2020 Austrian GP Tips and Preview by James Punt

by | Jul 2, 2020

2020 Austrian GP Tips and Preview by James Punt

It seemed like it might never happen, but at last it’s back! The Formula 1 season starts this weekend in Austria and we can’t wait. James Punt has also been looking forward to the season getting started and you can read his ante-post preview here. If you are looking for his 2020 Austrian GP tips and preview, keep on reading!

Austrian GP Preview

The 2020 Formula 1 season finally gets underway at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. There will be two races held on consecutive weekends with next week’s race being named the Styrian GP, named after the region of Austria where the circuit is situated. The teams then head off to Hungary the following weekend before a double header at Silverstone in August. The Spanish, Belgian and Italian GP’s follow.

This will be the first time that an F1 season has started with a race on the Red Bull Ring. It will be interesting on a number of levels.

The first is to learn who has done the most development on their cars since the Barcelona tests back in March. The teams all had to shutdown for an extended period of time but that is not to say that no work has been done. Renault, for example, build their chassis in the UK and that plant was shut for nine weeks. However, their engine factory in France was shut for seven weeks. Most teams are UK based so the nine week shut down will be the norm. The Europe based teams such as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri will have come out of lockdown a couple of weeks earlier though.

2020 Austrian GP Tips: Richer Teams At An Advantage

The rule of thumb is that the wealthy teams will have been able to squeeze in more developments than the middle income outfits, while the financially challenged teams have made only modest developments or none at all.

New parts are always part of the game at the opening race. This weekend will be no different, it’s just that the teams have had more time than they usually would. Friday’s free practice will be all about data logging as the teams try and corollate the on track performance of new parts to the factory figures. It will be busy and probably quite confusing. So, don’t try and read too much into the headline times in FP1 and FP2.

It will also be interesting see how the teams operate with fewer personnel at the track. Simple things like making repairs to damaged cars are going to take more time. Any drivers who smash their cars up could face a serious lack of track time and be on the back foot heading into qualifying and the race. Changing a power unit is said to take twice as long than would have been the case last year. There is going to be a premium on reliability and drivers not making big mistakes.

Can Drivers Keep Composure?

The fact that this is the first day back at school does mean that the drivers can get a bit frisky when the lights go out on Sunday. Months of inactivity is the norm going into any opening race. However, usually the drivers would have had a long test leading up to the first race. This time, most will have had just a few laps in the 2020 car for ‘filming’ purposes, using demonstration tyres. Others a day on track but in a 2018 car. Neither is ideal preparation.

This year, the drivers head into the first race over 3 months since the last proper test and nearly seven months since they last raced (or a year and seven months for Esteban Ocon). There will be much chopping of bits.

The Red Bull Ring is a short but fast track. The opening two corners are very tight and often produce accidents. There is plenty of bail out room on both but with the field bunched at the start it will be very easy to tangle with another car and it’s easy to see one or two drivers race ending, or being severely compromised, very quickly. With the large run off area’s drivers can usually get away with some banging and barging. However, we saw one first lap retirement in 2017 and two in 2015. We may see one or two early stops to repair any collision damage.

Last year every single car was a classified finisher, the first time that had happened since the Japanese GP in 2016. By and large however, this is a track which usually sees a reasonable number of retirements, averaging 3.33 since 2014.

Good Start Required

The start can be race defining and we have seen quite a few pole position drivers fail to win the race. Last year it was Charles Leclerc on pole and looking for his first F1 win. He had Verstappen alongside him but the Red Bull bogged down at the start and Verstappen was suddenly in 8th place. The Dutchman managed to pull off a win from that position which shows that this a track were places can be made up on track.

Of the six races here in the turbo hybrid era, only twice has the winner started on pole. Poor starts, pit stop strategy and on track overtakes have all played a role in seeing the pole man fail to win.

2020 Austrian GP Tips: Driver and Team Records (2014 – 2019)

We have three past winners in the field, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have one win each while Max Verstappen has won the last two. Both the Mercedes drivers have two pole positions and Charles Leclerc one. Mercedes has been on pole in five of the six races since 2014. Of the drivers down in the midfield nobody really stands out. Esteban Ocon has finished sixth and eighth in his only two races here. Norris was sixth on debut last year. Sergio Perez has four top 10’s and a best of sixth place. Grosjean has three top seven finishes.

