For the eighth round of the 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship, the sport’s teams return to a country last visited by F1 11 years ago – Austria. The last incarnation of the Austrian Grand Prix was held from 1997 to 2003 at the circuit known as the A1 Ring and it is to that venue that F1 heads once again, though the rechristened Red Bull Ring has seen major trackside updates since.
The track, however, remains much as it was in 2003. One of the shortest on the calendar at 4.326km, the Red Bull Ring features just nine corners. It is a circuit of fast straights and slow- and medium-speed corners with, historically, just the first three taken in low gear. As such, lap times were low – with sub-1m10s laps the norm. Average speeds were high, with the 2003 event seeing Michael Schumacher win with an average speed of 213km/h.
Historic data will matter little this weekend, however, as F1’s teams brings their cutting-edge 1.6-litre, hybrid, turbocharged 2014 cars to the circuit. The best teams can hope for is that their simulations prove accurate. What can’t be modelled, however, is how the circuit will stack up in terms of surface characteristics and how it will evolve as sessions unfold. All this will have to factored into team preparations on Friday and Saturday morning.
Last time out, in Canada, Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo scored a memorable maiden win. Capitalising on a troubled race for previously dominant Mercedes, the result was a major step forward for the Austrian-licensed team and it will be looking to continue that good form at its home track.
In the Drivers’ Championship, second place in Montreal allowed Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg to extend his title lead over team-mate Lewis Hamilton to 22 points. The Briton will be keen to redress the balance in Spielberg, but on a circuit unfamiliar to the bulk of the current field, this latest iteration of the Austrian GP could turn out to be one of the most unpredictable of the season so far.
CIRCUIT DATA – RED BULL RING
Track: The Red Bull Ring. Permanent circuit.
Race start time: 1pm UK time Sunday (2pm local).
Track length: 4.326 km.
Tyre allocation: Soft (yellow) and supersoft (red).
DRS Zones: Two (Between Turns Two & Three and on the pitstraight).
Driver steward: Tom Kristensen.
Lap record: Michael Schumacher – 1:08.670 (Ferrari; 2003).
2003 pole: Michael Schumacher – 1:09.150 (Ferrari).
Austrian GP – Fast Facts
► Even though the last Austrian Grand Prix was 11 years ago, there are four drivers on the grid who have F1 racing experience at this circuit in its A1 Ring guise. Jenson Button has made four appearances here – from 2000-2003. His best result here came at the most recent race in 2003 when he qualified seventh and finished fourth for BAR/Honda.
► Kimi Räikkönen has three Austrian GPs on his CV. In 2001 he started in ninth place for Sauber and finished fourth to claim the second of four points finishes in his debut season. In 2002, having moved to McLaren, his race was stopped after seven laps with engine failure, but the following year, again with McLaren, he qualified and finished in second place.
► Fernando Alonso has raced here twice, with Minardi in 2001 and with Renault in 2003. On both occasions he failed to finish. His first attempt was ended by gearbox trouble after 38 laps and an engine problem saw him exit the ’03 race after 44 laps.
► Felipe Massa, meanwhile, raced at the A1 Ring for Sauber in his debut season, 2002. He qualified seventh but retired from the grand prix with a suspension problem after seven laps.
► Two other current drivers have racing experience here: McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen raced at the circuit last year in Formula Renault 3.5 Series with DAMS. The Dane finished both weekend races in third place. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat raced at the Red Bull Ring in 2012 in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps. The Russian won both races of the fifth-round weekend.
► Kvyat’s Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne has driven the Red Bull Ring but only in a show car run for sister team Red Bull Racing in 2013. Red Bull Racing drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel have also visited the track, Ricciardo for a filming day, while Vettel drove the track last month, piloting a 2012 Red Bull Racing RB8 for a promotional film about the grand prix’s return to Austria.
► McLaren is the most successful team at the Austrian GP with six wins. The victories came in 1984 with Niki Lauda, in 1985-’86 with Alain Prost, in 1998 and 2000 with Mika Häkkinen and in 2001 courtesy of David Coulthard. The next most successful are Ferrari with five wins (1964, ’70, ’99, 2002 and 2003) and Lotus with four (1972, ’73, ’78 and ’82).
► Alain Prost has the most victories of any driver at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Frenchman won in 1983 with Renault and then took back-to-back wins for McLaren in 1985-’86.
► The current circuit configuration largely mirrors that of the A1 Ring, where the race was won from pole position three times in seven events. Jacques Villeneuve won from the front of the grid in 1997, as did Häkkinen in 2000 and Michael Schumacher in 2003. The A1 Ring race was only won from further back than third on the grid once, in 2001, when David Coulthard started in seventh position.
Austrian GP – Race Stewards, Biographies
GARRY CONNELLY – DEPUTY PRESIDENT, FIA INSTITUTE; DIRECTOR, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF MOTOR SPORT SAFETY; F1 AND WTCC STEWARD; FIA WORLD MOTOR SPORT COUNCIL MEMBER
Garry Connelly has been involved in motor sport since the late 1960s. A long-time rally competitor, Connelly was instrumental in bringing the World Rally Championship to Australia in 1988 and served as Chairman of the Organising Committee, Board member and Clerk of Course of Rally Australia until December 2002. He has been an FIA Steward and FIA Observer since 1989, covering the FIA’s World Rally Championship, World Touring Car Championship and Formula One Championship. He is a director of the Australian Institute of Motor Sport Safety and a member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
NISH SHETTY – FIA STEWARD AND MEMBER OF THE FIA INTERNATIONAL COURT OF APPEAL
Nish Shetty sits on the FIA International Court of Appeal as a judge and is a permanent member of the National Court of Appeal (Singapore). He is also Chairman of the Disciplinary Commission of the Singapore Motor Sports Association and a national steward of the Singapore Grand Prix. Shetty has assisted the Singapore Motor Sports Association for many years as a legal advisor and committee member. In addition to being involved in the Singapore Grand Prix, Shetty has acted as a steward in the Singapore Karting Championship. Away from motor sport, he is a Partner and Head of International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, South East Asia at global law firm Clifford Chance.
TOM KRISTENSEN – NINE TIMES LE MANS WINNER, GERMAN F3 CHAMPION (1991), JAPANESE F3 CHAMPION (1993) ALMS CHAMPION (2001)
Denmark’s Tom Kristensen is the most successful driver in the history of the Le Mans 24-Hour race. He has won the classic endurance event nine times, racing for Porsche, Audi and Bentley. Kristensen, 46, has a broad racing CV, having competed in single-seaters, touring cars and a range of sportscars. He has also tested in F1. Having won his ninth 24 Hours of Le Mans and claimed the FIA World Endurance Championship title last year, Kristensen is back for more WEC action this year, again racing for Audi Sport Team Joest. However, following the retirement of Allan McNish, Kristensen is this season partnered by Loïc Duval and Lucas Di Grassi, though Duval was replaced at the recent Le Mans 24 Hours by Marc Gene following an accident in practice. (FIA)