Nick van der Meulen brings us his, now customary, F1 Preview Austria 2019.

The F1 circus has its first back-to-back weekend. Teams and drivers move to Austria to prepare for the race weekend, after the procession at Paul Ricard five days before. One will expect there to be a celebration of Austria’s favourite son, Niki Lauda, this weekend following his sudden passing not long ago.

Click here to read our obituary to Austrian triple champion, Niki Lauda.

A checkered past

The race takes place at Red Bull Ring, Spielberg and, yes, it is owned by the Red Bull mogul, Dietrich Mateschitz – hence its name.  It was initially known as Osterreichring (or Zeltweg), a sweeping, challenging circuit adored by fans and drivers alike.  Safety became a concern, particularly when Stefan Johansson hit a deer with his McLaren in 1987, thankfully, walking away from the incident. It was also the circuit that Andrea de Cesaris famously rolled his Gitanes Ligier, which led to his dismissal because Guy Ligier couldn’t afford the repair bills (particularly after the Italian cheekily told his boss that he retired because the car stalled and wouldn’t restart).

The circuit was rebuilt and ran as the A1-Ring for a while, before being purchased by Red Bull. Red Bull saved the circuit from destruction and ensured that motorsport stayed in Austria. The energy drinks company spent many millions to revamp the circuit to meet international standards. It is a short lap, with the quickest times running at less than 65 seconds.

Home-ground advantage

Of course, Red Bull is expected to shine at its home circuit and Max Verstappen will have a legion of fans flocking in to provide support. Teammate Pierre Gasly had a troubled start to his career with Red Bull’s tier one team and both team principal Christian Horner and the team’s ‘advisor’, Helmut Marko, have been remarkably supportive thus far. The young Frenchman hopes to repay them with a good result this weekend.

It is barely a week since the Grand Prix of France, however, so one cannot expect a miracle and the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will, again, dominate proceedings. The Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc are most likely to be giving chase. Verstappen will punch above his weight and at least attempt to split the Ferrari drivers, while Renault and Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo are expected to vie for the remaining points-paying positions. McLaren will be hoping to build on its strong showing, particularly in qualifying last week, from its drivers in Austria.

Painful to watch

After the pain of having to witness a bland F1 Grand Prix a week ago, one can only hope fervently that the Austrian Grand Prix will provide some spice – but, due to its speed and layout, it is unrealistic to expect any change from the previous week’s race result. I expect the Silver Arrows to maintain their edge over the field and the rest of the field will be there to simply fight for points.

You can see highlights of the 2018 Austrian F1 GP at this link.