Fresh from the explosive British Grand Prix weekend, F1 heads to the Red Bull Ring for the
Austrian Grand Prix and the second F1 Sprint of the 2022 season. Nicky Haldenby talks about who to look out for over the race weekend.
The championship is closing up
One week on from a highly dramatic British Grand Prix weekend, Formula 1 is back in action at the Red Bull Ring for the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. With Max Verstappen finishing only seventh at Silverstone and team-mate Sergio Perez second, the Dutchman’s championship lead has been diminished slightly. The Ferrari pair of Silverstone race winner Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have also closed in. Nevertheless, Verstappen is still in the driving seat for this year’s title – and this weekend’s race win.
Verstappen won twice here last year
Last weekend may have been a blip in Verstappen’s 2022 campaign, but the blip was not self-inflicted. Verstappen’s pace deficit on Sunday afternoon was, ironically, caused by him running over a piece of debris left behind by the Red Bull junior team.
In both 2020 and 2021, the Red Bull Ring hosted two races per season due to calendar changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, Verstappen was victorious in both races, securing the win by a large margin each time.
The Red Bull Ring is statistically Verstappen’s strongest circuit. He has already racked up four wins in Austria. That’s more than he has at any other track and more than any other driver in Austria’s tenure on the calendar. He’s also qualified in the top three in all of the last five races here.
Based on previous form at the venue, and his form so far this year, Verstappen looks to be in the strongest position to claim his seventh win of the year.
Max Verstappen to win the Austrian Grand Prix – 10/11
A rejuvenated Sainz?
On his 150th start, Carlos Sainz finally took his first victory at the British Grand Prix. With his first win secured, we could now see a more confident Sainz as the season progresses. Following his win, the Spaniard has only a nine-point gap to team-mate Charles Leclerc in the championship standings. Sainz has secured more podiums this year than Leclerc, the Monegasque driver having not stood on the podium at any of the last five races.
The Red Bull Ring has been a bogey track for Ferrari in recent years. In the past four races at the circuit, the Scuderia has not recorded a top six qualifying result, while Leclerc’s unexpected second place in the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix has been an anomaly from otherwise lacklustre Sunday results.
Ferrari have not won at the Spielberg circuit since 2003 – though Leclerc did come within a few laps of victory in 2019 before being overtaken by Max Verstappen in the closing stages. Will Ferrari finally add another win to their Austrian tally in 2022?
Carlos Sainz to win the Austrian Grand Prix – 8/1
Tight qualifying session
One of the shortest circuits on the current calendar, lap times around the Red Bull Ring come in at under 65 seconds. That means two things: the first being tiny margins in lap times making a big difference to starting positions. With a tighter field in 2022, getting the perfect lap is all the more important.
The short layout also means you can expect a heavily congested track, especially in Q1, as the 20 drivers fight for space on the circuit. Don’t be surprised to see a big name fall out of proceedings early on Friday evening as a result.
The Sprint returns
Of course, this weekend, qualifying will only set the grid for Saturday’s Sprint event. The F1 Sprint format returns for the second time in 2022, having last been used at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. At Imola, it was Max Verstappen who took victory in the sprint race, overtaking polesitter Charles Leclerc. Verstappen has won two of the four Saturday races held so far.
This weekend’s Sprint event could be the best yet, with overtaking relatively easy to pull off at the Red Bull Ring. There are three DRS zones to aid the drivers looking to make up positions over the course of Saturday’s 100km race. Expect plenty of action and place swapping throughout the 30 minute Sprint!
Williams in Q3 again?
Further back in the field, keep an eye out for Alex Albon, who is expected to once again run Williams’ upgrade package, despite damage suffered at the British Grand Prix. We didn’t get to see the true results of the upgrades last weekend, thanks to rain in qualifying and Albon’s first lap crash in the race. Team-mate Nicholas Latifi, who did not run the upgrades last weekend, was able to reach Q3 in the rain at Silverstone. George Russell reached Q3 here with Williams last year. Could another strong showing be on the cards for the team this weekend?
Alex Albon to finish in the top 6 – 33/1
A strong track for Norris
Another driver to look out for is Lando Norris. McLaren have had a more difficult start to 2022 than they have experienced in recent seasons. Nevertheless, Norris remains a consistent points scorer – with top ten finishes in seven of this year’s ten races – and he has already picked up a podium, at the last F1 Sprint weekend in Imola.
The Brit has finished on the podium at the Red Bull Ring in each of the last two seasons and is yet to finish outside of the top six on any of his five appearances at the venue. He’s also qualified in the top six on every appearance and made the first front row start of his career at last year’s Austrian Grand Prix. The Spielberg venue is clearly a strong one for Norris. Will that translate into a good result in this year’s race?
Lando Norris to finish on the podium – 10/1