Will Vet­tel man­age to keep it clean this time?

CityPress - - Sport - MICHELLE FOS­TER sports@city­press.co.za TEAMtalk Me­dia

The FIA has drawn a line un­der Baku, while its bosses con­sider the mat­ter closed. How­ever, it re­mains to be seen whether, when the ac­tion heats up in Aus­tria, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Lewis Hamil­ton will keep it clean or add more spice to this year’s ti­tle race.

At the last Grand Prix in Baku, Vet­tel was handed an in-race penalty for giv­ing Hamil­ton a whack in re­tal­i­a­tion for what he per­ceived to be a brake-check from his ti­tle ri­val.

The Fer­rari driver has sub­se­quently ad­mit­ted mea culpa and was let off with­out fur­ther sanc­tions af­ter of­fer­ing a sin­cere apology – as sin­cere as one gets stand­ing in the head­mas­ter’s office try­ing to avoid de­ten­tion.

As such, Vet­tel will line up on the Aus­trian Grand Prix grid 14 points ahead of Hamil­ton, a fig­ure that Hamil­ton con­sid­ers a dis­grace given the Ger­man’s ac­tions in Baku.

There is, how­ever, some good news for the Bri­tish racer.

The Aus­trian Grand Prix may take place at the Red Bull Ring, a track owned by Di­et­rich Mates­chitz, but since its re­turn to the cal­en­dar in 2014, it has be­longed solely to Mercedes with two front row locks out on Saturdays, two 1-2 re­sults on Sun­days and three vic­to­ries in three races. The last one went to Hamil­ton, who won the Grand Prix af­ter a last-lap com­ing to­gether with then team-mate Nico Ros­berg.

It has been con­trast­ing for­tunes for Fer­rari, who, in that time, have man­aged just one topthree re­sult, and it didn’t go to Vet­tel; rather, it was a P3 for Kimi Raikko­nen last year. Vet­tel re­tired from that race when his rear right tyre ex­ploded, pitch­ing him into the bar­ri­ers.

With 10 corners – two of which barely count – linked by long straights, the Spielberg track is a power cir­cuit that suits not only the Mercedes chas­sis, but also their en­gines, as proven by Wil­liams’ podi­ums in 2014 and 2015.

In fact, iron­i­cally, it may be the Red Bull Ring, but Red Bull have man­aged just one podium since their cir­cuit re­turned to the cal­en­dar. The up­side for them, though, is that it came last sea­son when their en­gine part­ner Re­nault be­gan to im­prove, some­thing they’ve done even more of this sea­son.

And, on the back of Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s vic­tory in Baku, Red Bull will line up at home hop­ing for the best, but ac­knowl­edg­ing that the say­ing “there’s no place like home’’ doesn’t quite ap­ply just yet.

The Bulls, though, aren’t the only team hop­ing that re­cent form cou­pled with last year’s re­sult are cause for op­ti­mism as McLaren are with­out a doubt feel­ing the same.

Last sea­son, Jen­son But­ton fin­ished P6 in Aus­tria and in Baku, Fer­nando Alonso scored the team’s first points of this year’s cham­pi­onship. Throw in an up­dated Honda en­gine and the dou­ble world champ is feel­ing “pos­i­tive” about his chances this weekend.

And, as Lance Stroll proved in Azer­bai­jan, some­times For­mula 1 can pro­duce mir­a­cles, even the com­pletely un­ex­pected ones.

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