It hasn’t been a great track for teams outside of the big three. Williams had a podium in 2014 and 2015 but that was when having the Mercedes power unit was the key factor. Since then only Haas has finished better than sixth from the midfielders, fourth and fifth in 2018, the team’s best ever result.

Alfa Romeo/Sauber have had double points finishes for the last two years. Racing Point/Force India have had four double points finishes in the last six years.

It has not been a happy hunting ground for Renault with just a solitary 7th place in 2015. That is the worst record of any team racing this weekend.  Alpha Tauri/Toro Rosso have score just two eighth places and failed to score a point in the last three seasons.

2020 Austrian GP tips: Big Three Could Dominate

Past form suggests that this will be another battle between the big three teams. Nothing in the winter tests suggested that the midfield have made enough progress to threaten the podium purely on merit. McLaren finished fourth in the constructors table last season. However, they were 594 points behind Mercedes and 271 points behind third placed Red Bull. The gulf between the best of the midfield and the elite teams is enormous.

Mercedes have dominated qualifying and the race but it’s Max Verstappen who has won the last two races in Austria. Mercedes suffered a very rare double DNF in 2018 and last year they turned up with a power unit which couldn’t handle the high temperatures and high altitude. That meant having to run in conservative modes, missing out on the front row of the grid and getting a best placed 3rd place for Bottas.

Distractions For Hamilton?

It isn’t Lewis Hamilton’s strongest track and I wonder if his head isn’t going to be turned by the whole Black Lives Matter backdrop. This is a track where he needs to be fully dialled in and that means being a race driver first, second and third. The fact that Bernie Ecclestone has stirred matters up with some more stone age wisdom, will not help. Mercedes have now changed their colour scheme for their cars and will be carrying a black livery for the whole season. Yes, Hamilton’s head may well be turned.

Bottas has been a bit hit and miss here. He has mostly had a good car for this circuit. A win, two podiums and two poles is a good return, but not great.

Ferrari have yet to win here in the turbo hybrid era. They have been runner up for the last three years and had pole position last year but no wins. Red Bull, who own the track, have improved over time, second place in 2016, third in 2017 and back to back wins in 2018 and 2019.

The track is short with just ten corners, but it is quick and rewards power. It is also quite hard on tyres and a chassis/driver combination that can look after the rubber can over perform. Sadly, we don’t have any current form on which to judge who could hold an advantage in that department, but Sergio Perez is very skilled at tyre management.

Honda Have The Advantage At Altitude

Finally, the track is set at altitude, nothing like Mexico City but it is the third highest circuit on the calendar. That means less oxygen in the air and lowers to power output of the internal combustion engines. Every car is affected but it has been clear that the Honda power unit is more efficient on the high-altitude tracks, something to do with their turbo being more efficient on these tracks.

It can get very hot up in the Austrian hills in mid-summer. The long-range forecast for this weekend is for generally cloudy conditions, warm with a small chance of a thunderstorm Friday and Saturday. Rain is in the forecast for Sunday. Most likely in the morning but there is a 54% chance of rain showers in the afternoon.

We have to expect Mercedes to be the team to beat not just here but for the whole season. They have struggled at this venue for the last two seasons, but surely will not still be suffering with cooling problems in 2020. Red Bull are benefiting from Honda finally getting their power units to a competitive level. Verstappen has proven himself on the track and he too is likely to be contending for a win. Ferrari will have needed to have clawed back the power deficit they showed in testing, if not, they might not even get a podium this time round.

2020 Austrian GP tips: Ferrari Not Bullish

The Italian Giants are playing down their chances and saying that talk of a major upgrade since the Barcelona tests are wide of the mark. A ‘good step forward’ but not to the extent that is being reported in the Italian media. The very latest news is that Ferrari will be racing the Melbourne spec car for these two races in Austria, before introducing a big upgrade in Hungary.

During the shutdown, the team decided to take a major change in direction in the cars design. Basically, they realised at the Barcelona test that the car was poor and likely to remain so. Rip it up and start again but with the factory shut down, they did not have the time to get the new car ready for the first two races.

A late change of direction is a big deal. Ferrari have screwed it up again. In what will be a short season, not being ready for the first two races is a disaster and what if the new design isn’t great? Their season could be over before its even started.

What would mix things up a bit is rain. Ferrari had upped their downforce and that should mean a competitive car in wet, slippy conditions. Verstappen is very strong in the wet and Hamilton and Bottas are also good wet weather racers. There is rain in the various forecasts, but more about that later.

