Five in a row?

Red Bull goes into its second home race looking to win a fifth consecutive race.

The last time it happened was in 2013, where Sebastian Vettel ended the season with a record-breaking nine consecutive wins as he became a four-time world champion. 

Verstappen’s dominance in qualifying and ability to control the races from the front is certainly a flashback to the Vettel era of dominance.

Given that Verstappen stormed to the Styrian win with such ease, a fifth victory for the Milton-Keynes outfit is surely a formality.

The Dutchman predicts the fight at the front to be closer given that everyone will have a better understanding of how their cars perform at the Red Bull Ring.

“People analyse everything now after the race,” Verstappen said after his Styrian win. “So for sure next weekend, it will be a bit closer naturally, because you have a bit more understanding of what has been going on. 

“Of course we have been using softer compounds, so that will be interesting to see, how to manage that. We have to wait and see with the weather as well, what’s going to happen. Clearly we had a good car this weekend and I hope that we will continue this form to next week.”

While Verstappen is playing it down, it’s hard to see past another Red Bull ring on home soil. 

Mercedes’ fightback chances

It’s been a long time since Mercedes has been destroyed at a conventional race track in normal circumstances.

Even without Hamilton’s late pit stop for fresh rubber to get the fastest lap, he still trailed his title rival by over 15 seconds at Styria.

Unlike in previous rounds where it made up for its lack of qualifying pace in the race, it didn’t have an answer for Verstappen.

Worryingly for the reigning world champions, its tyre wear relative to Red Bull was a cause for concern.

After the Styrian GP, Mercedes trackside engineering chief Andrew Shovlin revealed that the team had explored a “fairly wacky” setup approach that could have contributed to its lack of race pace and tyre degradation issues.

Another weekend at the same venue will allow Mercedes to refine its setup and perhaps narrow the gap to the championship leaders.

Will Ferrari capitalise on its improved race pace?

After a disappointing French Grand Prix, Ferrari looked like it was back on form in race trim with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc enjoying impressive recovery drives.

Sainz went from 12th to finish sixth, even getting past Hamilton on-track when unlapping himself, while Leclerc recovered from an opening-lap collision with Pierre Gasly to go from 18th to seventh, carving his way through the field.

With Norris scoring well, it was important for Ferrari to capitalise on the good race pace it had, especially with Daniel Ricciardo continuing to struggle.

Given Ferrari’s pace at Styria, it was arguably a missed opportunity. Had Leclerc not collided with Gasly nor Sainz qualified so poorly or got stuck behind Hamilton, both drivers could have fought Norris for fifth.

The battle between Norris and the Ferraris will be one to watch out for on Sunday.

Ricciardo’s slump

It was another puzzling weekend for Daniel Ricciardo in Styria as he trailed teammate Norris by over 0.6s in Q2.

As Norris ran comfortably in fifth place, Ricciardo was in the chaotic midfield, stuck behind Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Granted, his brief loss of power during the first stint compromised his race severely but whether he’d have finished higher than ninth or tenth, remains unclear.

“We could’ve been fifth and sixth again as a team,” Ricciardo said. “When it is low it is really low, the sport. This was one of those days that I really did not love it.

Ricciardo sits 49 points behind his teammate in the drivers’ championship and looks no closer to getting to grips with McLaren’s 2021 challenger.

Norris is in the form of his life, while the Ferrari pair are operating at a consistent level at each race.

McLaren needs its big-money signing to come good soon and another race at the same venue leaves Ricciardo with no excuses. 

Pirelli’s softer tyre allocation

The main difference between this weekend’s race compared to last weekend is Pirelli’s decision to go one step softer. 

F1 teams will have the C5, C4 and C3 tyres at their disposal, as they did in Monaco and Azerbaijan. 

Based on the events of Styria, it’s likely this will make it a two-stop race given that Mercedes was marginal on tyre wear at the end of the race, with Bottas in particular.

It won’t be a concern for Verstappen though, who felt he had managed his tyres well during his dominant win.

“Straight away I felt a good balance in the car and it was good to manage the tyres basically from the start,” Verstappen added. “I felt like, to the end, I also had tyres left.”

Another tyre-related point for this weekend is that Pirelli will be testing a new rear tyre construction in Friday practice.

As a result of the tyre blowouts in Baku, a more robust rear tyre will be tested at the Red Bull Ring. Should the test prove to be a success, they will be introduced from the British Grand Prix.

Will a mid-season tyre modification have an impact on the rest of the season as it did in 2013? Pirelli doesn’t think so, but time will tell.