Formula One heads into the sort-of-unknown with a return to Austria this weekend.
But what can we expect - apart from plenty of bad puns about the hills being alive with the sound of V6 engines - come Sunday afternoon?
F1 GETS BACK INTO THE RING
Formula One is back in Austria and, as has been the case for 25 of its 26 world championship events, it will rock up in Spielberg. The circuit formerly known as the Österreichring and A1 Ring is now the Red Bull Ring; no prizes for guessing whose money funded its renovation and return.
Three of the 2014 crop were present when the race was last held: Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, who were all fresh-faced youngsters in their early-20s when F1 last travelled to Austria. Kimi had the best day, finishing second to Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.
This year the favourites are Mercedes, whose W05 has been the class of the field thus far in 2014. But the car’s reliability was left wanting last time out in Canada and their rivals - particularly Red Bull - would dearly love to snatch victory this weekend.
- Hamilton says "it's going to take another four wins" to catch Rosberg
- Vettel waxes lyrical about Red Bull Ring circuit
SCHUMACHER’S RACE TO RECOVERY
Michael Schumacher is the most recent Austrian Grand Prix winner thanks to that 2003 triumph, which made it back-to-back wins after his 2002 victory. Few will have missed the news this week that Schumacher is no longer in a coma and continuing his rehab away from the Grenoble hospital where he has spent the past six months. The whole F1 community remains united in wishing him the best recovery possible.
- Schumacher leaves hospital six months after skiing accident
- German World Cup star reacts to Schumacher news
VETTEL PLAYING CATCHUP
Having been outperformed by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo this season Sebastian Vettel needs a result in Austria. And what better place to show his class than in Austria, home of the Red Bull company who have made his success possible. But the four-time champion has work to do: Ricciardo is currently 5-2 up in the pair’s qualifying battle, and on the four occasions that both Red Bulls have finished he has been ahead every time. Few saw it coming, but Vettel-Ricciardo has become one of the most fascinating stories of 2014.
FERRARI’S UNCERTAIN FUTURE
After a disastrous start to the 2014 season that has seen them bag just one podium, Ferrari’s efforts to save their 2014 campaign will continue in Austria. But, as ever, there’s plenty of politicking going on in darkened rooms at their Maranello HQ, with president Luca di Montezemolo calling on Bernie Ecclestone to discuss the sport’s future. The Scudeira have also been linked with an LMP1 programme at Le Mans, as has their driver Fernando Alonso, though Ferrari making noises about leaving the sport are nearly as old as F1 itself.
F1 SWITCHES UP A GEAR
Formula One is beginning one of its busiest runs of the season, with four grands prix taking place over the next six weekends. These will undoubtedly prove crucial to the eventual outcome of the world championship, with lost momentum having the potential to derail a title bid. With only two drivers realistically capable of taking top honours - Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton - it is the silver cars whose progress must be watched closest between now and F1’s summer break in late July.