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Can Mercedes come back strong in Austria?

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The next two GPs are in Austria at the Red Bull Ring, and Mercedes’ main rivals this season have their best chance in several years to win both those events, writes Morgan Bolton.

File Picture: Javier Soriano, AFP

JOHANNESBURG – IF there was a temple of speed where one could venerate Sir Lewis Hamilton, then Silverstone would be it.

In the 14 years that the Brit has been racing in F1, he has won the British Grand Prix at that track on seven occasions, more than any other driver, with the most recent victory being in 2019. He is the master of Silverstone, its blistering fast straights and sweeping corners kneeling to his hegemony. And yet, even that mastery is being questioned now after Red Bull rocked and rolled their way to victory at the French GP this past weekend.

The Circuit Paul Ricard was considered a Mercedes track, much like Silverstone, and an event in which they would strike back and wrestle a measure of control away from the Red Bulls, who had won the two previous races in Monaco and Baku.

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For a moment it was reality, the Silver Arrows of Hamilton leading the race, while the rest assumed their roles within the status quo.

But then it all went horribly pear-shaped, Red Bull outsmarting their rivals, and in doing so claiming two podium places. From second place Hamilton sounded dejected, his teammate Valterri Bottas, in fourth, apoplectic.

Mercedes need an immediate response this weekend, but on face value, I don’t think it will happen.

The next two GPs are in Austria at the Red Bull Ring, and their main rivals this season have their best chance in several years to win both those events. Sure, the Silver Arrows won both races at the venue in 2020, but then the F1 W11 EQ was the undisputed heavyweight in the paddock and arguably the best hybrid car, perhaps even one of the best cars in the history of motorsport, to ever race.

This year, that advantage has seemingly swung three-hundreds of a second towards Red Bull.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen have three race wins this season, but with the doubleheader in Austria, followed by the British GP and then the slower Hungaroring, it is arguably not a stretch of the imagination to foresee the 23-year-old, or his team, being another three races up, maybe even all four if they can emulate their French GP pace at Silverstone.

The Silver Arrows, and by association Hamilton, must win at least one of the GPs at the

Red Bull Ring and then also at Silverstone, if they are to stay within touching distance of Red Bull before the summer hiatus.

There is still a lot of racing to come, and one only writes off Mercedes and Hamilton at their own peril. Nonetheless, if I was a betting man, I would place all my chips on Verstappen, teammate Sergio Perez and their team.

Mercedes have a very short amount of time in the next four races to reverse their fortunes, while cracks are apparent on the usually smooth veneer of the German team.

The next two races might completely shatter it.

@FreemanZAR

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