2020 Austrian GP Tips: The Selections

Lewis Hamilton has won 62 of the 121 races in the turbo hybrid era, 51. 2%. In Austria his strike rate is 16.7%. That is the same as his strike rate in the opening race of the season in the same period. In his thirteen year career he has won the opening race of the season just twice. Of course, twelve of those races where in Australia, but it does look like he is a little slow out of the blocks, but not that slow. He has only missed out a podium finish on three occasions. Bearing in mind that he may be distracted by the whole BLM story and even at odds of 3.00, relatively huge given his overall strike rate, Hamilton f1Austria videoAlooks opposable this weekend.f1bettingf1f1Af1

Mercedes have generally performed well here, four wins and five pole positions since 2014. That is a positive for Hamilton’s chances, but he has usually lost out to his teammate. Nico Rosberg won twice and was controversially hit by Hamilton on the final lap when leading the race in 2016, the only time Hamilton has won the race.

Don’t Discount Bottas

Valtteri Bottas must enter the equation given his teams positive record. The Mercedes number two won here in 2017, was 3rd last year, has had two pole positions in his three years with Mercedes and beaten his team mate twice in those three races. At odds of 7.50 he makes more appeal than Hamilton from a value point of view.

Red Bull have won this race for the last two years with Max Verstappen. He has had to do it the hard way, winning after a terrible start last year and even taking the extra point for setting the fastest lap. In 2018 he started 4th and was helped by Bottas retiring from the lead with a gearbox failure. Hamilton was then the victim of a rare tactical error by Mercedes as the team failed to pit him under the safety car and he lost the lead to Verstappen when he had to pit later in the race (Hamilton retired from the race after that).

2020 Austrian GP tips: Red Bull Look Ready

Red Bull took a different approach to what should have been the start of this season. They had their car race ready for the Barcelona tests rather than leaving it to the final week before the first race to get the final version ready. This last minute policy often led them to start the season slowly as the car wasn’t fully optimised.

This year, they were going to hit the ground running. Team boss, Christian Horner, has said that the team have not been as well prepared for a season since 2013. That was the last time they won the World Championship.

It is ironic that this approach was then scuppered by the start of the season being delayed. The team haven’t been idle however, and Alex Albon was able to run a 100 km filming day last week. The car was fitted with new aero updates so at least they had a chance to gather some useful data rather than running a 2018 car.

Verstappen Still The Man

Alex Albon is a 34.00 shot in the other Red Bull. If Red Bull have built a fully competitive car and Honda have indeed found more power, reliability and better qualifying modes then he can have a say this weekend. His lack of experience is his biggest weakness. He hasn’t yet even had a podium finish and he has only had nine races in the Red Bull. Albon has raced many times on this track in junior formulae with two second places in GP3 and a second and three fifth places in Formula 2. He isn’t the finished article yet and Verstappen in the top dog at Red Bull.

There was more good news for Red Bull (and Alpha Tauri) with Honda announcing that they will be using a new spec power unit in Austria. Honda only had a partial shut down in their Japanese factory and they used their time to develop an upgraded spec unit. This could be a big deal, and not just for this race.

The Technical Regulations for this season dictate the specification a team races in the opening Grand Prix will largely be frozen for the remainder of the season, with manufacturers allowed only to make one performance upgrade to the MGU-K, energy store and control electronics elements. Unless we get late news that the other power unit manufactures have managed to do the same thing, Honda have stolen a march on their rivals.

Ferrari The Main Threat

Ferrari are the only other possibility, in a dry race at least. They have yet to win here in the turbo hybrid era, but they haven’t been far off. Leclerc set the fastest ever lap time when qualifying on pole last year. He had a very fast car in 2019, certainly on the straights and this track with not many corners was well suited to its strengths.

The Barcelona tests didn’t leave many people taking up Ferrari’s potential. Their car wasn’t impressive, lacked straight line speed and the body language of the team’s principal players was negative. The fact that the FIA are looking very closely at how Ferrari are using their power units was the likely cause. Many people, the FIA included, are pretty sure that Ferrari where breaking the rules last year and getting more power out of their engines than they should have been.

