Formula 1

F1 hoping for clearer Mercedes vs. Ferrari form guide in Austria

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After all the hype around Ferrari and Mercedes' various engine upgrades the Canadian Grand Prix just under two weeks ago rather fell below expectations.

Sebastian Vettel's hybrid system failure in qualifying meant the German, who has been a thorn in the side of the leading Silver Arrows throughout 2015, wasn't able to reveal just how much progress the Italian team had made with its V6 power unit.

But this weekend's return to Austria and the home of his former team at the Red Bull Ring could give fans, hoping for a closer battle at the front, a better indication as to where the top two teams stand.

Power is king at the Red Bull Ring

Indeed the smallest track on the calendar in terms of the number of corners shares many of the same characteristics as Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as power takes preference over downforce.

With three long straights making up the first half of the track and traction zones everywhere you look its having the drive-ability to put the power down onto the racetrack and push the car along the hillside that is the key to success.

The problem for Ferrari is based on last year's return to the former A1-Ring - the first time F1 had visited in 11 years - anything with a Mercedes engine in the back will be incredibly hard to beat.

The Silver Arrow which dominated the top 10 places though it was not the silver cars always on top.

Williams set to shine?

Indeed it was Williams, with their low-drag car design, that was the only team to dethrone Mercedes on a Saturday last year as Felipe Massa claimed his first pole since Brazil 2008 only for the Mercedes to show their prowess in the race as Nico Rosberg won and Lewis Hamilton recovered from a spin in qualifying to take second.

Williams could be dark horses again for a podium as they have solidified their place in the top three teams on the grid and Ferrari will be their obvious target this weekend.

Few home comforts for Red Bull

Certainly, while the race was a success, last year did not go according to plan for both of Red Bul owner Dietrich Mateschitz's teams as Daniel Ricciardo was the only man to make the finish in eighth while the other three retired.

Amid ongoing talk of quitting the sport, the 2015 edition doesn't look like going any better for the energy drinks company as an under-powered Renault engine left both teams largely defenseless against their rivals in the race in Canada and both could find points hard to come by again this weekend in Spielberg.

Soft Pirellis to create extra dynamic

With the lack of high-energy corners, Pirelli will bring the soft and super-soft tyres to Austria for the third race in a row. That may play more into Ferrari's hands as they are not only kinder but also find more grip out of the softer compounds than their rivals and that will likely be one of the main storylines of the weekend.

The chance for higher degradation also mixes up the midfield battle as Lotus and Force India both like to try and complete one stop fewer than the teams around them. As a result, given both will not only have a power advantage over the Red Bull teams and McLaren, thanks to their Mercedes power units, the tyres will also gives them another strategy at their disposal.

All eyes will likely be on Force India's Nico Hulkenberg as he returns to the cockpit fresh from a remarkable win with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber at the Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche and whether that achievement could have any bearing on his future in F1.

McLaren woes to continue

Meanwhile at McLaren, their season hit a new low in Canada as fuel consumption, power and then reliability issues caused at least Fernando Alonso to show the first signs of frustration with the pace of progress being made with the new Honda engine.

The Woking team have already being quoted as saying this season is now merely a long test session before hoping to meet the ambitious goals set next year but for this weekend making Q2 and finishing the race could be the primary aims.

Rosberg needs to regain momentum

With the ongoing battle between Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens in the Manor's bringing up the field lets switch back to the front where Austria is a key race for Nico Rosberg in his battle with Lewis Hamilton.

Yet to beat the world champion in a one-on-one battle this year, the German is 17 points behind his team-mate and, much like Hamilton himself was at this stage last season, is in need of a change of momentum if he is to maintain a challenge to the Briton.

Plenty to watch over the course of the weekend at the Red Bull Ring and hopefully the pessimism that returned following a rare dull race in Montreal can be reversed as the hills come alive to the sound of V6 thunder.

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