Mercedes are seeking more than just a ninth successive 2019 victory at the Austrian Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas bid to bounce back from last year's disappointment in Spielberg.
Hamilton won his sixth race of a one-sided season at the French Grand Prix last weekend with teammate Bottas, who took the checkered flag in the other two, completing a one-two for Mercedes. Reigning champion Hamilton currently has a 36-point lead over Bottas, who is 40 clear of Sebastian Vettel in third, yet Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has sounded a warning ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix by recalling the nightmare his two drivers had last year.
Mercedes had a front-row lockout but neither driver could finish the race, Bottas retiring on the 13th lap because of a hydraulics issue and Hamilton calling it a day in the 64th lap because of a fuel pressure problem. It was just the third time in eight years that both Mercedes drivers failed to finish a race, and it remains fresh in Wolff's mind for the return to Austria.
"Our result in last year's Austrian Grand Prix was the low point of the 2018 season," Wolff said.
"A double DNF [did not finish] after a promising front-row lockout meant that we left a lot of points on the table. The race was a cruel reminder of how quickly things can go wrong in our sport and that reliability and performance go hand in hand in Formula One."
However, prior to last year's troubles, Mercedes had won each of the four Austrian Grands Prix since the race returned to the Formula One calendar in 2014.
TALK OF THE PADDOCK
The Austrian Grand Prix is Red Bull's home race, not that Max Verstappen rates their chances of emerging victorious. Verstappen, last year's winner at the Red Bull Ring, has finished either third, fourth or fifth in every race this term but believes the gap to the top two is simply too great for either him or Pierre Gasly to make up.
"We'll probably finish fourth or fifth, though that depends on Ferrari making mistakes - maybe even third if both Ferraris make a mistake," Verstappen said in an honest assessment. "We're just lacking pace at the moment, you have to accept that."
Those Austrian fans hoping for another Red Bull win may leave sorely disappointed.
RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)
Mercedes have won the last 10 F1 races in a row and will equal McLaren's record of 11 successive victories - set during the 1988 season - if either Hamilton or Bottas end up on the podium's top step this Sunday.
2018: Max Verstappen
2017: Valtteri Bottas
2016: Lewis Hamilton
2015: Nico Rosberg
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 187
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 151 (-36)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 111 (-76)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 100 (-87)
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 87 (-100)
1. Mercedes 338
2. Ferrari 198 (-140)
3. Red Bull 137 (-201)
4. McLaren 40 (-298)
5. Renault 32 (-306)