The team dynamic at Ferrari has changed. Vettel is no longer the number one driver and that will be hard for a four-time World Champion to take. He is leaving the team at the end of the season and god only knows where his head will be at. If Ferrari are still lacking the straight line performance that was in evidence in testing, they are likely to struggle. A wet race on Sunday could be their best chance. The news that Ferrari have decided to redesign their car from Hungary onwards, confirms that all is not well at Maranello.

2020 Austrian GP Tips

The two drivers who make the most appeal are Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

Verstappen is going for three in a row at this circuit, so he has positive mental associations to draw on. The car looked fully competitive in testing, has been further refined during the shutdown and will have an upgraded power unit. He is the finished article now and ready to take his chance at winning the Championship. Red Bull had planned to have a fully competitive car from the opening race of the season and shut down or not, that remains the case.

2020 Austrian GP Tips: 2 points Max Verstappen to win the Austrian GP @ 3.25 generally available

Bottas isn’t as good a competitor as Lewis Hamilton. Not over an entire season, but on his day, he wins races. He has a decent track record, the car will be competitive and being the opening race of the season, he will still be positive. Every year Bottas starts the season with the same message, that this is his year, that he has never worked harder over the winter etc, etc. That optimism soon gets kicked out of him with Hamilton’s unrelenting pace grinding him down. Eddie Irvine once described being Michael Schumacher’s team mate as like being hit over the head with a cricket bat. That must be what it’s like being Hamilton’s team mate.

However, this being the first race, he will still have his dream. He will also know that he needs to make a big impression this season if he is to retain a competitive drive in the years ahead. He knows he can beat Hamilton on this track. With the Champion distracted by off track politics, he must have a decent chance of winning, or at least being very close. Having gone for Verstappen as the number 1 pick to win the race, I’ll take Bottas to finish on the podium.

2020 Austrian GP Tips: 2 points Valtteri Bottas to finish on the podium @ 1.83 with Betfair, Paddy Power, Boylesports, BET365

The late news that Ferrari have decided to ditch the current design from Hungary onwards is a sign that the car they bring to Austria is not competitive. They are hoping that the higher track temperatures in Austria might help them be competitive. However, that is clutching at straws. It seems that the draggy aero design just isn’t right, and their redesign will be around the aerodynamics. This track, with its lack of corners could really punish a high drag design.

It looks increasingly like a Red Bull vs. Mercedes race. This allows us to think that Alex Albon’s chance of his first podium has just gotten bigger.

2020 Austrian GP Tips and Preview: 1 point Alex Albon to finish on the podium @ 5.00 with William Hill

2020 Austrian GP Tips: The Midfield

The midfield, the battle of the minor points, is every bit as competitive as the battle between the big three, if not more so.

This battle for the ‘best of the rest title’ looks to be between Racing Point, McLaren and Renault.

The shutdown saw news reports that McLaren were on the verge of insolvency. That unlikely outcome has been averted thanks to a loan of £150 million from the National Bank of Bahrain. Cash flow problems may well have put the brakes on development of the car in recent weeks after the factories re-opened.

The cash injection leaves the team free to carry on their upward performance curve which saw them improve greatly in 2019. They even managed a podium finish in Brazil late last year. Albeit that it was handed to them by a steward’s decision. In Sainz and Norris they have a good driver line up. But, with Sainz leaving at the end of the season, it is not a perfect situation.

McLaren haven’t had a great time here since 2014 but they were a team in decline in that time. With their cars lacking power and reliability, McLaren struggled on this quick circuit. They enjoyed some success here last year however, finishing sixth and eighth. It was a very impressive performance by Sainz who had to start nineteenth thanks to grid penalties, while Norris qualified and finished sixth.

On the downside, McLaren were not able to give their drivers any track time in an F1 car in the last week or two.

Promise For Renault

Renault had no such problems and their two drivers enjoyed testing a 2018 Renault F1 car on this very track two weeks ago. The team had an encouraging winter test in Barcelona. It was a very different looking car to the disappointing 2019 model. They were a little late getting things ready for the winter tests and the first week saw a few problems. However, by the second test they had hit their stride and looked quick. A lot more work has gone on with the car in the last few weeks.

Team principal, Cyril Abiteboul, has said that Renault will be bring a much revised car to Austria. Effectively three upgrades in one. He did warn however that the team don’t really know how competitive they are after the tests. There is also the worry that bringing a lot of new developments in one hit can be a problem.

