By Neil Leverett
- Round Nine of the 2019 Formula season rolls into Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend
- Lewis Hamilton looking for fifth-straight win at Red Bull Ring, after victories in Spain, Monaco, Canada and France
- Briton holds 36-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Mercedes having won all eight races this season
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA – As Formula 1 rolls into Austria this weekend for Round Nine, will Lewis Hamilton record a fifth win on the bounce, or can Red Bull win again on home tarmac?
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Hamilton goes for fantastic five
For Lewis Hamilton, the 2019 Formula 1 season continues to glide by swimmingly, in the same fashion the British reigning and five-time World Champion dove into the Monte Carlo pool so gleefully last month in Monaco.
As this campaign continues to show little appetite for drama or the unpredictable, last weekend’s coast to the finish line in a red-hot Le Castellet for the McLaren-Mercedes driver extended his winning run of races to four-in-a-row, with 36 points now separating himself and teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Round Nine comes hot on the heels of last weekend’s commencement of a seven-leg European tour this summer, as the motorsport circus rolls into the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in this weekend, with Austria taking up the challenge of thwarting Mercedes’ two-pronged 2019 monopoly.
Hamilton will be going for a fifth consecutive win to the backdrop of the picturesque Styrian mountains, for the first time since 2014 – the only other occasion the Briton has achieved the feat in his career – when he went from Monza to Austin at the United States GP. Should he do so, the Briton will be just one more victory from joining an elite group of only four other drivers to notch six on the bounce.
As the Brit eyes another Formula 1 record and with Sebastien Vettel‘s efforts continuing to be met with growing frustration, could this weekend see the challenge come from across the paddock, as Red Bull Racing arrive on home tarmac?
Verstappen eyes own run
Despite sitting in fourth place in the World Drivers’ Championships standing – 87 points off Hamilton’s tally – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has arguably been the most consistent performer outside of the two Mercedes drivers, having finished inside the top five in all eight of the season’s races thus far.
With two podiums finishes, standing on the lowest step of the podium in both Australia and Spain, the 21-year-old Belgian also has passed the chequered flag fourth in Sakhir, Shanghai, Baku, Monte Carlo and last weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Verstappen may have only just crept into triple figures for the campaign just days ago, but arrives in Speilberg after winning at the Red Bull Ring 12 months ago from qualifying fifth on the grid, winning ahead of former Prancing Horse cohorts Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, as Hamilton retired with nine laps remaining due to fuel pressure issues.
With no other manufacturer able to wrestle a win from Mercedes’ grasp in 2019 to date, and despite Verstappen having failed to win a race since last October in Mexico, can the Red Bull man convert what has been an unwavering first three months of the term and push for a win in Austria?
Red Bull Ring primed
Having returned to the Formula 1 calendar in 2014 after an 11-year hiatus, the renamed Red Bull Ring hosts the fifth race in its’ current guise formerly known as both the Osterreichring and the A1-Ring, after the series’ inception in the 1950s.
Mercedes’ four-year dominance in Austria was ended last year with Verstappen’s win, but with Haas recording their best-ever weekend points tally with the duo of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen coming home fourth and fifth respectively, Austria has the potential to throw up more than few surprises.
The 71-lap, 4.318 circuit is likely to be baked this weekend with the current heatwave engulfing much of Europe, which would suggest the Mercedes AMG engine is best equipped to again rev home.
However, the British-Austrian manufacturer on home tarmac will have approached the last eight rounds in preparation for this weekend in Austria, and almost in spite of Hamilton and Vettel topping early practice, Team Principal Christian Horner will be eyeing a repeat win in 2019.
The 2019 Austrian Gran Prix takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with the race on Sunday at 2.10pm BST
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