Lewis Hamilton had weekend to forget as the 2020 Formula 1 season finally got underway with the Austrian Grand Prix a week ago, so can the defending world champion bounce back as F1 stays at the Red Bull ring for the first ever Styrian Grand Prix.
The opening weekend started well enough for Hamilton as he topped the timesheets after all three practice sessions, but when it really mattered he found himself being sanctioned multiple times by racing officials over the course of two days. A three-place penalty in qualifying forced him off the front row, and the Mercedes ace was then relegated from his second-place finish to fourth place after being punished for forcing Alexander Albon off the track late in the race.
All in all it was a miserable experience for Hamilton at a place that has not been a happy hunting ground over the years, so can he exorcise a few Red Bull Ring demons to kick-start the defence of his world championship this week?
Last week I backed Max Verstappen due to his excellent recent record at this circuit and what was perceived to be an improved car at his disposal, but the Red Bull star could not have endured a much more miserable start to the season as an engine issue forced him to retire from the race early on, and team-mate Alexander Albon hardly shone either so it is difficult to have much faith in Red Bull even at their ‘home’ track.
Charles Leclerc outperformed Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari and should be there or thereabouts once again on Sunday, while we could see another strong showing from Ferrari after Lando Norris claimed the final podium spot on opening weekend while team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr finished in fifth.
Of course, Valtteri Bottas is a serious contender after he took the chequered flag and an early lead in the title race a week ago, but I simply cannot look past Hamilton as he looks to bounce back from last weekend’s disappointment. He dominated the practice sessions, performed very well in qualifying and you can make a strong argument for the season-opening race playing out much differently had Hamilton not been hit with a penalty that cost him a place on the front row on the grid. And even after that penalty he did finish second on the track, only to be demoted later on.
Hamilton is clearly the man to beat here so I suggest backing him to be victorious on Sunday, but if you are looking for a more lucrative price then I suggest throwing Bottas into the mix and backing Mercedes for a 1-2 in both qualifying and the race itself. Had it not been for penalties that would have been a winning bet on opening weekend and there is every reason to believe we could see more of the same if the Mercedes pair drive clean.