Brought to you by TJ13 writer Marek
After the European Grand Prix in Baku the F1 circus heads to, well, Europe, moving on to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. After a scrappy weekend last time out for Lewis Hamilton saw his good work of Canada undone, Lewis will be looking to get back on track again as he bids for a 3rd consecutive world championship. Only one driver has managed to win the Austrian Grand Prix 3 times (Alain Prost managing the feat during the 1980s), but Nico Rosberg has won here on both occasions since the track returned to the calendar in 2014, and will surely fancy his chances of tying the great Prost for the most wins at this event. Red Bull will be pulling out all the stops to entertain at their home grand prix, with the Red Bull Skydiving team and the Flying Bulls in action to entertain over the weekend, but the track has not been a happy hunting ground for the team, who could do with a lift after a poor European Grand Prix saw them lose momentum in their battle against Ferrari.
Last year’s race saw Lewis Hamilton take pole position, but Nico Rosberg got the jump on him at the start and led all the way to the finish. Kimi Raikkonen lost control coming out of turn 2 on the opening lap and collected Fernando Alonso, with Alonso ending up sliding along the barrier on top of the Ferrari. Hamilton incurred a time penalty for crossing the white line on the pit exit, and ended the race behind Rosberg, but even with the time penalty to be added he still took second. Vettel had looked good for third, but lost out in the pits after a botched Ferrari pit stop, and Massa took the third podium slot for Williams.
After hosting a number of sportscar and non championship events between 1958-1963, the bumpy airfield circuit of Zeltweg joined the Formula One calendar to host the Austrian Grand Prix for the first time in 1964, the race marking the Formula One debut of Jochen Rindt in a one off drive for Brabham, with the race being won by Lorenzo Bandini in a Ferrari, the only race the Italian would win in F1.
The track was not well regarded, being tight and bumpy, and the race was dropped from the calendar after one race. The next Austrian Grand Prix was held in 1970, at a new venue, the Osterreichring, a beautiful flowing track using the natural elevation change of the mountains to provide a trilling test of skill over 5.9 km of rises and falls.
The Osterreichring held the race from 1970 (won by Jacky Ickx for Ferrari) through to 1987 (when Nigel Mansell conquered in a Williams in a race started 3 times after multiple crashes on the first two attempts), but the track was dropped from the F1 calendar, with safety concerns playing a role in the tracks demise after numerous crashes and fatalities at the circuit in the preceding years. The track would not return to the calendar until 1997, in its new guise as the A1 Ring, with Hermann Tilke given the task of circuit redesign.
This resulted in chunk of the western section of the track bypassed, and changes to layout of the remaining track, slowing the existing high speed corners to increase run off areas, somewhat neutering the majesty of the old track, reducing the lap to 4.3 km in the process.
Jacques Villeneuve took the win for Williams in his title winning season in 1997, and the track remained on the calendar until 2003 when Ferrari number one Michael Schumacher claimed a win and maximum points after moral victor Rubens Barrichello was ordered to give his team mate the position. This would be the last race at the track until 2014, when new owners Red Bull transformed the facilities to bring them up to standard, building new pits and grandstands and winning themselves a home grand prix in the bargain . Nico Rosberg and Mercedes have been the winners here on both occasions since its return to the calendar.
The original track was a thing of beauty, it was very fast track, and featured fast sweeping corners. Originally, from the start of the lap the drivers blasted uphill into Hella Licht, a fast blind right hander that was modified in 1976 and the removed from the lap entirely in 1977 to be replaced with a chicane due to safety fears. This led onto a straight powering up to the Dr Tiroch Kuruve, a fast and banked right hander that curved back onto another straight, linking back to join the modern circuit at what is now Turn 2. Sadly the section from before Hella Licht through Dr Tirroch Kurve were removed from the track during the circuit redesign which brought F1 back in 1997.
From there the track wound down into the Bosch Kurve, a fearsome downhill right hander with a grandstand on the outside of the corner. The lack of runoff led to the demise of this wonderful corner on the redesign of the track, the corner has been replaced by the new Turn 3, a tighter corner for slower entry and provided with the run off space demanded by today’s safety standards. From the Bosch Kurve the track wound into the Texaco Schikane, a series of fast curving left handers that have been replaced by the tighter section between Turn 5 and Turn 6, again slowing the track and providing more runoff. The old track then finished on a wonderful sweeping banked curve leading on to the main straight, which has been tightened into the Turn 8 and Turn 9 combination on the modern track.
