The next chapter in a thrilling Formula 1 season will take centre stage this weekend as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel prepare to do battle in the Austrian Grand Prix. The gloves came off in the last race in Baku as Vettel twice rammed into his Championship rival, causing a furious Hamilton to brand him “a disgrace”. Animosity between the pair has really ramped up and fans can looks forward to another great Grand Prix on Sunday.
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Vettel was given a time penalty for his antics in Azerbaijan and finished back in fourth, but managed to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship race as Hamilton suffered an extraordinary piece of bad luck. The Brit was cruising in the lead but was forced to take an extra pit stop to repair a loose headrest. That cost him dearly and he finished fifth. Going into the Austria Grand Prix, Vettel now has a 14-point lead over Hamilton. But his actions in Baku seemed a bit desperate, and it may have amounted to an admission of Hamilton’s superiority.
Ferrari and Mercedes have been neck and neck this season, which is a triumph for the sport as it has been many a year since two top teams were so well matched. But Mercedes is now 24 points ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship and it is now the 2/7 favourite with Sky Bet to win a fourth consecutive title. Hamilton has also been made odds-on favourite to win the Drivers’ Championship, despite trailing in the standings. Sky Bet and Bet365 now have him at 8/11 to win the Drivers’ Championship, ahead of Vettel on 11/8 and then Valtteri Bottas is all the way back at 33/1. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is 200/1 ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, who are both 500/1.
It is very much a two-horsed race: the main man at Mercedes looking to make it a third Drivers’ Championship in four years, versus the man that dominated at Red Bull (Vettel won four consecutive championships there) before Mercedes took over as the sport’s dominant force. They are two exceptional drivers and both ferocious competitors, but there is a sense now that momentum is with Hamilton. Mercedes were caught a little flatfooted by Ferrari’s huge improvements in the off-season, but they have rallied and responded and they appear to have the slight edge in terms of pace now. Hamilton keeps gaining pole positions and all he needs is for his luck to hold out. Surely more ill luck cannot befall him again?
What will count in his favour in Austria is Vettel’s precarious position. The German is just three points away from a costly suspension and will have to be on his best behaviour this weekend. All eyes will be on him after he was widely condemned by commentators for his behaviour in Baku, and Hamilton can exploit this and secure a much-needed win to gain the initiative in the championship battle. Hamilton won on this circuit last year, colliding with teammate Nico Rosberg on a thrilling final lap and holding on to secure a wonderful victory.
He will be fired up and raring to go in this Grand Prix and looks a great bet to win it at 8/13 with Betfred. An each-way bet on the consistent Bottas at 5/1 could also pay off as he is the most likely to capitalise if Hamilton and Vettel take one another out, and he is good enough to place in this race. Vettel has not won a Grand Prix since Monaco, and while he will fight every inch of the way, the pendulum is shifting towards Hamiton and he will be highly motivated to win this one.