Austrian Grand Prix Preview

The hills are alive with the sound of Formula One, as the paddock descends on the mountains of Styria for the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix. 

Only Nico Rosberg has had the honour of standing atop the podium at the Red Bull Ring since Austria regained their Grand Prix in 2014. And with the fast nature of the 4.3-kilometre circuit, the Mercedes-powered teams should fair well once more on the back of setting record speeds in Baku – where Nico Rosberg claimed his fifth win of the season. Rain though could throw a spanner in the works come qualifying, where record times were expected.

Last time Formula One rolled onto the undulating Red Bull Ring, Nico Rosberg dominated the race as he went on to claim his second win at the circuit. But the story of the start was Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso coming to blows at the second corner, with the McLaren coming to a rest atop the Ferrari.

The race came at a poor time for McLaren. As the Honda power unit propelling their cars left them on the receiving end of a record-breaking penalty, with their drivers hit with a combined 50-place grid penalty. The engine change, however, failed to prevent Jenson from not finishing the race.

Fernando Alonso during the Austrian GP 2015. Credit: Katsch1969

Fernando Alonso during the Austrian GP 2015. Credit: Katsch1969

This year, though, should prove better for McLaren as their partnership with Honda continues to progress. Hamilton too will be hoping for a better Austrian Grand Prix, after failing to turn pole into a victory last year – as well as putting to bed a poor European Grand Prix.

As in Baku, Hamilton struggled throughout qualifying and the race while Rosberg walked away to victory. With this weekend coming as another chance for Rosberg versus Hamilton for the win.

The Mercedes pair should be out in the clear if the European Grand Prix is anything to go by. But Speilberg’s nine-cornered track has proven Williams can come into play with their Mercedes-powered, low-downforce package giving them an edge.

Austrian GP - Red Bull Ring circuit diagram - copyright: Formula1.com

The Red Bull Ring. Copyright: Formula1.com

After a strong start to the year, Haas’ form has taken a dip in recent races. But the Austrian Grand Prix, however, could change their form for the better. With Romain Grosjean hoping the warmer weather will allow Haas to more easily find the right working range for the tyres.

Haas, and the rest of the grid, though may need to find the right working range for the wet tyres in qualifying. With Formula One’s weather service, UBIMET, predicting heavy rain on Saturday before clearing for the race.

The rain could also bring an end to any expectations of record lap times at the Austrian Grand Prix. For races in 2016 have seen a steady rate of progression in lap times compared to last year – particular at Bahrain, where Hamilton posted the fastest lap in the circuit’s history.

These gains have partly been down to standard engine progression and car development. But thanks are also due in part to the introduction of Pirelli’s ultrasoft tyres – which have been heavily favoured for this year’s Austrian round.

The Red Bull Ring has also been resurfaced since last year’s race, with some bumps removed to produce a more even circuit. These changes, and car progression, had raised considerations that the fastest time around the circuit, set by Michael Schumacher in 2003, could be beaten this year. With teams anticipating this year’s fastest qualifying laps to be in the 1 minute 6 seconds range should the session take part in the dry.

Austria GP tyres

Pirelli tyre nominations for the Austrian Grand Prix

The 71-lap event this weekend will be broadcasted live exclusively on TV by Sky Sports F1 in England. While BBC will provide radio commentary and Channel 4 will feature the race and qualifying via highlights across the weekend. Coverage begins this Wednesday with Sky Sports’ F1 Report: Preview.

Wednesday, 29 June
20:30 – F1 Report: Preview

Thursday, 30 June
14:00 – Driver Press Conference
20:45 – Paddock Uncut

Friday, 1 July
08:45 – Austrian GP – Practice 1
08:55 – Austrian GP – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
11:00 – GP2 Practice
12:45 – Austrian GP – Practice 2
12:55 – Austrian GP – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14:55 – GP2 Qualifying
15:30 – Team Press Conference
16:00 – The F1 Show

Saturday, 2 July
08:45 – GP3 Qualifying
09:45 – Austrian GP – Practice 3
12:00 – Austrian GP – Qualifying
14:35 – GP2 Race 1
16:20 – GP3 Race 1
17:30 – Austrian GP – Qualifying – Highlights (Channel 4)

Sunday, 3 July
08:25 – GP3 Race 2
09:30 – GP2 Race 2
11:30 – Austrian GP – Track Parade
12:00 – Austrian GP – Pit Lane Live
12:30 – Austrian GP – Race Show
13:00 – Austrian GP – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15:30 – Austrian GP – Paddock Live
18:00 – Austrian GP – Race – Highlights (Channel 4)

Times above are for Sky Sports F1 unless stated.