The Austrian Grand Prix saw Mercedes finally falter as a fantastic battle between Red Bull and Ferrari unfolded at the front. ESPN F1 writers Laurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders join columnists Maurice Hamilton and Kate Walker in discussing the biggest talking points from the weekend at the Red Bull Ring.
Does Max Verstappen need to leave Red Bull to win his first title?
NS: In the short-term, yes, but the 2021 regulations leave too many question marks. I think Red Bull is the most likely team beside Mercedes to get everything right for those. He has age on his side, too, so I think he has time to be cautious and see how things look in a year and a half.
MH: That's like asking who's going to win the championship in 2021. No one knows how the revised regulations are going to pan out. He surely would be unwise to jump ship at this stage -- even assuming an offer from Ferrari or Mercedes comes up. Red Bull is unlikely to have the advantage seen in Austria (except at places such as Hungary and Singapore), but he would be better off staying with the package and team he knows well and watching how Honda continue to improve -- because they will.
KW: Not if Red Bull can nail the design of their 2020 car. Honda have shown they have what it takes to win races, and while Mercedes are at the top of their game right now, every peak is eventually followed by a trough. It may well be that Red Bull are better able to capitalise on the next regulatory cycle than Mercedes, in which case a move would be foolhardy. Time will tell.
LE: Only Mercedes is likely to have the sufficient pull to prise Verstappen from his current position at Red Bull. But even then there are risks. Rule changes in 2021 could end Mercedes' dominance and going up against Lewis Hamilton in the same car comes with no guarantee of success. That said, I'd love to see a Hamilton/Verstappen pairing.
Was the negativity about F1 after the French GP misguided?
NS: Not at all. One good race doesn't suddenly mean the criticism which followed the French GP was illegitimate. If you think the sport still isn't fundamentally flawed -- in several ways we outlined after that race -- you're kidding yourself.
MH: If you say Austria showed the French GP criticism to be misguided, you can turn it around and say that, unfortunately, Austria was probably more the exception rather than the rule. F1's fundamental problems -- overreliance on downforce; narrow tyre window; too expensive; too many rules -- still apply, although Paul Ricard as a racetrack definitely made it seem worse.
KW: Yes, but it was ever thus. Some tracks tend to deliver dull races, we all get our knickers in a twist and start writing obits, and then a good weekend shuts everyone up for a while until we get the next shocker and the cycle repeats itself. See every Melbourne GP ever as an example.
LE: The French Grand Prix was a showcase of the problems F1 needs to address, but the Austrian Grand Prix was a warning not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think Hamilton said it best on Sunday night: "If one weekend doesn't go well it's like, 'Oh, the racing is boring.' Then you have a race like Austria and it's like, 'Oh, the racing is exciting.' Then the next race 'It's boring.' Just make up your minds and chill. Racing is racing."
Has Ferrari blown its best chance of a win in 2019?
NS: Yep. Three times now!
MH: I know this is the umpteenth time saying this; Ferrari's potential for a win or two remains and is not necessarily circuit specific. It's just that they continue to keep making life more difficult for themselves with various blunders. If they can get their act together, Charles Leclerc gets the first win under his belt and Sebastian Vettel sorts himself out, then a win remains on the cards even if the championship is long gone.
KW: Probably, although I think that happened back in Bahrain when we were still hopeful of a proper championship battle and not last weekend. If I had to lay money on it, I'd say that Ferrari will win at Monza, but Mercedes are on ominous form and Ferrari have to be perfect if they ever slip.
LE: Let's get this straight: Ferrari didn't "blow" its chances on Sunday, it was beaten fair and square by Red Bull and Verstappen. Austria was Ferrari's best chance of beating Mercedes so far this year and it succeeded, it's just that Verstappen's performance surprised everyone (including Red Bull) and outstripped both. Based on the track layout, Monza should be Ferrari's best chance of beating both its rivals.
Was F1 wrong to vote against a switch back to 2018 tyres?
NS: We will never know, as it's such a complicated debate, but fact the teams even had a say in it supports my earlier point about the state of F1 currently.
MH: Voting against was correct, if only because the question should never have been raised in the first place. It's absurd to start crying "unfair" just because you can't make the current tyre work and someone else can. That's the nature of the beast. Agreeing to this would have set a precedent that would have made F1 look even sillier than it sometimes seems.
KW: No. While we might not like the current sporting rules, both they and the technical regs are what the team signed up for. You can't change them just because not everyone has made the most of them -- that's not sporting. Change whatever you want for 2020 and beyond.
LE: The attempt to hamstring Mercedes midway through the season tells you everything you need to know about how desperate the situations at Ferrari and Red Bull are right now. If F1 is still a sport, then the right decision was made. If it is about entertainment, then maybe we should have rolled the dice on a midseason change. Either way, the tyres needed testing first and in reality the change wasn't possible much before Mexico due to the logistics of manufacturing tyres and shipping them around the world.
How do you see the British GP unfolding?
NS: Hamilton is always in great shape at Silverstone and I think he will be strong regardless. We saw in Austria that Mercedes struggles in hot conditions, so it may well depend on how British the weather wants to be, but every time the team has been on the ropes recently, we've seen it fight back strongly.
MH: The long-term forecast is for cooler conditions compared to the recent hot spell -- which Mercedes will be relieved to hear. It's going to be fascinating to see how Mercedes vs. Ferrari (in simple terms, downforce vs. power) pans out around the fantastically quick corners at Silverstone. Red Bull-Honda will be hard-pressed to keep up but that won't stop Verstappen, given half a chance. As for the mid-field: Who knows! All down to who finds the setup on the day. But it'll be close. Bring it on!
KW: It's an utter mystery. We're experiencing a warm spell in the UK at the moment, and if that persists we might see overheating come into play again, albeit not as much as last week in Austria. I expect Mercedes to dominate in standard conditions, but would love to be surprised. Here's to Kimi Raikkonen on the podium!
LE: On paper, Mercedes should dominate. There's been a lot of talk about temperatures impacting the W10 after Austria, but it would need to be 13C above the seasonal average to match the temperatures seen at the Red Bull Ring. What's more, Silverstone is just 100 metres above sea level, so the air density is much thicker than the 700-metre-high Red Bull Ring, making cooling much less of a concern.