Venue: Red Bull Ring
The gloves are definitely off in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship after a controversial and chaotic race in Azerbaijan and we’re backing Sebastian Vettel to hold his nerve best at the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari ace was hit with a 10-second penalty after clashing with title rival Lewis Hamilton in Baku but had the last laugh when holding off the Briton to finish fourth behind Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll.
That extended the German’s lead at the top of the table to 14 points and he is fancied at 9/4 to pull further clear with a fourth win of the year in our Austrian Grand Prix predictions.
Hamilton was quick to blast Vettel’s actions as a “disgrace” but that only strengthens our belief that the Mercedes star was more unsettled by the whole incident.
Vettel was clearly out of order for driving into the back of Hamilton and then pulling alongside to vent his frustration at what he perceived as brake checking while behind the safety car.
However, it did appear to us that Hamilton was guilty of gamesmanship in the build-up to that fracas and his response also screamed of childish petulance.
Vettel expressed the opinion that both drivers should have been penalised and calmly commented: “I don’t have a problem with Lewis but I just think that what he did on the track was not okay.”
As for the performance of his Ferrari, the German added: “I think that the car was very good. The pace was strong in the race. I think you could see that we were losing a bit here and there, but overall it was a good race.”
How the Azerbaijan Grand Prix finished:
1 Ricciardo (Red Bull), 2 Bottas (Mercedes), 3 Stroll (Williams), 4 Vettel (Ferrari), 5 Hamilton (Mercedes), 6 Ocon (Force India), 7 Magnussen (Haas), 8 Sainz (Toro Rosso), 9 Alonso (McLaren), 10 Wehrlein (Sauber), 11 Ericsson (Sauber), 12 Vandoorne (McLaren), 13 Grosjean (Haas), DNF Raikkonen (Ferrari), Perez (Force India), Massa (Williams), Hulkenberg (Renault), Verstappen (Red Bull), Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Palmer (Renault).
Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene echoed those thoughts, suggesting the stewards’ decisions did not go Ferrari’s way but declaring: “We fought hard even if the results don’t show it. Our car was on the pace and that was clear to see.
“That’s Ferrari for you. We let our actions speak for us. We will continue in that vein immediately, in preparation for the remaining 12 races, starting with the Austrian GP, with even more determination than before.”
Obviously, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas had an advantage in qualifying again in Baku, but Ferrari can continue to compete on race day.
It remains to be seen how Hamilton will bounce back from getting flustered in Azerbaijan and past history shows the slightest swings can have a detrimental effect on his fragile temperament.
That makes Evens for the British driver to prevail at the Red Bull Ring too short to risk in our book and Vettel stands out as better value.
Of the remainder, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has not had much luck of late but the Dutchman has shown glimpses of speed that could make 16/1 interesting.
Past Austrian Grand Prix results
2016 Hamilton (Mercedes), Verstappen, Raikkonen
2015 Rosberg (Mercedes), Hamilton, Massa
2014 Rosberg (Mercedes), Hamilton, Bottas
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