After Mercedes won the first four races on the Red Bull Ring since Austria returned to the F1 calendar in 2014, Max Verstappen has won the last two events for the Red Bull home team.
In 2018, hydraulic and fuel pressure issues stopped Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton respectively, while cooling issues significantly hampered their pace in last year’s race as the Mercedes duo had to rise and coast significantly to avoid temperatures high that could cause shrinkage.
Speaking at the pre-event press conference for this weekend’s new 2020 season opening, Hamilton explained why Mercedes was confident that it had tackled the cooling problem.
“We weren’t terrible [since 2017]but it’s a challenging circuit with the height of the circuit, the temperatures we see, “he said
“We got here [in previous years] and it’s usually not in the perfect operating temperature window for our car.
“But I’d like to think that we’re in a better position this year with the improvements we’ve made to the car this season. So time will tell.”
Bottas, who won the 2017 event on the Austrian circuit, said he was “quite happy when I knew there would be two races here”, as this weekend’s race will be followed by the Styrian GP a week later.
“I like this track,” he said. “Historically, if you look in the past, I have also had tracks that have not been very successful, but I still managed to do it well.
“It is difficult to say anything from the past: it is a new season after a long pause.
“But I feel I have had good preparations within me and with the team, so that’s why I feel confident.
“But at this point it doesn’t help to say anything more, because very soon we will see where we are as a team and me personally in terms of rhythm.”
The past success of Red Bull on the Austrian track, combined with his confidence in the 2020 winter tests and the Ferrari that feels behind the other two F1 “Class A” teams, has led to suggest that he will be the closest challenger to Mercedes in 2020.
Asked if he saw Red Bull and Verstappen as his main threat for Motorsport.com this season, Hamilton said, “I mean, they looked pretty strong during testing.
“He was close enough to the top three in testing and I think Red Bull is particularly close to us from our understanding.
“And Max is progressing year by year, so I expect they will be strong competitors.
“They are always very strong here on this track, so they will definitely be a challenge in these two weekends. But I am excited to see how it goes.”