Doubts over Aston Martin as Ferrari hype continues for Austrian Grand Prix

Oliver Harden
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in action at the Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2023.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in action at the Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2023.

Fernando Alonso has become the latest figure to highlight the Ferrari threat ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, with the two-time World Champion expecting his Aston Martin team to struggle in Styria.

Having introduced a major upgrade package in Spain earlier this month, Ferrari’s pace in practice in Canada – where Charles Leclerc’s long run was only around 0.15 seconds slower than that of Max Verstappen – caught the eye of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.

Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz qualified out of position after a disastrous qualifying showing in Montreal, but their strong recovery to fourth and fifth on race day hinted the team are on the right track.

Fernando Alonso not alone in tipping a strong Ferrari in Austria

Although Verstappen took his fourth consecutive win in Canada, Marko told Austrian publication oe24 that Ferrari “had the fastest car” that weekend and warned Red Bull’s home race “will not be a big Oktoberfest for Max” if Leclerc can qualify strongly.

Marko’s view is shared by Alonso, who fears the vagaries of a sprint weekend in Austria – with just a single practice session to find a workable setup before qualifying on Friday afternoon – will count against Aston Martin after the team introduced a significant upgrade of their own last time out.

Per Sky Sports F1, he said: “I think the sprint weekend will not be ideal for us.

“We still have more time maybe of free practice with our new upgraded car. We still need to understand and optimise the package a little bit and in Austria, obviously with the sprint, we will have only FP1 to do that. But it is what it is. recommends

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“The circuit will be good and maybe better for the package as well, this one with a strange layout, let’s say. Maybe good for Ferrari, historically here as well with a long straight and short corners so maybe Austria we have a little bit more pace.”

Ferrari’s last F1 victory came in Austria almost 12 months ago, with Leclerc overcoming polesitter Verstappen – and managing a problem with the throttle in the closing stages – to win by 1.5 seconds.

Leclerc claimed Ferrari’s only podium of the 2023 season to date on the last sprint weekend in Azerbaijan, where he set two pole positions in consecutive days as the revised format was held for the first time.

The new system sees qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix held on a Friday, with a second qualifying session on Saturday morning – known as the Sprint Shootout – setting the grid for the sprint race that afternoon.

Unlike 2021/22, the finishing order of the sprint race does not set the grid for the grand prix proper.

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