of more memorable fare in Austria will not be aided by the forecast of a dry qualifying and race forecast, however the multiple straights stretching the expanse of the 4.3km, 71-lap race could make for a host of overtaking in Spielberg.
Austria is not regarded as a particular iconic venue on the F1 calendar, but it is one of the more open-plan layouts with three DRS zones which will provide fans with a rare glimpse of a potential race of leap-frogging.
Or could it be indeed Red Bull who ruled the roost on their self-sponsored track in mainland Europe? They would seem to be Mercedes’ biggest rivals this weekend with Ferrari off the pace early doors, however Q3 has often proven otherwise and could be the case again. Either way, with the season in the midst of four races in the space of a month, Formula One could do with a shot in the arm in Spielberg.
The Austrian GP takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with the race proper on Sunday at 1.10pm BST
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