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Rosberg heads Austrian 1-2 for Mercedes

NEWS STORY
22/06/2014

It's probably fair to say that had you walked into a betting shop yesterday morning and asked for odds on Williams locking out the front row of today's the Austrian Grand Prix you would, after a few odd looks, finally have been given some odds. After all, based on the recent race in Montreal the Grove outfit is enjoying a resurgence.

However, had you asked for odds on some of the other grid positions - Vettel thirteenth, and not due to a penalty or Lewis Hamilton ninth - there is a chance they would either have called for the police, doubting your sanity, or come to the conclusion that you were part of a particularly brazen scam betting syndicate.

Honestly, look at that grid, it's like the positions were arrive at by picking the names out of a hat.

All of which means we could be in for an afternoon of rollercoaster entertainment, assuming Charlie Whiting and his pals don't get too overenthusiastic in terms of track limits.

A couple of hours before the race, Charlie Whiting issued the following:

"During the race, any driver leaving the track on the exit of Turn 8 who appears to have gained a clear and lasting advantage by doing so, will be reported to the stewards. We would not, for example, expect a driver who left the track on the exit of Turn 8 to attempt to pass a driver in front of him into Turn 1.

"Furthermore, any drivers who repeatedly leave the track on the exit of Turn 8 will also be reported to the stewards. Drivers are reminded that if they leave the track they may re-join but only if they do so safely and without gaining any lasting advantage."

Whilst we do agree that there need to be limits and that these must be imposed, we cannot help but feel that here - as opposed to somewhere like Spa Francorchamps - some drivers have little choice.

The disallowing of 11 drivers' times during yesterday's qualifying session - and yes the drivers had been warned - made it difficult to keep track, a similar situation today could further alienate fans, not just in terms of the penalties handed out during the race but the possibility of the final result not being known until hours afterwards.

Then again, in light of the titanium skid plates idea on Friday, standing starts following red flags and some of the other proposals for "improving the show" the sillier it gets the less surprised we should be.

Speaking on Friday, Hamilton said that pole isn't that important here, mainly due to the long straight leading to T2. However, there can be no doubt that when he said that he imagined a worst case scenario of starting from second, maybe even third, not from the fifth row.

The weather gods are highly unlikely to have a say in today's race, instead it all looks likely to come down to tyre strategy and management and self-control on the part of the drivers.

From the opening moments of FP1 on Friday we've seen drivers paying the price for their over enthusiasm, for their failure to treat this track with the respect it deserves. Today, in the heat of battle, the odds will be raised so much higher.

That said, a number of drivers will have to throw a certain amount of caution to the wind, none more so than Hamilton who is already trailing his teammate by 22 points. Heading towards his home Grand Prix, the Briton really doesn't want to see that gap expand.

Then there's Sebastian Vettel, already losing further ground to his teammate and in serious danger of dropping further down the standings.

Still smarting from his Montreal penalty, which means he starts from 16th today, watch out for Sergio Perez, who will be even more fired up by the sight of (Canada nemesis) Felipe Massa starting from pole.

A two-stop strategy is the most likely course today, but a one-stop theoretically the quickest: start on supersofts, then change to softs on lap 18. However, with overtaking difficult, a two-stop strategy could provide opportunities to gain track position.

A two-stop strategy is: start on supersofts, change to softs on lap 13 and softs again on lap 42. A soft-soft-supersoft strategy, with the changes on laps 29 and 58, could also work, for those starting further down the grid.

It's believed that Williams is going to suffer with its tyres today, while it is strong on shorter runs on the longer runs the FW36 encounters unusually high wear at the rear. It remains to be seen how the Grove outfit deal with this, though we wouldn't be surprised to see one driver ride shotgun for the other.

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