Red Bull Ring, home of the Formula One Austrian Grand PrixEnlarge Photo
The 2015 Formula One World Championship continues with round eight, which takes us back to the Europe after a brief stint in North America. This round is the Austrian Grand Prix, which rejoined the calendar just last year after an 11-season hiatus.
The race is held at the Red Bull Ring, whose high altitude (approximately 2,100 feet) means temperatures can be a bit cool. The peak temperature for Sunday’s race is expected to be 67 degrees F (19 degrees C), and some scattered showers are also predicted.
The weather can affect tire strategy for teams: if ambient temperatures are warmer, we’re more likely to see two stops, whereas if they’re cooler the balance might shift towards a one-stopper. Pirelli has nominated its two softest tire compounds (Soft and Supersoft) for the race.
The first of the practice sessions got underway this morning, with Mercedes AMG drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets. Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas were close behind, third and fourth fastest, respectively, in the session.
Unfortunately for McLaren, there appears to be no end in sight to its woes. Its star driver Fernando Alonso was handed a 20-spot grid penalty for Sunday’s race for using more than the permitted four power units in a season. The Spaniard commented recently that he is more focused on the next season, so he's probably happy right now with any improvements the team can make. Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo also faces a penalty for using a fifth power unit.
Going into tomorrow’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, Hamilton leads the 2015 Drivers’ Championship with 151 points. Rosberg is second with 134 points while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is third with 108 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes has a commanding lead of 285 points followed by Ferrari with 180 points and Williams with 104 points.