Formula One’s first triple-header comes to an end this weekend with the second of two races in Austria. One could be forgiven for thinking the weekend will be a carbon copy but there are a few subtle differences to look out for. Red Bull appear to have the upper hand so it’s up to Mercedes to hit back here.
Fans, glorious fans
Slowly but surely things are returning to normal. This weekend marks the first time an F1 race has taken place with a full house, and 100,000 are expected to descend upon the Red Bull Ring.
Expect there to be a sea of orange as this race attracts a huge Max Verstappen following. We hope as the pandemic eases further, many more fans will be allowed back through the gates. F1 fans energise the weekend so it will be great to see full grandstands once again.
Different tyre compounds
As the race will take place on the same layout, Pirelli has decided to bring a different range of tyres. The Italian manufacturer has opted to bring the softest rubber in its range to boost strategy options.
This weekend the C5 will now act as the ‘soft’ tyre meaning the ‘two-stop’ becomes a viable option. This could be key to help Mercedes outwit Red Bull as they look to get their championship back on track.
Pirelli are also trailing a new construction of rear tyres that should debut at Silverstone, should the trials be successful. All teams will get to trial the new tyre on Friday, so Pirelli will hope for dry running.
Some familiar faces return
The first practice in Austria will see no less than three familiar Formula Two names getting a run out on Friday. Alpine, who boast a strong talent pool amongst their ranks, will be giving Guanyu Zhou his first outing on a Grand Prix weekend.
It marks the first time a Chinese driver has appeared at a Grand Prix since Ma Qinghua in 2012. Zhou is relishing his opportunity as he looks to impress with a full-time F1 drive being his primary goal:
Driving in FP1 at a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend is like a dream coming true and another step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 driver. It’s going to be a very special moment.
“I’m preparing myself as much as I can to be ready and also ensure that I’m able to complete all the targets and plans that the team have set me to do. There have not been many Chinese drivers in Formula 1, so to be behind the wheel of an F1 car during a race weekend is going to be a very proud feeling.
“It’s going to be even more special that I’m driving Fernando’s car as he inspired me to pursue a career in racing when I was young. I’m very happy with my achievements so far and I’m very thankful for the support I have from those around me.
“My aim is to maximise this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Friday also sees the return of 2020 F2 runner-up Callum Ilott who will be driving for Alfa Romeo. This is the second time this season the Brit has appeared after making his debut in Portugal.
Williams will hand the baton to Roy Nissany, who will take over from George Russell.