Having raced at Silverstone, one of the fastest tracks ever in F1 history to landing at Spielberg, the fourth-shortest venue on the grid, Formula 1 arrives at a venue whose picturesque setting and straight out-of-the-fairytale-setting prompt endless selfies, truth be told.
And not to mention the spectacular promise of witnessing what could be yet another closely fought fight from start to the checkered flag.
As Verstappen lines up in front having successfully collected a sixteenth career pole, what are the chances of Ferrari and Mercedes battling the blazing Red Bull?
Who can hold the Bull by the horns, if at all that’s possible this weekend?
While there’s some uncertainty over these questions, what’s certain is that the following four drivers, in particular, must deliver a strong Austrian GP of 2022 here at Spielberg:
Carlos recorded a DNF in the first ever Austrian Grand Prix that he took part in. That was 2015. A year later, he scored a P8 with his Toro Rosso team, following it up with another DNF in 2017.
Later on, even in his first race at Austria with McLaren, Sainz was able to score only a lowly looking P8 in 2019, an effort he’d determinedly improve the following year.
In 2020, he’d score a P5 in the papaya-liveried McLaren machine.
And surprisingly, his best-ever result at the said venue, continues to remain, P5 up to this point.
But this time around, the most recent winner of a Formula 1 race (British GP at Silverstone) begins his 2022 Austrian Grand Prix from third on the grid.
That’s when he had topped the time charts for the practice session on Saturday prior to the start of the sprint race.
Therefore, for Sainz, who finds himself fourth on the Driver’s Standings, where he trails his Ferrari teammate by twelve points, the Austrian Grand Prix is an excellent opportunity to improve his past record at the venue.
So can the Silverstone star continue to shine bright and do something special at Silverstone?
With results like the P1 at Silverstone, P2 at Canada, which were such a respite from the DNF at Baku, Sainz has shown tremendous maturity and is coming of age.
Not once in the previous five Grands Prix has Charles Leclerc stood on the podium. His recent efforts have culminated in a fourth at Great Britain, a fifth at the Montreal-bound Canadian Grand Prix and the heart crushing DNF recorded at Baku where he wasn’t at fault at all.
Coming into Spielberg, the venue of his two previous podium finishes, Charles Leclerc will have one aim and one alone. It will be to find a way to beat max Verstappen, the pole sitter for Sunday’s race.
So can Charles do it? Surely, why not? He was in the lead of the race back in 2019 where it seemed victory was certain before a fast catching Verstappen snatched the lead away from him with only three laps to go.
Leclerc, it ought to be remembered, was the pole sitter of that race.
So as he enters the 2022 event at serene Spielberg, while a win can’t be assured, what’s certain is that he’ll give it absolutely everything – and must- in order to take a claim in triumphing. After all, the famous Ferrari driver begins his Austrian challenge from second on the grid.
And that’s not the worst possible position from which to begin a Grand Prix, right?
Daniel Ricciardo lines up eleventh on the grid for his 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. Standing ahead of him is his McLaren teammate Lando Norris; the duo separated by the barest of margins.
And by that measure, one reckons, Ricciardo would like to play his part in turning a venue that hasn’t exactly manifested in anything too spectacular for him, into something more excitable.
But there’s a problem; Lando Norris, riding high on the confidence of yet again our scoring Ricciardo consistently this season enjoys a far more pleasant record at Austria than his Australian teammate.
In 2019, the Perth-born, then driving for Renault, scored a P12, an effort that would be followed by a P8 for the same outfit the following year: i.e., the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix.
However, a DNF followed not long after the Austrian Grand Prix at the very venue for Ricciardo.
So far, his P7 with McLaren is his best performance at the track. But that’s something that hardly gives an indication of the massive potential of the 2021 Italian Grand Prix winner- isn’t it?
Ricciardo must deliver a strong drive at Spielberg. The added motivation to do so could well be the damning indignation of his talent as understood by the fact that so far, he’s only been able to feature in two finishes in points in 2022 – not more.
Moreover, with results like the P13 at England (his tamamte 6th), the P11 at Canada and Baku’s P8, it’s about time that the Australian behind the famous smile gave his fans a reason to smile about.
One of the most interesting images that emerged following the Friday bound qualifying session was Vettel asking Leclerc to sign an Aston Martin cap. The duo were, understandably, posing with big smiles.
Whether that was harmless fun or Vettel being his usual modest self, it isn’t clear.
What’s clear though is that the driver who had to face the ignominy of missing out on the first two races this season must bounce back strong to collect something important for his British racing outfit.
Of his 53 Formula 1 wins, none have come at Spielberg, home to the Austrian Grand Prix, which happens to be one of the most jaw dropping F1 venues.
And while the chances of Vettel doing something jaw dropping like collecting a podium with his current Aston Martin machine seem remote, what doesn’t appear to be such a remote possibility, however, is a finish around a P12 or a P15, at the most.
For, practically speaking, that is all the great German driver might be able to do beginning the 71-lap run from eighteenth on the grid.
Having said that Vettel will strive much better at the sensational-looking Spielberg will be to get as high up order as he possibly can. After all, he enters the event at the back of not so glorious results like his ninth at Silverstone and the P12 at Canada.
In the past, however, Vettel’s fortunes at Spielberg haven’t quite been blissful; he scored a DNF in the 2021 race and had A P10 in the 2020 race with Ferrari, before scoring a DNF at the Styrian GP.
He is currently 13th with 15 points on the Driver’s Standings.