It’s a feeling of déjà vu for the Formula 1 teams and drivers this week. They’ve been held up in their Austrian motels and guesthouses, not able to do much, waiting to head back to the Red Bull Ring for another race.
But returning to the same venue doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be the same race weekend. Which is a shame in a way, given how crazy last week’s race was.
There’s a lot to look out for, not least because the weather’s different – from 30-degree ambient temperature last Sunday to the threat of rain this weekend.
Mercedes’ gearbox might not hold up
Mercedes suffered at the aggressive Red Bull Ring circuit last week as the violent kerbs meant it was suffering a sensor problem – basically being bounced around so much it was causing some electrical interference that was threatening to kill the system.
Fortunately for Mercedes, both drivers made it to the finish. But Racing Point driver Lance Stroll didn’t.
Mercedes says it has a countermeasure in place for this weekend that it hopes will help but has admitted this looks like a fundamental design issue that the nature of the Austrian circuit exploits.
If the fix doesn’t work, and Mercedes suffers a repeat, there’s no guarantee it will be fortunate a second time.
Verstappen actually in the mix
For some reason the Red Bull wasn’t quite quick enough last weekend. It seems that an aerodynamic problem was limiting its performance in the corners and then its inherent dragginess compromised it in a straight line.
The theory is that Honda’s made good gains again and isn’t that far off Mercedes. Who knows, maybe not at all. But if Red Bull’s struggling to keep its car planted in the corners and adding downforce to compensate then that’s hurting it more in a straight line as well.
Hence the 0.5s gap.
Let’s see if Red Bull’s able to reinforce its aero weakness quickly and be more of a threat in qualifying. But with Honda addressing the issue that wiped out Max Verstappen in the race, Red Bull should at least be in the mix on Sunday.
And based on last weekend’s race, that should put him more or less in the fight.
McLaren vs Ferrari
Seeing McLaren and Ferrari fight one another has not happened very often in F1 for many years. Yet it seems that, while Ferrari’s in turmoil, McLaren’s genuinely got a faster car.
Charles Leclerc only beat Lando Norris last weekend because of how the race played out. Ferrari was surprisingly slower than McLaren, a legacy of its flawed car and a slower engine than last year.
What that means is we go into this second weekend expecting a McLaren vs Ferrari fight, which could be even tighter.
If Ferrari succeeds in fast-track some upgrades it will presumably be slightly faster, which would eradicate the deficit it had to McLaren in qualifying.
While it still only be a B-story compared to the fight at the front, it will be still be one to enjoy.