Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘Track Profile Specialist’ Alistair Hunter
The Formula One circus invades Europe once again for the latest instalment of the titanic championship clash between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the latter leading the championship by 22 points.
The host for this is a new addition to the calendar for 2014, as the Red Bull Ring (previously known as the Osterreichring or A1-Ring) steps up to host its 26th edition of the Austrian Grand Prix at the track, and the 28th in total.
The Austrian Grand Prix was first introduced as a non-championship event in 1963 at Zeltweg, and after two races there – including the inaugural world championship race – it transferred across to the Osterreichring in 1970.
At first the race was very popular, but inadequate facilities led to the race being taken off the calendar after 1987, leaving a decade before the next one. The originally long and fast track was brought up to modern safety standards by Hermann Tilke, and was funded by the mobile company A1, therefore leading to new name of the circuit.
However, after 2003, the track buildings were demolished, and it was up to Austrian energy drink providers Red Bull to save the day, and they attracted series such as DTM to compete at the refurbished track. When the Grand Prix of America failed to materialise (hopefully one day, but you know what it’s like…), Bernie Ecclestone was contacted about the availability of the circuit as a replacement, and as such F1 finds itself here this weekend.
The circuit takes advantage of the undulating Austrian terrain, with the first corner causing clashes on previous occasions before entering the longest straight on the circuit. This ends with a slow corner at the beginning of the second sector, and continues with another straight and slow corner.
This is followed by a fast, flowing section between turns 3 and 7, before finally going back around a right hand turn to the finish line. While it originally was longer, it is now the third shortest track on the calendar at 4.326 kilometres, ahead of Interlagos and Monaco. The long straights mean that the laps are normally completed quickly – the fastest lap recorded at the track was Michael Schumacher’s 1:08.337 in the final race here. As we’ve seen from several other circuits, the 2014 cars shouldn’t be able to beat that time, although the laps should be quicker than any other circuit on the calendar.
As for statistics about top speed and all the other things that you’ll usually find here (and in the press releases of the teams) – we’ll just have to wait and see for sure.
If you bet against Mercedes, you are a brave person, but to be fair Red Bull will want to show their home crowd that they can win things. Still going for Lewis Hamilton for this one though!
McLaren have won the most races at this track, and while they will certainly have a greater chance than they would have had at any race weekend last year, it’s still a long shot.
A lap with Red Bull Racing drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo
Pirelli and the Red Bull Ring
The Austrian Grand Prix last appeared on the Formula One calendar in 2003, at the A1 Ring. Eleven years later, the track has been modified and now returns as the Red Bull Ring for round eight of this year’s world championship. Pirelli will bring its soft and supersoft tyres for the third consecutive race: the same nomination as Monte Carlo and Canada.
But the Red Bull Ring is very different in character, with two main straights and mostly sharp corners. As a result, average speeds are generally low, meaning that the cars will have to rely on mechanical grip from the tyres more than aerodynamic downforce. However, with no team having tested on the track, the weekend will be something of a step into the unknown for teams and drivers.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s always exciting to go to a new circuit: everyone starts on a level playing field, with the teams and drivers who dial themselves into the new conditions soonest coming out on top.
Based on the asphalt samples and track inspections from our engineers, we believe that the two softest compounds in our range will deliver the best compromise between performance and grip on a circuit where the teams are expected to run high downforce. One interesting question mark will be the weather, which is well known for being unpredictable over the circuit.
With any new venue, the work done during free practice becomes particularly important, so the teams will be looking to take as much information as possible from the Friday and Saturday sessions in order to assess the behaviour of the tyres on the track with different fuel loads and set-ups. This will be the key to qualifying race strategy.
Simulation data suggests that we will see a two-stop race, but this is subject to weather conditions and track evolution, which we will only understand properly after free practice.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “Spielberg is back in the world championship, with a few modifications that everyone will only find out about during free practice on Friday. On the whole though, the track is the same as the one we knew before.
What’s really nice about Spielberg is the fact that the track always goes up and down, which is great fun for a driver. The tricky aspect of this is that all the major braking areas are uphill, which makes overtaking difficult. I remember something that’s quite funny: in the old days it was always said that the local cows stopped producing milk for a week, because of the noise from the F1 cars.
Now that the cars make less noise, let’s hope it’s only a few days…”
The circuit from a tyre point of view
The track alternates very slow corners with high-speed sections. Traction and lateral forces ensure a medium to high level of stress for the tyres, especially in turns five and six.
The Red Bull Ring requires maximum downforce, in order to try and generate as much aerodynamic grip as possible on a circuit that has quite a low average speed. The effect of the downforce however is to put greater vertical forces on the cars. This is combined with sideways forces when the car goes ￼round the corner, placing a number of different stresses on the tyres.
The supersoft tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at low temperatures. The soft tyre is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures and more strenuous track conditions. Temperatures in Spielberg can vary but are generally in the region of 22 degrees centigrade, with a high risk of rain.
The asphalt is generally very smooth in Spielberg, having been extensively renewed recently. This means that the cars will slide more, especially at the start of the weekend, and this can cause graining if not kept under control.
The teams will decide on strategy when they get there and see some data from free practice, but starting on the supersoft followed by two stints on the soft would seem to be the most popular option.
A Lap with Pirelli
Brembo and the Red Bull Ring
The Spielberg circuit is a very hilly track, characterised by sharp bends with 7 significant deceleration braking sections. The circuit is also quite short with little space for the system to cool between one braking section and another. Being a circuit that has been reinstated in the championship after several years, all teams will have to pay close attention to the temperature of brake discs and calipers.
1975 – Notable for Vittorio Brambilla winning the race by crossing the line backwards, while spinning out of control. This would be his only victory in his career, finishing ahead of James Hunt in the rain-shortened race.
1982 – Nelson Piquet led into the first corner, before becoming the first driver ever to complete a scheduled pit stop for fuel and tyres. Patrese then led until his engine failed, with de Angelis and Rosberg eventually fighting it out for the victory after Piquet also retired, with the Italian winning by 0.05 seconds.
2002 – Michael Schumacher won one of the most controversial events from Rubens Barrichello, as he overtook his Brazilian teammate under orders from the team.
2003 – The last race at the track, which Michael Schumacher actually deserved to win, from Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello.
Like most European races, this weekend will also feature the GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup series.
Jolyon Palmer leads the GP2 championship by 46 points after good results, including the victory in the feature race last time out in Monaco, while Felipe Nasr is second after having three podium finishes in comparison to the British driver’s 5. There is one Austrian driver in the series, and he is Rene Binder, who hasn’t scored any points since the first round of the season.
The 2014 GP3 series only goes into its second race weekend in Austria, and Alex Lynn leads the championship after winning the feature race in Spain, despite finishing in 18th place in the sprint race. Richie Stanaway is second after a third and a fourth place finish, while the winner of the sprint race, Dean Stoneman, lies in fourth place.
In the Porsche Supercup series, Austrian driver Philipp Eng leads the championship after two second place finishes in Barcelona and Monaco, while Kuba Giermaziak and Earl Bamber – winners of the first and second races respectively – are in second and fourth places behind the home favourite.