2016 Austrian Grand Prix Preview: Will Rosberg reign supreme in Austria?

After a two-week break, Formula One returns this weekend to the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

2016 Austrian Grand Prix Preview: Will Rosberg reign supreme in Austria?
The Red Bull Ring is one of the most picturesque tracks on the calendar (Image credit: RedBull.com)

Oh how the pendulum of momentum has shifted yet again in Formula One 2016. After winning the first four races of the season, in the space of two afternoons racing, ​Nico Rosberg ​saw his 43 point championship lead reduced to just nine by Mercedes ​teammate Lewis Hamilton​ going into the European Grand Prix. But as quickly as he lost it, Rosberg wrestled back the momentum, with a routine victory, whilst Hamilton had numerous problems during the weekend, meaning the gap is now 24 points between the two.

Since F1 returned to Austria in 2014, Rosberg has convincingly won both the races held, over Hamilton. If he can repeat that trick again this weekend, the German may just start to believe that 2016 could be his year...

The layout of the Baku circuit played to the strengths of the Mercedes package, which led to the least entertaining race of the year so far, as others struggled with engine settings, balance issues and tyre problems. Austria will be different.

​Ferrari and Williams ​should both return to form at the ​Red Bull Ring,​ due to its high power nature. The shortest lap of the year, about 1:06.000, and nine turns should suit the packages the two have. Last year ​Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa ​were involved in an entertaining battle for third place, with the latter narrowly succeeding.

As for the other teams, Red Bull ​may be in for a difficult weekend, (but could be saved by the weather- more on that later) and could be forced to trade downforce for top speed. ​Force India ​could be in for yet another strong race, as could the majority of the field, but expect ​Toro Rosso, McLaren and Renault ​all to be down the timing screens.

​What happened last year?

​The 2015 Austrian Grand Prix was Nico Rosberg's weekend. He dominated the entire event and despite not securing pole, being pipped in the serene countryside by Lewis Hamilton after both made a mistake in final Q3 runs, soon made amends by getting the better start and leading into T1 and didn't look back. He claimed his third win in four races, with Hamilton handing him the win by receiving a time penalty when crossing the white line exiting the pits. Behind Felipe Massa claimed his first podium of the season in third.

But the weekend will also be remembered for the unrest in the ​Red Bull camp. After a disastrous start to the season, owner, ​Dietrich Mateschitz ​threatened to pull his two teams out unless Red Bull were competitive. Many accused him of sour grapes and being a sore loser, and his four cars combined scored just one point. The engine penalty system was lambasted when Red Bull and McLaren-Honda were given a total combined grid penalty of 60 places, on a 20 car grid. That system was abandoned immediately.

Rosberg rounds a corner in Austria. | Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Rosberg rounds a corner in Austria. | Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

​Where am I going to see some overtakes?

​The track bears a slight resemblance to Bahrain, and overtaking opportunities are a plenty, with overtaking a possibility pretty much everywhere on the circuit. The prime overtaking spot has to be the sharp up the hill right hander of T2, a long straight preceeds and succeeds it, with many drivers over the years causing a collison, when they have misjudged their braking. ​David Coulthard ​on McLaren ​teammate ​Mika Hakkinen ​at the start of the 1999 event is the example of how not to make a move at T2. The two DRS zones are located on the pit straight and the run between turns 2 and 3.

​What tyres are Pirelli bringing?

​The Ultrasoft tyre makes its third appearance at a race event, with Pirelli once again going for the softest collection in their range. The SuperSoft and Soft tyres are also in attendance, as are the ever present Intermediates and Wet tyres.

Will it rain?

​Yes. Thunderstorms are forecast for Friday's practice sessions, with Saturday and qualifying expected to be in similar conditions. For Sunday's race, it not expected to improve much, so a Safety Car start could well be possible.

When is it on?

​As F1 nows starts a run of European based grand prix until September, it is the familiar times for sessions, with FP1 getting underway at 09:00am UK time on Friday morning and qualifying and the race underway at 13:00pm UK time on their respective days. Sky Sports F1, as ever will be showing the entire event live, with Channel 4 having a comprehensive highlights package.

First Practice - 09:00am - 10:30am - Friday

Second Practice 13:00pm - 14:30pm - Friday

Third Practice - 10:00am - 11:00am - Saturday

Qualifying - 13:00pm - 14:00pm - Saturday

Race - the hills become alive with the sound of 1.6L V6 Hybrid Turbo engines at 13:00pm on Sunday afternoon.

All times in BST.