SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) - Red Bull doubts coming home will be an advantage, as Formula One returns to Austria this week for the first time in 11 years.
Team drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel finally ended Mercedes’ six-race winning streak by finishing 1-3 in the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
But just when their F1 fortunes have taken an upturn, they don’t believe their home track, the old A1 Ring redubbed the Red Bull Ring, will give them anything more than an emotional boost in the Austrian Grand Prix.
Even then, teams that have been eating Red Bull’s exhaust for the last four years are keen to pay them in kind on their home track.
“It adds a bit of extra motivation,” F1 leader Nico Rosberg of Mercedes admits. “It would be really special to win on the A1 Ring.”
Ricciardo and Vettel believe rival Mercedes will bounce back from its hiccup in Montreal, and go into the Austrian GP as deserved favorites.
“The gap is still big,” Ricciardo said on Thursday.
“We’ve got a bit of steam from the last race. We’re all really excited - the home one for Red Bull - but (closing the gap) is still going to take a bit of time, it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Vettel thinks Mercedes is likely to have sorted out the technical mishaps from Montreal.
“Everything else would surprise me,” Vettel said, adding his team’s goal was to get as close as possible to its dominant rival. “If a chance comes up like in Canada, we want to be right there to take it.”
Only engine troubles have stymied Mercedes this season. In Montreal, Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had the same problem at about the same time, when their rear brakes overheated. While Hamilton went out, race leader Rosberg managed to limit the damage and lost just one place.
“It’s work in progress,” Rosberg said of his team technicians trying to solve the problem. “We are confident it’s not happening again. We don’t need to go extra conservative.”
Despite his second DNF of the season, Hamilton took positives out of the Canadian GP.
“We’ve only gained from that experience,” the 2008 world champion said. “The car’s been fixed so that won’t happen again. … We have a lot races ahead of us so a couple of DNFs are not concerning me too much now. I have done my optimum but there is still room for improvement.”
The Austrian GP was last held in 2003, when Michael Schumacher triumphed on his way to the sixth of his seven world titles.
Only four drivers have raced on this circuit - Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Filipe Massa. It will be the first time for Ricciardo and Vettel.
Although the track has been modified only slightly, the 11-year-old race data won’t be much help as the series has drastically changed with the introduction of the hybrid cars.
“To be honest, I don’t remember anything … I have no memories,” Alonso said. “(It) is a very short circuit, so there are only five or six corners around here where you can make the time, so I expect all the cars to be very close. One or two tenths (in time), you can make a lot of places, so you just need to make a perfect lap.”
Teams will rely heavily on their simulations, and need to gather as much data as possible during practice on Friday and Saturday morning, especially on surface characteristics. Those could change between the first and second practices as rain has been forecast for Friday afternoon.
At 4.3 kilometers, the track is one of the shortest on the calendar. However, it has fast straights and features only nine turns, with just the first three to be taken in low gear, and it includes two DRS zones - after the second and the ninth turn. In these zones, drivers are allowed to alter the angle of their car’s rear wing flap to reduce drag while attempting to overtake.
Until the Canadian GP, Mercedes was racing in a league of its own. Rosberg leads with 140 points, Hamilton has 118, and next-best was Ricciardo, on 79. Vettel was fifth with 60, but he and Ricciardo are hoping coming home will make a difference.
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