Formula One heads to the Styrian mountains this weekend ahead of what promises to be an intriguing Austrian Grand Prix.
Fresh from an action-packed race on the streets of Baku there is much to talk about even before the cars take to the Red Bull Ring circuit for the first time on Friday.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at five of the main talking points heading into the grand prix weekend.
Vettel courted plenty of controversy by driving his Ferrari into the side of title rival Lewis Hamilton after deeming that the Mercedes braked too heavily behind a safety car.
The German was hit with a 10-second stop-go penalty during the race but still finished in front of Hamilton to stretch his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 14 points.
Vettel avoided further sanctions from the FIA, motorsport’s governing body, amid speculation he could have been docked points or banned for his actions.
Instead he will be in Spielberg along with the rest of the field, but it will be interesting to see what the other drivers make of Vettel’s behaviour and the lack of retrospective punishment from the powers that be.
While the rest of the grid will have a chance to air their views on Thursday, it will be telling to see their actions on the track once practice gets under way on Friday morning.
Hamilton labelled Vettel a “disgrace” following the incident in Baku as the three-time champion followed the Ferrari home in fifth having seen his hopes of a race win dashed by a dislodged headrest.
Now the 32-year-old will want to do his talking on the tarmac and when Hamilton feels he has a point to prove it is usually quite hard to stop him doing just that.
While his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was avoiding all the trouble in Azerbaijan and taking his Red Bull from 10th on the grid to win the race, Max Verstappen was retiring for the third time in four races.
This is home turf for the Red Bulls and their support will want to see something more akin to Ricciardo’s display rather than another failure for the highly-rated Verstappen.
The Dutchman has not finished outside of the top five when he has managed to take the chequered flag but will want to see reliability improve, with Ricciardo having been on the podium for the last four outings.
Plenty of questions were asked of Lance Stroll when the 18-year-old took to the wheel of his Williams at the start of the year.
The Canadian seemed a little out of his depth and struggled to make any sort of impact before finishing ninth in his home grand prix back in June.
He followed that up with a stunning drive in Azerbaijan, showing maturity beyond his years to claim his first F1 podium, only losing second place to Valttteri Bottas as the Finn passed him almost on the finish line.
It has been another season to forget for the beleaguered McLaren Honda partnership as the eight-time constructors champions continue to make up the numbers.
Fernando Alonso, who has threatened to walk away in the winter if the team do not improve, at least managed to take two points with a ninth-place finish in Baku.
It still leaves the team bottom of the current constructors’ standings heading into the ninth round of the season and, with Ron Dennis severing a 37-year bond with the team before the weekend, a continuation of their small signs of progress would be timely.
Ron Dennis’s 37-year relationship with McLaren ended Friday after he stepped down as chairman and sold his 25 percent stake in McLaren Technology Group following seven months of gardening leave.
Under his tenure as their Formula One team boss McLaren experienced unprecedented success in stark contrast to their fortunes now where they have not won a race in five years and only gained their first points this season last Sunday.
AFP Sports looks at four of the world champions produced during his tenure and how the 70-year-old Englishman would like to be remembered:
The remarkable Brazilian won three world titles and 35 Grand Prix for McLaren before leaving for Williams in 1994 and it was in just his third race for them that the 34-year-old was tragically killed. Dennis prefers to keep his counsel about that day but told the team website a few years ago how he would recall Senna. “He’s remembered because he was just so unbelievably competitive,” Dennis said. “He was great, but he had good, human values. He had a few lapses in his life, but he was incredibly principled. And he was a good human being.”
Austrian driving legend who had returned to the track despite suffering serious burns in an accident. However, he walked away in 1979 to set up his airline but Dennis used some remarkable powers of persuasion to coax him back to the circuit after a three year hiatus. It was well worth it as Lauda edged out team-mate Alain Prost for a fairytale 1984 world title. Lauda also taught Dennis something. “The thing about Niki was that he brought a mental and physical discipline to the job of being a driver that few other drivers had in those days,” Dennis told Motorsportmagazine.com in 2012. “He taught me, indirectly by observation, how to get an edge by being always totally focused.”
The British tyro won the title in thrilling fashion in 2008 aged just 23 and Dennis must have thought it was the start of a new Senna-like era. However, he was disabused of this idea when Hamilton decamped to Mercedes. Dennis, never one to take what he sees as a slight well, finally had a go at Hamilton on CNN in 2015. “To win a world championship at his age was a remarkable achievement for him — but it also has to be remembered that he had the car in which to do it. I don’t think he ever appreciated how lucky he was.”
Not exactly charismatic off the track but the ‘Flying Finn’ was a thrilling driver and was rewarded for his boldness with two championships with McLaren in 1998 and 1999. Indeed Dennis was moved a few years ago to say Hakkinen had given him his most memorable individual thrill in the sport as McLaren chief. “I am told I was punching the air when Mika won at Spa in 2000, and I find that very easy to believe. His truly unbelievable move (passing Michael Schumacher as both men were) lapping Ricardo (Zonta) will stay in my memory as long as I live. I would rank it as the all-time absolute pinnacle of overtaking manoeuvres,” he told FormulaOne.com in May 2016.
Given his removal as head of McLaren last November, his answer to caranddriver.com in 2010 on how he would like to be remembered may well come true. “What do I want written on my tombstone? ‘Ron Dennis, 1947 to so-and-so, one of the world’s great entrepreneurs’ -nothing to do with motor racing.”
Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said he’s in the best shape ever despite being at an age where drivers normally look towards retirement.
Hamilton, in his 11th year in Formula One, has 17 months remaining on his contract at Mercedes and intends to continue racing beyond 2018.
The 32-year-old reportedly offered to resign after last year’s Spanish Grand Prix when he crashed with former teammate Nico Rosberg, but is now set to finish his career at Mercedes.
“I’m going to keep going until the day I get in the car and I don’t feel the love. If I get in the car and I feel this is a job… then I think that’s the time to stop…,” he said.
“I think I’m very conscious of how long or short a career can be. My age, obviously, I am not the youngest driver anymore, but I’m making sure I live and live to the maximum… I’m the fittest I’ve ever been which I would not expect at 32.”
Hamilton is in his fifth season with Mercedes and has gone on to seal 34 race wins and two championships.
In that time, he has undergone a rigorous fitness programme to prepare himself for the gruelling 21 race calendar for the season.
“I would expect I would have been fitter when I got to Formula One. But I’ve prepared myself better than ever, I’m more calm in myself, even more confident in myself and my own abilities…
“My results speak for themselves… It doesn’t matter what you say about me. It’s not going to stop me from racing, it’s not going to stop me from being who I want to be and who I am.”
Hamilton is currently second in the drivers’ championship, 14 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.