In mid-April Lewis Hamilton was trailing Sebastian Vettel by 17 world championship points, by the start of June and following the Spanish Grand Prix it was Hamilton that held the advantage by 17 points.
Just one point separated the duo at the start of the French Grand Prix last weekend and now, in a see-saw season, it is Hamilton who tops the pile once again with a 14 point advantage.
The new improved engine that Mercedes introduced in France certainly seemed to give Hamilton enhanced performance but it must be noted the Mercedes engine in Sergio Perez’ Force India did suffer a race-ending issue. Hamilton has not endured a race retirement in 32 races. And while Vettel has seen the chequered flag in all of this season’s races, he did suffer two retirements in 2017.
Ultimately, while Hamilton looks to have the momentum and has a number of tracks coming on the roster which will all seemingly suit the demands of his car, this championship could come down to one or two mechanical breakdowns, crashes, incidents and even a blown tyre.
Let us not forget Hamilton suffered two retirements as opposed to Rosberg’s one in 2016 and the Brit lost the title by just five points.
Sunday in Spielberg
In the second race of three races during a 15 day period, the cars head off to Austria this weekend and the Red Bull owned circuit in Spielberg, Styria. To date this has been Mercedes territory. The German marque has taken the last three pole positions, claimed the last three fastest laps and won all four races staged here since the race came back on to the calendar in 2014 following an 11-year hiatus.
Red Bull would dearly love to win their own race. Ricciardo snatched a bronze medal here last year and Verstappen stood on the podium’s second step after starting ninth in 2016. But given this circuit is categorised as medium/low in terms of downforce requirements, it is unlikely they will have the beating of the Mercedes or Vettel’s Ferrari in a clean-run dry race.
Will Williams see Blue?
With the Red Bull Ring being a short circuit the field will have to complete 71 laps on Sunday and it is very possible just six cars will finishing on the lead lap and blue flags will be waved aplenty in the later stages of the contest.
That’s not good news for the Williams duo of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll. Their car has looked woeful at any and all circuits it has raced this season and the team is clearly in disarray.
With the Head of aerodynamics at Williams Martini Racing, Dirk de Beer, and Chief Designer, Ed Wood, leaving the team at the start of the summer, changes are clearly afoot behind the scenes.
In the biggest shop window of all, the race track, the team have announced their ‘young driver’, Oliver Rowland, who finished third in last season’s F2 Championship, will be at the wheel of the struggling Williams FW41 during the two-day test following July’s Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring.