5 talking points ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton leads the F1 pack heading to Austria (Claude Paris/AP)
Lewis Hamilton leads the F1 pack heading to Austria (Claude Paris/AP)

The Formula One circus heads to Spielberg for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton will arrive there with a 36-point championship lead following his devastating win in France last Sunday.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at the key talking points ahead of the ninth round of the season.

F1 hoping to bounce back from drab French GP

The sport was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Sunday evening following a processional affair in Le Castellet. Hamilton, who delivered a crushing performance to win for a sixth time this year, subsequently led the calls for change. F1 has welcomed his criticism, and is keen to work with the world champion at the next three meetings to determine the post-2020 regulations. Whether Hamilton will be in attendance for all of them, however, is unclear. “Maybe Sebastian (Vettel) will go next time,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter – all the drivers are united.”

Who can stop Hamilton?

Hamilton was in unbeatable form in France, leading every lap en route to his 14th victory from the last 19 F1 races. With Mercedes dominating the sport, Hamilton’s closest challenger is likely to come in the form of Valtteri Bottas. The Finnish driver won two of the opening four rubbers, but arrives in Austria on a four-race losing streak to his Mercedes team-mate. Bottas did triumph at the Red Bull Ring in 2017, and was on course to feature prominently last year before an engine failure. He has also been on pole there for the last two years.

Mercedes’ rivals hoping lightning strikes twice

The Silver Arrows are yet to be beaten this season, have secured six one-two finishes, and are already 140 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ championship. Yet, the Red Bull Ring has been the scene of trouble for Mercedes in recent years. In 2016, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided on the final lap. Last year, both Hamilton and Bottas retired with engine troubles – Mercedes’ only double DNF since they returned to the grid in 2010. The Spielberg track should be better suited to Ferrari than Le Castellet, too, but Mercedes have still won four of the last five in Austria, and will start as favourites to claim their 11th victory on the spin.

Extreme weather to hit Austria

A heatwave sweeping Europe will see higher than normal temperatures in Austria. The mercury is expected to hover in and around the 30-degree mark. The soaring heat, coupled with the track sitting more than 700 metres above sea level, will be a tricky test for the cars, and could create some much-needed unpredictability.

Williams confirm Lowe’s departure

Paddy Lowe File Photo
Paddy Lowe left Williams after a frustrating season (David Davies/PA)

Paddy Lowe’s exit from Williams was confirmed this week after he was placed on a permanent leave of absence following the British team’s failure to get their car ready in time for testing. The car, created by Lowe, is the slowest on track and the British team face a huge challenge to make its way back up the grid. Lowe was considered as one of the finest engineering minds in the paddock, winning titles with McLaren, and most recently, Mercedes. But his stock has fallen dramatically, following two and a bit underwhelming years at Williams, and it is difficult to see if he will be handed another major chance.