If the car doesn’t perform as expected, they have to try and find out which upgrade or upgrades, doesn’t work and it is easy to get in a muddle and actually go backwards. Williams have been guilty of this at times, throwing new parts at the car and just getting more confused. However, an aggressive plan at least shows intent.

Poor Record In Austria

One downside for Renault in Austria is their terrible record here. Since 2014 they have had just one points finish, a seventh place back in 2015. Their two day test here recently will have helped them prepare better but with so many upgrades on the car, they will be very busy in free practice on Friday.

They will hopefully be pounding around the track getting data on how everything is working and crunching the numbers all night long. That is necessary to check the upgrades but it means less time refining the car for this specific track. They will have to do that on Saturday. The weather forecasts are saying that Friday could be wet and that would really disrupt Renaults plans.

Racing Point Have Potential

Racing Point are many people’s favourites to be best of the rest. Their new car is a homage to last years all conquering Mercedes and as such, is bound to be competitive. With the team set to become the Aston Martin F1 Team next year, their real targets are 2021 but more so, 2022. They have said that this season will only see one major upgrade and that the car for Austria will be much the same as we saw in Barcelona. This means they may have already lost ground to their rivals before a wheel has been turned in anger.

Lance Stroll had the advantage of running the new car for a 100km filming day at Silverstone last week and he will have needed the time in car as he faces a tricky season. He is the owner’s son which helps his job prospects but unless he can start qualifying somewhere near Perez, his days must be numbered.

Racing Point have a decent record here with four double points finishes since 2014 but they failed to score a single point last year.

The fact that Racing Point aren’t bringing a heavily modified car this weekend does mean that they can crack on with setting the car up for this (and next weeks) race. While a lot of teams will be testing new parts Racing Point can concentrate on getting the best race set up.

Feeding Off Scraps

These midfield teams will look to pick up any scraps from the top table and with news that Ferrari have got their racing knickers in a twist means that a top 6 finish may well be on the menu.

Renault have a poor record here are and will fine tuning all their upgrades which may put them on the back foot. Esteban Ocon has performed well here with his two finishes being eighth and sixth for Force India. Will he be up to speed after just a days testing in a two year old Renault? Maybe not, but at least it was on this very track, which means he will have gotten his eye in.

Daniel Ricciardo has scored a podium here three years ago for Red Bull but that is his only podium and he doesn’t have a great track record. He too had his chance to get his eye in with a days testing on this track and so long as Renaults upgrades have improved the car, he has to be considered. He was hitting his side late in the 2019 season, finishing 6th in three of the last five races, although both Renaults were later disqualified from the Japanese GP.

Conditions Should Suit Perez

However, Racing Point, with their Mercedes lookalike, did have a run in the 2020 car and they won’t be bringing a load of new parts to test. They can hit the ground running and concentrate on setting up the car for the weekend. The track temperatures are set to rise through every session which will be tricky for the teams to get a grip on tyre degradation and that will play into the hands of the rubber miser, Sergio Perez. Sadly, his odds to get a top 6 finish are just 2.10 which offers no value.

His teammate, Lance Stroll, was very weak in qualifying last year and if he keeps that up, he will give himself too much work to do.

Sainz Has Struggled In Austria

McLaren had a top 6 here last year. While their build up for this race hasn’t been ideal with no testing of this years or a 2018 car, they will be in the hunt again. Norris was 6th on his debut here last season and had two second place finishes in junior formulae. Sainz had no less than eight top 6 finishes in total last season. His record here is not so good however with two top 8 finishes his best. His eighth here las year was from nineteenth on the grid, so he can go well here.  

It is a tricky call as an argument can be made for all six of the midfield drivers being able to pick up a top 6 if Ferrari really do struggle, but I’ll go for Ricciardo. He is a very accomplished driver, very experienced at the top level, has had a test on the track two weeks ago, and his Renault looked good pre-season. So long as the raft of upgrades doesn’t confuse the team, it could be better still.

2020 Austrian GP Tips and Preview: 1 point Daniel Ricciardo to finish in the top 6 @ 9.00 with Sportingbet

Austrian GP Preview: Back of the Grid

The four remaining teams will be hoping to take advantage of any slip ups or problems from the teams ahead and maybe stealing a few points. Budget wise they are not in a position to really compete in the midfield. However, Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri do have the support of Red Bull and Ferrari respectively. Had should help them stay ahead of Haas and Williams, the two most financially vulnerable teams on the grid.

