Mercedes have been unstoppable in 2019, with eight wins out of eight and six belonging to Lewis Hamilton, they are on track to tie Ferrari’s record of six consecutive championships between 1999 and 2004.
Last time out in France was a classic example of their sheer authority over the rest of the pack and how even Ferrari struggle to come near them, despite the Scuderia being pre-season favourites.
However, this time around, Formula One returns to the Red Bull Ring in which Mercedes experienced a ‘disaster’ last time out.
Whilst enjoying a routine one-two in qualifying, the same could not be said about the race with Valtteri Bottas retiring on lap 13 through a hydraulics issue. Only for it to get even worse with the championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, retiring on lap 64 with a fuel pressure problem.
Could lightning strike twice for Mercedes?
The other nine teams would certainly appreciate a re-occurrence as that may be the only way to beat the 2019 Silver Arrows, in a bid to end their run of ten consecutive wins – 2 at the end of 2018.
Ferrari currently trail Mercedes by 140 points and will require something special to cut that deficit, but the pressure heading into Austria is perhaps mostly on one half of the Silver Arrows garage.
Valtteri Bottas that would be.
Following two wins in the opening four races, there was a rejuvenated Bottas that could seemingly take the championship fight to his team-mate throughout the season.
However, four races later all won by Hamilton, now leaves the Fin with a significant 36-point gap to bridge if he is to become world champion and he needs to start reducing that deficit in Austria.
Otherwise, a sixth title for Hamilton will await.
Therefore, Bottas will need a complete performance this weekend to prevent Hamilton ‘driving into the dust’.
A repeat for Red Bull?
With both Mercedes drivers out of contention for the 2018 race by lap 64, it was finally a chance to beat the Silver Arrows and up stepped Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman held off both Ferrari drivers to give Red Bull a home win and end four consecutive Mercedes victories in Austria.
It was also a victory that aided Verstappen to gain another level in his driving which is evident a year later, with many picking him as the driver of the season thus far, despite Hamilton’s dominance.
Yet to finish below fifth this season, he has always gained every inch out of his resources and the performances of his team-mate, Pierre Gasly, indicate the tremendous job that Verstappen is doing.
France highlighted Gasly’s struggle in his transition to Red Bull, whom only gained a point in P10 because of Ricciardo’s ten second time penalty that was awarded a day after the race.
Red Bull provided Gasly with the correct strategy, yet somehow the Frenchman found himself being overtook by the Renault and McLaren cars.
He will certainly need to turnaround his form in Austria, otherwise Red Bull may start looking elsewhere to fill his position – they certainly have a history of doing so with Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen.
Whilst his team-mate will have hopes of challenging for a podium, it will be key to look at Gasly’s race, otherwise the writing may well be on the wall for the 23-year-old.
McLaren now finding their form
Throughout the history of Formula One, McLaren has always been a team at the top fighting for world championships.
With eight constructor titles, they lie third on the all-time list behind Ferrari and Williams, respectively, yet in recent years the team has somewhat struggled.
Now seven years since McLaren’s last race win in 2012 with Jenson Button, the team have experienced turmoil at the back which included an embarrassing ninth place finish in the 2017 season.
However, the team has since made drastic changes including a switch to Renault engines from Honda, resulting in a fresh plan that is witnessed in 2019
The loss of double world champion, Fernando Alonso, was perhaps a blessing in disguise as they opted for a young and fresh lineup of Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris this season.
A tremendous turnaround in performance for McLaren.
France highlighted how far they had come. P5 and P6 in qualifying ahead of a Ferrari and a Red Bull to then finish P6 and P9 in the race, indicates that they now have the resources to compete.
With the current struggles of Pierre Gasly, it should come as no surprise if they bring the fight to Red Bull this weekend in what should be an intriguing battle and one which the Frenchman certainly does not need.
A season of huge progression for McLaren, one that could get even better in Austria should they once again compete with Red Bull.