View from the paddock: All the ingredients are in place for a mouth-watering Austrian GP, ​​but who has the recipe for success?

The drive from Graz Airport to Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring is one of the most beautiful in Europe, winding its way through Austria’s postcard-perfect hilly landscape.

When you arrive at the track and climb to the top of the building that houses the media center, you are greeted by an epic view. You can see almost every bend from your desktop.

FORM GUIDE: Who will win the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix at the Bulls’ home?

And that’s quite a trail. Although it is only 4.3 km long, it is a tester for engineers. There are not one, not two but three DRS straights in the first section that reward cars with a low drag setup and good traction. The second segment is a sequence of fast turns that requires downforce.

Mistakes hurt more here, with one racing lap lasting just over 60 seconds. This makes for a very tight field in qualifying. Significant elevation changes mean braking zones are tricky while curbs need to be adhered to.

A real challenge therefore – and all the more enticing this weekend as it is the second Sprint weekend of the year. Teams have just one practice session to hone in on these new challengers for 2022 before heading straight to qualifying later on Friday.

With practice so heavily disrupted by rain at Silverstone, teams that have made big updates – like Mercedes and Williams – are hoping it will be dry so they can gather data to analyze their respective new packages. But also they have to use part of that 60 minute session to get the car ready for the weekend because that’s their only chance.

Good turn against great turn – Grosjean against Magnussen in Spielberg | Working day

In this area – just like Spa – the weather is notoriously difficult to predict, with the track running deep into the Styrian hills. The forecast calls for cool conditions, which is good news for the teams from a tire and engine cooling standpoint. There is also a threat of rain everywhere, which makes life even more complicated.

But none of that is likely to trouble Red Bull in its home run. They have been strong here lately, winning three of the last four Austrian Grand Prix. And while Verstappen is puzzled as to why they’ve had so much success at home – and keen to play things down, there’s no doubt they’re heavy favourites.

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“Until this year I never understood why we were fast here because it never really suited our package because of the long straights,” he said as we caught up this morning and I told him the circuit should fit the RB18.

“Of course there was a bit of altitude and I think the Honda engine is quite good at altitude. But yeah, this year we have to wait and see.

Max Verstappen has an excellent record at the Red Bull Ring

“We were fast on the straights, but at high speed Ferrari and Mercedes were very competitive, so we have to wait and see how fast we are going to be. I’m just excited for the whole weekend.

His fans will also be thrilled and are expected to descend on the Ring in their thousands. There is a sold-out crowd for the event, with 95,000 people attending on Friday and 105,000 on Saturday and Sunday. Expect a sea of ​​orange in the stands.

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Ferrari, however, hopes Red Bull won’t have it all their way. Charles Leclerc is keen to put the frustration of Silverstone – where he lost a strategy win and finished fourth – behind him, and is focused on his first win on the board since Australia.

He was keen to quash talk of a split within Ferrari, insisting they remain united – and they will have to be if the Italian team is to keep this championship alive. They arrive here with some momentum, thanks to Carlos Sainz’s fine debut victory in Great Britain. The Spaniard has gained confidence from Monaco, is comfortable with the way the F1-75 drives and buzzes after also securing his first pole last time out.

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The red cars will be there – and hope to fend off the ever-growing threat from Mercedes, who took a big step forward at Silverstone.

Of course, Lewis Hamilton “only” repeated his third place finish in Montreal at Silverstone – but this podium was very different.

READ MORE: ‘I really believe we can win this year,’ says Hamilton as he prepares for ‘tough’ weekend in Austria

The Briton, for the first time this year, found himself with a car that could really claim victory in pure pace. And for the phases of this Grand Prix, he looked the favorite to do just that.

It means Hamilton genuinely believes victory will be possible this year. Achieving the feat in Austria will be tough, mind you, and the team knows it.

Hamilton’s Mercedes were right in the fight at Silverstone, but will they be in contention this weekend?

Silverstone’s flowing track and high-speed corners benefited the Silver Arrows’ strengths and traditionally they struggled in Austria. France, therefore, at the very smooth Paul Ricard represents its best chance to climb on the highest step.

But they should be better in Austria. Mercedes now seem to firmly believe that they are heading in the right direction when it comes to development and still have plans for further improvements in future races.

WATCH: Relive last year’s Austrian Grand Prix ahead of this weekend’s return to the Red Bull Ring

The shorter layout means the gap between the teams is much smaller, which should help Mercedes get into contention.

It’s a mouth-watering prospect. Red Bull want to bounce back from a less than ideal British Grand Prix, Ferrari want to put their strategy issues behind them, Mercedes want to see if they can build momentum after their strongest race of the year – and all a weekend where the Sprint format will likely change things up and create more risk. To bring. This. On.

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