Alpha Could Be Surprise Packages

Alpha Tauri, the old Toro Rosso team always produce a decent car and have the latest upgraded Honda power unit. They are shrewd operators, well run and have two reasonable drivers in Kvyat and Gasly. Both drivers scored a podium finish in 2019 and they are one of the small teams who can occasionally pull off a surprise in the circumstances are right.

They managed to prepare quite well with a test in a 2018 car and the 2020 car at Imola, a track likely to hold a race later this season. The team have not performed well here in recent years with no points scored since 2016 and neither diver has scored a point here either.

Their winter test was nothing to write home about however. It remains to be seen if the new Honda upgrade will be enough to move them up the order. The top 6 teams do look in better shape and anything better than seventh place in the constructor’s title race would be a good result for the team.

2020 Austrian GP tips: Alfa Romeo Set To Struggle

Alfa Romeo avoided going out of business as Sauber thanks to the investment from Alfa Romeo and new management. The team benefits from its links to Ferrari but that link might not be so good this year, if the Ferrari power unit remains bogged down by the FIA clampdown. Their two drivers are not the best. Kimi Raikkonen is at the very tail end of his career and Giovinazzi hasn’t shown anything that suggests he has a long F1 career ahead. The team have enjoyed their last two visits to Austria will back to back double points finishes but with Renault and McLaren now looking like proper teams again, their prospects don’t look so good in 2020.

Haas have happy memories of this track having had a car in seventh in 2016, sixth in 2017 and finished fourth and fifth in 2018. That year on year improvement ended last year with both cars outside the top fifteen.

Like Alfa Romeo, Haas may be handicapped by the Ferrari power units being down on power. They don’t have the same connection with Ferrari and are very weak financially. Haas didn’t manage any running in the last week or so and will have to jump in at the deep end with the new operating procedures under the Covid regulations. Grosjean has had the better results here and if the team can find the form of 2017 -2018, then he might be able to nick a point.

Awful Last Season

The team where terrible last year. The car looked to have real pace in testing  and they could qualify well enough but their race pace was embarrassing most of the time and they really didn’t understand their car.

Winter testing this year showed the car looking OK, and there was some confidence that they were on top of last years woes. The one lap pace wasn’t quite there but their long runs where an improvement on last year.

Their prospects this weekend are interesting. Historically they know how to set a car up to score points here. Magnussen qualified 5th here last year but a grid penalty and the inevitable drop down the order in the race saw him finish nineteenth.

Williams Hanging On By A Thread

Williams continue to hang on to a precarious existence. Skint and looking for a buyer is no way to go into a new season. The cost cap regulations will make the team a more attractive proposition, but they will have to see out this season on a wing and prayer.

Testing saw the car looking to be an improvement on the dog that was the 2019 car. They had it ready for the start of testing and the team are better prepared than last year.

The car has a new look thanks to their title sponsor buggering off, fed up paying good money to see their logo tanking round in last place.

This year’s car looks capable of may be making it into Q2 now and then but competing for points? That will need a good slice of luck. George Russell looks a good talent and he will not want to be hanging around at Williams beyond this season.

The team have not run the current or old car in the run up to this weekend and are under prepared as a result. Just as last year, Williams are likely to be last, but should be a little closer to the back of the midfielders.

2020 Austrian GP Tips: The Weather

The forecasters have been hinting that rain is on the menu this weekend.

A couple of days ago the forecast was for heavy rain on Friday. This has now been downgraded to 58% chance of thundery showers, i.e. a hit or miss scenario. Any rain would be a disaster for the teams who will want to be on track gathering as much data as possible. On a wet track, that data is less valuable and much more risky to gather. Nobody is going to want to go out and crash the car. Fewer staff at the track means longer repair time and on a wet track we are likely to see little action.

Perhaps one of the lesser teams might like to send a driver out to try and set a session winning time, just to get a sponsor friendly headlines. Maybe Vettel could take his downforce laden Ferrari out to set the best time, just to try and provoke a reaction from Leclerc. If Vettel crashed his Ferrari, so what? He’s got the sack already and the car will be effectively scrapped after the two races here.

The weather for the rest of the weekend is increasingly sunny and hot by race day on Sunday, with no chance of rain.

Updates will be posted on the TXODDS app, perhaps as early as Friday morning when the weather for FP1 will be clearer. There will be an update an hour or so before qualifying and a further, and possibly very busy, update an hour or so before the start of the race on Sunday.



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