Normally the build-up to a Formula One race is a series of estimated guesses about how the conditions will affect each team’s package – it’s rare though that we can look at the previous weekend and have a pretty good idea how the next is going to pan out.

Such is the case this time as the Red Bull Ring in the Styrian Mountains of Austria plays host the circus for a second consecutive weekend, this time under the Austrian GP banner.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen delivered the most dominant performance of the season so far to lead the other cars home with more than a 30 second advantage over second placed Lewis Hamilton. We preview this weekend’s race below as Red Bull look to land on the top step of the podium for a fifth race in a row.

Red Bull v Mercedes

Before last week’s Styrian Grand Prix, Mercedes had never gone four races during the turbo-hybrid era without winning a race. A remarkable stat, and the fact that Red Bull have finally broken this record speaks volumes of just what a battle the seven-time world champions have on their hands if they are to beat the Red Bull’s again this season.

Not only did Verstappen win by the largest margin of the 2021 season so far, but he did so by being two-tenths faster than Mercedes throughout the weekend. After leading the way in practice, Verstappen put up two laps that would have been enough for pole position in Q3, eventually beating Valtteri Bottas by just under two tenths of a second before leading the race from start to finish.

Mercedes can have little hope of overturning such a gap in less than seven days and will be looking to their strategists for inspiration this weekend. While Pirelli’s choice to bring softer compound tyres for this race will make some strategic differences, the Mercs will be hoping to force Verstappen into a mistake and capitalise appropriately, as they did by overcutting Valtteri Bottas in order to pass Sergio Perez during the pit stops on Sunday.

The Red Bull’s Honda power unit looked mighty this weekend, and they simply had too much straight-line speed for the Silver Arrows to compete with, and with little to no development on this year’s car, it could be another long weekend for the reigning champions. Lewis Hamilton is currently 5/2 to land Mercedes a first pole position since Barcelona on Saturday, and 2/1 to win the race on Sunday. World championship leader Max Verstappen is 8/15 to get his third consecutive pole position, and 4/6 to win for a third weekend in a row.

McLaren v Ferrari

Whilst Lando Norris’ 5th place finish was the result of the weekend from the two teams fighting for third place, it was Ferrari’s race pace that surprised many on Sunday. After qualifying on pole in both Monaco and Baku with Charles Leclerc, Ferrari had struggled for race pace. However, this weekend the roles were reversed, with Carlos Sainz finishing 6th and Leclerc finishing 7th after starting 12th and 7th respectively. Had it not been for a first lap incident with Pierre Gasly, Leclerc could well have been pushing Norris for that 5th place.

McLaren will therefore be wary of the importance of matching the Scuderia on Sunday as well as Saturday this weekend and will be keen to get Daniel Ricciardo into the fight after a disappointing weekend saw him finish outside the points. The Australian hasn’t settled into his new car as fast as Sainz has at Ferrari and will be desperate to take advantage of a second race at the same track as he looks to get his car under control. He’ll be looking for a strong Saturday to get himself in position to make the most of his wheel-to-wheel racing ability on Sunday.

Lando Norris is currently 7/2 to land a third podium of the season, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo 8/1 to finish on the podium for the first time as a McLaren driver. Meanwhile Charles Leclerc is 9/2 to finish on the podium, with teammate Carlos Sainz 13/2.

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