Spotlight on Vettel in Austria but Hamilton must roll up his sleeves
THE mountain air has served to clear some heads this week as F1 stays put in Spielberg for second showdown at the Red Bull Ring – the first time consecutive rounds have been held at the same venue.
Sebastian Vettel has been on some long soul-searching walks as he ponders his future. With Mercedes saying they are not looking at any other drivers, and Renault sensationally announcing the return of Fernando Alonso for 2021, there are not many options left for the soon-tobe-ex Ferrari star.
Should he not perform to the same standard as team-mate Charles Leclerc this weekend, there are rumours Ferrari, McLaren and Renault may force their driver transfers as early as this summer.
Perhaps Ferrari’s upgrades, which have been rushed forward, will help iron out the SF1000’s kinks. ‘[Today] will be an important day to see if everything is bringing the step we’re expecting,’ said the German ahead of practice. A change in name for this weekend’s race, from the Austrian to the Styrian Grand Prix, helps give a mental reset for all those who came a cropper last weekend, Lewis Hamilton among them.
Penalties in qualifying and the race have put him fourth, behind fellow Briton Lando Norris. Mercedes are expected to dominate again but Valtteri Bottas put in such a mighty performance last time out, Lewis is going to have to roll his sleeves up.
Hamilton needs to take greater care when battling Alexander Albon in the future. But on their collision last week, the Red Bull driver said: ‘One hundred per cent I’d do the same thing, it has to be done. There’s no real regret on my side.’ Tempers between Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Red Bull boss Christian Horner, however, are heating up.
After the race, Horner criticised Hamilton’s driving. That comes in addition to Red Bull protesting Mercedes’ DAS system on Friday and triggering a review of Hamilton’s yellow-flag infringement on Sunday morning. A frustrated Wolff said: ‘The protest on Friday was fair play but not on Sunday. The gloves are off.’
Hamilton is unconcerned, saying: ‘I don’t really think too much of the negative battle that goes on in the background. It’s a power battle between a few individuals.’
The announcement Alonso is rejoining Renault after a two-year absence is a kick in the teeth for young drivers in the feeder series but good news for F1’s box office. It is likely the two-time champion will end up replacing a four-time champ on the grid as, with Renault out of the picture, Vettel does not have many options for 2021.
Alonso’s titles and 32 wins are an understatement of his talent and, at 39, he is still capable of beating the likes of Hamilton and Max Verstappen. However, he does not always get along with his team, and that could prove tricky at Renault when the team is towards the back of the midfield. What’s to say it will be any better than the 2018 McLaren?
Having won his 2005 and ’06 titles with Renault, the Enstone team will feel a flush of nostalgic motivation, right up to the point he starts slagging them off on the radio.
Caution: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has escaped with a warning after breaking Formula One’s strict Covid19 protocol. All F1 personnel are required to remain within their socalled bubbles between races. But a picture of Leclerc (above) posing with a waiter at a Monte Carlo restaurant this week emerged on social media.