The Austrian Grand Prix produced another thrilling contest in Formula One's 2018 season, and another with an unexpected result. Our F1 editors Laurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders are joined by columnists Kate Walker and Maurice Hamilton to discuss some of the biggest talking points from the weekend.
After another strategy blunder in Austria, does Mercedes need to change its race day operation?
LE: No. Being a strategist is a bit like being a goalkeeper in football -- you get little praise when you do things well but you get huge criticism when you mess up. Clearly the Virtual Safety Car process needs to be -- and will be -- reviewed back at Brackley, but James Vowles is still one of the best in the business. His radio message shows Mercedes has a healthy attitude to mistakes where individuals are encouraged to be open about errors -- getting rid of him would destroy that culture in a heartbeat.
KW: For the past couple of races I've been enjoying watching Toto Wolff have brief but regular chats with Ruth Buscombe, the Sauber strategy guru who got her start with Ferrari. They might just be talking Swiss chocolate and Pascal Werhlein, but given the recent strategy snafus we've seen from the Silver Arrows, a part of me wonders whether CVs have been on the agenda. Strategy is gambling and you can't always get it right, but Mercedes have had too much of the wrong of late.
MH: It's an incredibly complex process and mistakes happen. But it's beginning to look as though something needs to be done. You have to wonder if their procedure has become burdened with too many facts at times when a racer's gut reaction (based on their vast experience) should provide the best answer when one is needed very quickly.
NS: Tricky one. I respect the way James Vowles came over the radio to own the mistake and the way the team avoided the opportunity to throw him under the bus afterwards. Mercedes has a brutally honest approach to mistakes and shortcomings which has clearly served it well through these years of success. Changing that formula could be problematic for the team. Ensuring it has come away from Austria stronger than before is the key.
Has Stoffel Vandoorne done enough to warrant another season at McLaren?
LE: Not based on his season so far. Fernando Alonso is a tough teammate and there's no doubt McLaren revolves around the Spaniard, but Vandoorne should have troubled him more often than he has. Judging by the new drivers being linked with McLaren each week, the team feels the same way. I'd say Lando Norris is 90 percent certain of getting one of the two McLaren seats next year, while Vandoorne is less than 20 percent of holding on to his.
KW: No. He's been pretty unremarkable since making the step up to F1, and while you can blame a certain amount of meh on the car, Stoffel is looking very Marcus Ericsson to Alonso's Charles Leclerc, and that's not a good look for anyone trying to make an impression. Bring on Lando!
MH: Only McLaren can answer that because they have all the necessary information. I would suspect he has done enough. All we can do is compare lap times. Against Alonso's superlative performances with a dog of a car, that's never going to look good for Vandoorne. It's clear the McLaren does not behave in a way Stoffel feels comfortable with but taking care of his specific needs is probably some way down McLaren's priority list to simply make the car work.
NS: Sadly not. It's easy to make the point he's driving alongside Fernando Alonso but for a driver who arrived in Formula One with so much hype, he should be competing more closely with the Spaniard in their second season together if he wants to prove he's got genuine world championship calibre. McLaren appears to be losing faith in the Belgian, suggesting Zak Brown doesn't think so either.
Are Red Bull's drivers genuine title contenders?
LE: Yes, but not on merit. If Mercedes and Ferrari continue to make mistakes, Red Bull could be a factor towards the end of the season but it would require some pretty unusual results to overturn the existing gaps over the next two races -- especially if the team is not willing to back one driver over the other.
KW: Yes, in that we've still got a lot of racing to be getting on with and there are a lot of points out there for the taking. But seasons turn on a lot more than the odd strong weekend, and unless Austria proves to have been a clear turning point in the fortunes of either Mercedes or Ferrari I think Red Bull are going to be a very comfortable third. Reliability looks to be a bugger factor this season than in years past -- for all of the engine manufacturers -- and Red Bull and Renault will have left Spielberg with a lot to think about.
MH: In a season like this, who can say? On paper, no. But when Ferrari and Mercedes keep splitting the points between them, there is a chance for one of the Red Bull drivers to come through the middle. The only drawback is likely to be a lack of decent development from Renault when the going gets really intense during the final flyaways. It's an outside chance -- but worth a punt.
NS: This depends largely on Renault. Red Bull can't challenge for the title on the basis of opportunistic or fortunate results. Clearly the team is ready to fight for wins on the right day but over the course of such a long season it needs more than that if it wants to actually stand a chance of winning either championship.
Given their relative positions in the championship fight, should Ferrari have implemented team orders to make Kimi Raikkonen give Sebastian Vettel second place in Austria?
LE: If you are going to favour one driver over the other, you may as well do it openly and without exception. Vettel would have been ahead anyway had he not got a penalty for impeding Sainz in Q2, so I'm surprised Ferrari didn't switch the two drivers towards the end of the race. Perhaps after being so open about Charles Leclerc joining the team next season they are worried Kimi will no longer listen to them?
KW: Yes but no but yes but no but... If Ferrari had used team orders last week it would have made 2002 look like absolute nothing. Team orders tend to leave a bitter taste in the mouth however they're managed, but when one car is so clearly ahead of the other (thanks in no small part to the self-inflicted damage of the second car)? Even Max Mosley would recoil from that level of backlash. Of course, points are always important, and the points lost in Austria could win or lose the championship. But if ifs and ands were pots and pans, we'd all have a lot of washing up to do, as my granny used to say.
MH: Definitely not -- even though Ferrari has history at this track when Rubens Barrichello had to let Michael Schumacher through on the final lap in 2002 -- and that was only round six of 17. The booing from the grandstand opposite is probably still echoing around the Ferrari garage.
Given the tough season Raikkonen has had - and notwithstanding how every single point is likely to be critical this year for Vettel - it would have done a lot of damage, both inside and outside the team, if Kimi had been denied his result after such a good race.
NS: I was stunned they didn't. Vettel is in a tight fight with Lewis Hamilton and those three points could come back to haunt them -- given the fact Vettel's grid penalty had already blown the chance of victory and that Hamilton's car had retired in the closing stages, it seemed like an easy decision to make. It was good for racing that they didn't, but hopefully Ferrari will not come to regret that decision when we reach Abu Dhabi later this year.