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Mercedes rising but is Ferrari on brink of erupting? What to expect at the Austrian GP

Mercedes rising but is Ferrari on brink of erupting? What to expect at the Austrian GP

Mercedes rising but is Ferrari on brink of erupting? What to expect at the Austrian GP

Mercedes rising but is Ferrari on brink of erupting? What to expect at the Austrian GP

F1's European season is well and truly underway with races now coming thick and fast.

The Austrian Grand Prix marks the end of a double-header with Britain and will have a lot to live up to after a dramatic and thrilling race at Silverstone last weekend.

Sprint returns as well to add some extra spice. With Max Verstappen remaining in command of the championship, can Ferrari continue its comeback with a second successive victory?

Here is what to expect at the Red Bull Ring.

Red Bull back on the charge

It is hard to believe Max Verstappen would not have won the British Grand Prix at a canter had it not been for a rogue piece of AlphaTauri bodywork at The Loop.

The fact of the matter is the reigning champion did an incredible job even to finish seventh given the lack of downforce on the RB18, prompting team principal Christian Horner to suggest the car looked like it had been savaged in a "shark attack".

Red Bull had won seven races in a row ahead of Carlos Sainz's triumph at Silverstone but the team has a chance to retake the initiative on home soil and the track that bears its name.

The Dutchman barged his way past Charles Leclerc here in 2019 to take victory and fans will be hoping for similar drama this weekend.

Verstappen dominated both the Austrian and Styrian Grands Prix last season and will enter the weekend as favourite. The question feels more like 'how big will the gap be' rather than 'will Verstappen win'.

Ferrari infighting around the corner?

Yet again in Silverstone, Ferrari shot itself in the foot with an inability to make the tough decision.

If the team had shown the same cut-throat edge on the pit wall as Mattia Binotto had shown when giving Leclerc the wagging finger within view shot of the world's broadcaster then maybe the outcome might have been different.

It wasn't the first time this season Leclerc has been seen with a face like thunder after a Ferrari failing - reliability or strategic - and the dismay within the team in seemingly favouring Sainz with the late-race tactics in Britain will lead to a lack of trust.

The two drivers are separated by only 11 points in the championship standings, and with Sainz finally finding confidence behind the wheel of the F1-75, there is every chance relationships could fracture under pressure.

Mercedes on the rise

Lewis Hamilton's third place on Sunday may not have been Mercedes' first podium of the season, but it felt the most significant so far.

The British driver was on pace with Ferrari throughout the race and was likely to have been in the fight for the lead by the end after creating a large tyre offset.

But the crucial point of the weekend was the fact the W13 was one of the best in coping with bouncing mid-corner through Silverstone's high-speed sweeps.

With smoother, more traditional race tracks taking us up and through the summer break in Europe, this could be the Silver Arrows' chance to join the victory fight.

Alonso at top form?

Has Fernando Alonso ever been in greater form?

These cars are a world apart from the agile, nimble and bump-compliant mid-2000s Renault R25 and R26 machines that the Spaniard steered to two championships.

Yet the oldest driver on the grid has been sublime in recent weeks, qualifying second at the Canadian Grand Prix before joining the podium battle a week ago.

It was suggested Alonso would make way for Oscar Piastri when the Australian F2 champion was ready for an F1 seat.

The problem Alpine finds itself in at the moment is that Alonso in his current guise is completely undroppable.

Sprint is back!

If you are not a fan of practice and you just want to see a meaningful session on each of the three days across the weekend, you are in luck!

The second sprint of the season takes place this weekend, meaning qualifying shifts to Friday, making way for a 100km sprint.

If that session can live up to the enthralling 10-lap battle we saw last weekend then we are in for a cracking spectacle.

The eight points for winning the sprint could also help with regard to the destination of the championships at the end of the season.

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