Austrian GP Preview: Tyres, Engine Penalties, and Red Bull On Home Turf

After its comeback to the calendar last year Austria was met with good reception from many, mainly due to its simplicity [it only has nine corners!] and atmosphere generated by the fans. This weekend the F1 circus returns for what is the eighth round of the 2015 contest, and there is lots to talk about.

The first topic is tyres. This week Michelin put forward its proposal to be one of F1’s tyre suppliers for the 2017 season onwards, meaning we could see a return to the tyre war battle days we had back in V10 era of the sport. Michelin say they want to produce tyres which are longer lasting than the current Pirelli’s, applying a similar philosophy to its tyres in WEC for LMP1 which allow drivers to push to the limits during each stint.

Austria_2_2015_F1WeekendsSpeaking to Motorsport.com, Michelin motorsport’s head Pascal Couasnon said “We’re a bit disappointed to see where the technology lies – at least, the way tyres are represented in F1,” adding that they would like to create something that is closer to real life tyres in order to appeal to the higher end road cars. This could open up the door to the potential for teams to use 18-inch tyres from 2017 onwards, a concept that was tested by both Michelin and Pirelli during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend on World Series and GP2 cars.

Moving towards 18-inch tyres certainly represents F1’s shift towards hybrid technology more given the economical gains such a tyre is able to bring road users, with them also being used in Formula E. But the prospect of a tyre war coming back to F1 does sound like it could overcomplicate things for viewers again. Its even more significant that Michelin’s announcement came just a day before it being 10 years since Ralf Schumacher’s blowout at Indianapolis, which caused the eight-year fallout between the tyre manufacture and the sport.

We’ll have to watch this space. The Strategy Group seem hellbent on introducing an item from F1’s past time, at least this one seems somewhat more logical than bringing back refuelling.

Moving on to other stories of the weekend and one that is fairly significant is Red Bull on home turf this weekend. Given the public spat between them and Renault throughout the first half of this season along with the penalties their drivers are now having to take due to their Power Unit’s reliability, this will be a significant weekend for both parties in evaluating their partnership for the future amid speculation they could be returning to Ferrari power for 2016.

Austria_2015_F1WeekendsRed Bull boss Deitrich Matershitz will no doubt be attending this weekend, although I expect to hear some firm words from the entrepreneur considering Riccardo and Kvyat might be taking engine penalties now they are on their fourth and final internal combustion engines heading into the weekend.

McLaren Honda are also set to be taking engine penalties this weekend, namely for Fernando Alonso who could be facing a 20-place grid penalty this weeken, because Honda will be adding some upgrades to his car, and exceeding the number of changes they are allowed to make to improve reliability. He will be getting the benefit of running various aerodynamic upgrades in the form of a newer, shorter front wing and updated rear wing instead of Button.

Finally lets talk about the on track action itself. I have a suspicion that we could see Ferrari take the fight to Mercedes again given the nature of the circuit and how similar it is to Malaysia. There are a lot of long straights which is where the Ferrari’s were able to gain time on the Silver Arrows as opposed to the twisty bits, so it will be interesting to see where the pair are in the speed traps. We may also have a better race weekend from Lotus and Williams having shown glimmers of pace in Canada two weeks ago.

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