After a 10 year absence from the Grand Prix calendar, Formula 1 is back at Austria at the refurbished and rebranded Red Bull Ring.
Even though the teams that existed in 2003 have historical data of the circuit, it’s almost useless, considering how much the cars have changed over the last decade. Hence, they all start from an empty drawing board.
The 4.3km circuit is located 800m above sea level. And while high altitude doesn’t reduce the power of turbo-charged cars(cough normally aspirated engines cough), it will be a true test of their reliability.
Talking about teams’ long run pace, Mercedes, as expected, had a massive advantage over their rivals. As far as the intra-team battle at the German team was concerned, Hamilton’s lap times were, on average, three tenths faster than Rosberg. However, that doesn’t necessarily means the order will stay the same over the next two days. Both the drivers will be looking into each others’ data and finding as to where the other driver is gaining.
You’d be surprised to find that Ferrari was actually the second fastest car in the long runs. Considering where they were in Canada despite their major upgrade package, it comes as a massive surprise. Talking about the much discussed battle between Alonso and Raikkonen, the Spaniard was half a second quicker than the latter on a single lap and had a three tenths advantage when it came to long runs.
Red Bull by this time would be aware that they have little chance of repeating their Canada result on home turf. Both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo were outside the top 10 in FP1 and while the situation did improve in FP2 as the team made setup changes and optimized their package they are still well of the pace of Mercedes and even Ferrari. In fact, their long run pace was very similar to that of Williams and Force India.
However, if Red Bull can manage their tyres better than Williams and Ferrari, they might have a chance of a better result.
As far as Force India is concerned, they’ll again be looking to do one less stop than their rivals. A fortnight ago, the Silverstone based squad deliberately compromised their qualifying pace to perform better on race day. With teams having more graining on their tyres than they had hoped for, expect Force India to flourish again in such a situation.
The upgrades McLaren bring to this race seem to work until now, at least on Jenson Button’s car. In stark contrast, Kevin Magnussen was consistently lapping in higher 16s and lower 17s. The team will have to sit down and analyse the massive difference between the pace of their two drivers.
And finally, Toro Rosso’s pace was more than encouraging with both the drivers inside the top 10 in FP2 and setting some quick laps in long runs as well. The Faenza based squad, like Williams, has failed to exploit the true potential of their car with multiple issues preventing them from maximising their points haul.