F1: Another Perspective – Close Encounters in Spielberg?
After another hugely predictable 1-2 for Mercedes at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, the return to European soil, along with a host of changes for the competing teams, is set to herald a change in the fortunes of less-prominent teams.
In particular, three construction teams will be looking to press the ‘reset button’ at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Force India working to bridge continental divide
Of the chasing pack, it is arguably Force India which has captured the imaginations of less-cynical race fans. Though still far from competitive in comparison to Europe-based heavyweights such as Ferrari, the fighting spirit of Force India has served the drivers and crew well. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg’s performances in Montreal certainly gave cause for great encouragement. The latter driver scored four points by virtue of an eighth-place finish, boosting the team total to 21 points from seven races.
The development of the VJM08 car has been a major talking point for several weeks, but with the upgrades set to debut in the British Grand Prix on 5th July, the current package will have to suffice. Force India has evidently made increased efforts to utilise power with greater efficiency, resulting in the strong technical performance in Montreal – a circuit which, like its Spielberg counterpart, favours power and aggression.
Williams set for intense duel
Last year’s corresponding event heralded a true moment in the sun for Williams, a team that has not enjoyed any major success since the turn of the century. The 1-2 scored in qualifying, followed by Valtteri Bottas’ first ever podium finish was an astounding result, as the dominance of Mercedes showed no signs of relenting. Encouragingly, in spite of the changing layout, Williams has also claimed three wins on Austrian soil. Like Force India, Williams has made preparations for the power-favouring track, with the emphasis on good tyre management paying dividends in Montreal. Ultimately, this has lead race fans to expect good results in Austria for the second year running. Although Felipe Massa has shown admirable consistency in the opening half of the 2015 season, the spotlight will undoubtedly be focused on Bottas. The Finn overcame a non-start in Melbourne to score points in five of the six following races, coming into this weekend’s event on the back of a third-place finish in Montreal. A top five finish should be the minimum target for Bottas at the weekend, as his fluid racing style suits the mix of high and low-speed corners.
Real steel required from McLaren
Just seven years after managing Lewis Hamilton to his first world championship McLaren is, quite simply, in hell. Their one saving grace ahead of Sunday’s event is a solid history in Austria, with six historic wins. A double retirement in Montreal simply served to underline McLaren’s swift fall from grace. The high altitude of the Spielberg track poses an additional challenge, requiring a strong power unit and shrewd aerodynamic construction across the grid. The installation of a new ERS system is much-welcomed, but is unlikely to see a drastic change in fortunes for the ailing team. Having been forced to a balanced approach to development, immediate results for McLaren will not be forthcoming.
For live updates of the Austrian Grand Prix, visit Motorsport24.com – race begins at 12pm UTC on Sunday, June 21.