From running below sea level in Baku, the teams switch to running at elevation in Austria, with the track situated about 700m above sea level.
With its scenic location nestled in the Styrian mountains, there will be more strain on the power units due to lower air pressure, and while the surroundings are beautiful they can also be treacherous, with the possibility of rain sweeping in over the mountains adding unpredictability to the event.
The lap is short, with the hard breaking zones separated by short straights, providing short time to cool brakes and harvest energy.
The track sees plenty of elevation change through the course of the lap, with some 65m difference between the highest and lowest point on the circuit, providing challenge for driver and machine alike.
The short straights are all preceded by slow corners, so good traction and engine power will be required.
The lap is one of the shortest, and timewise the quickest on the F1 calendar, and with the track having been resurfaced this year to remove some bumps and provide more grip, added to Pirelli bringing their ultra-soft tyre to the event, we can expect to see even quicker lap times this year – so don’t be surprised to hear plenty of excitement on the team radio about blue flags!!
From the starting grid there is a short run uphill to turn 1, a blind right hand corner. After everyone bar Gutierrez was on their best first corner behaviour in Baku, this start provides opportunity for mayhem, as witnessed here in 2000 when Riccardo Zonta came in too hot and tagged Michael Schumacher, forcing both Schumacher and the unfortunate Jarno Trulli into retirement.
Rosberg nipped past Hamilton here at the start last year to set up his victory, and with Nico seeming intent to push his luck aggressively in the opening corners this year, the start of the race should prove yet another tense affair for the Mercedes pit wall.
From here the cars will wind their way right left past the pit exit (watch the white line on exiting Lewis!) down the long straight and pass the 1st DRS activation point as they start to climb back up into Turn 2, a tight right hander at the highest point of the circuit.
This spot should provide plenty of action during the race – it was here that McLaren-Mercedes teammates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard tangled in 1999, with reigning champion Hakkinen spun into last position by his aggressive team mate Coulthard – a portent of things to come for the Mercedes boys I wonder?
Exiting turn 2, as the track starts to gently drop downhill the cars put the power down (careful Kimi!) and wind gently down another straight, the first DRS activation zone, heading towards turn 3, another right hander. Overtaking is possible here but care must be taken – Romain Grosjean tried it on the outside around Carlos Sainz Jr last year, but ended up losing position to an alert Segio Perez when Carlos refused to play nice and allow Romain space around the outside! Bottas showed the way to do it later on in the race here with a clean move on Nico Hulkenberg. From turn 3 the cars curve around the corner into the gentle sweep of turn 4, another right hander and opening down a short burst into the left hander Turn 5. Daniel Ricciardo added another fine pass to his collection here on the last lap in 2014, taking Nico Hulkenberg on the outside from turn 4 and holding the place through turn5. On the exit of Turn 5 the cars run wide over the curbs to help propel them down into another left hander Turn 6.
From here the cars lean in to the right hander Turn 7, carrying as much speed as they can on the exit onto the next straight.
This straight leads down into the fast right hander Turn 8.
The pit entrance is on the exit of Turn 8, and after the turn the drivers pass the 2nd DRS activation point before darting in to another tight downhill right hander, the final Turn 9, with the drivers swinging wide over the kerbs to help give them the best launch onto the main straight and the second DRS activation zone as the cars climb back into Turn 1, the premier overtaking opportunity on the track.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
For Formula One’s annual visit to the Red Bull Ring, with its stunning mountain setting, the three softest compounds in the P Zero range have been nominated: soft, supersoft and ultrasoft. The Spielberg track is probably the closest that Formula One comes to a rally stage: with big changes of elevation and a sequence of fast and twisty corners. The weather in the region can also be quite unpredictable. Although the circuit only returned to the F1 calendar in 2014, it has its roots in the 1969 Osterreichring, which gives the track quite an old-school character that is still in evidence now.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW:
- The first two sectors are fast with the final sector being slower and more technical.
- The circuit tests a wide spectrum of a tyre’s ability, in terms of lateral and longitudinal loading.
- Wear, degradation and temperatures are quite low, which is why we have the softest tyres.
- Judging the braking points is quite complex, as there are a number of uphill braking areas.
- The track surface is generally low-grip and low abrasion, as well as being bumpy in places.
- Spielberg is the shortest lap time of the year with only nine corners, so precision is vital.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
- Yellow soft: unusually this is the hardest tyre in the range, one of the mandatory available sets.
- Red supersoft: these should play an important role in the race, also a mandatory available set.
- Purple ultrasoft: the most popular choice by a long way, with up to nine sets nominated per car.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO:
- A one-stop strategy proved key to victory, although this was influenced by an early safety car. Nico Rosberg started on the supersoft and then switched to the soft on lap 38 (of 71).
- Best-placed alternative strategy: Pastor Maldonado finished seventh from 10th on the grid (promoted by grid penalties) after starting on the soft tyre and doing a long opening stint.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
- “Austria is one of the most picturesque and individual tracks on the championship, which asks a lot from the tyres in terms of all-round mechanical grip and performance, which is why the ultrasoft has been resoundingly favoured here. As a result, we may have a two-stop race this time, even though last year was a one-stopper. However, this venue is always quite unpredictable: we had a safety car period right at the beginning of the grand prix last year, while rain as well as bright sunshine seems to be an equal possibility. The ultrasoft compound should be well-suited to the Red Bull Ring, which means that we will almost certainly see the fastest laps ever of this current circuit configuration this weekend.”
- The circuit has been completely re-asphalted this year, with the new asphalt having a similar level of abrasion to before. The fresh bitumen may offer a different amount of grip though: it will be measured by Pirelli’s engineers on Wednesday before the race.
- The ultrasoft makes its Austrian debut, having been introduced for the current season.
- As well as cars, Spielberg also hosted the Red Bull Air Race earlier this year, above the track.
OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE CAUGHT OUR EYE RECENTLY:
- Ferrari and Renault have made the most aggressive nominations: nine sets of ultrasoft each.
- The top two in the championship (Rosberg and Hamilton) differ in their tyre choices.
- Pirelli becomes part of the FIA’s action for road safety campaign, with some new initiatives.
The only team that have really proven to be able to beat Mercedes over a race weekend so far this season is Mercedes. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have had some awful weekends this year, with Hamilton suffering last time out at Baku. While normally he would be expected to bounce back and reaffirm his superiority, Austria has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Rosberg, with Nico taking victory at both races since the return of the track to the F1 calendar in 2014. Nico will fancy his chances, and the battle between the two Mercedes drivers will again likely provide the main attraction. For Ferrari, Baku provided a strong result, but beneath the surface it looked as if the chances of Sebastien Vettel being able to challenge the Mercedes on pace in 2016 seem to be getting ever more unlikely. Ferrari will be hoping to show their revised turbo is the real deal, and need to ensure they get their act together in qualifying, as having to start behind a Williams or Force India could make it a long afternoon in traffic. This problem could be made even worse given Williams notable improvement in pit stop performance this year. Ferrari will definitely not be able to afford a sloppy stop like the one which Vettel endured last year, ruining his chances of a podium finish. Williams themselves have enjoyed their best performances at this track over the last few seasons, and will be hopeful the track will once again play to their cars advantage, with Valtteri Bottas desperate for a headline grabbing result to win the silly season focus back from Sergio Perez, whose two podiums in three races could see him peaking at the right time as contracts for 2017 are considered. Both Bottas and Massa have been on the podium here over the past two years, and Massa will also be keen to show he still has something to offer to someone, as rumours start to fly about his fate at Williams and possible landing spots. Red Bull have not had much to shout about at the Red Bull Ring, and after a disappointing weekend in Baku will be hoping to put on a display at their home track. With Daniel Ricciardo now confirmed at Red Bull for 2017, the continuing battle between him and Max Verstappen should provide intense excitement regardless of their position on the track.
1975 – A soaking race that was stopped early and led to half points being awarded. The race saw Vittorio Brambilla take his only Formula One victory, and promptly lose control and spin into the barrier after he crossed the line to take the chequered flag, continuing on celebrating in his battered March.
1982 – Elio de Angelis maiden formula one victory, and the last for Lotus before Colin Chapman died. This race saw Brabham stop to take on fuel during the race, the first time this had been done in modern formula one. The clever strategy did not bring instant rewards to the team however, with Riccardo Patrese retiring from the lead with an engine failure and Nelson Piquet failing to finish due to an electrical fault. Alain Prost looked set to win with a healthy 30 second lead, before his Renault pulled to the side of the track in flames a few laps from the finish, leaving Elio de Angelis in the lead in his Lotus. He was hunted down to the end by Keke Rosberg in a Williams, but just about managed to hang on for victory, both cars crossing the line side by side, with just 0.05 seconds between them.
1984 – Niki Lauda wins his home Grand Prix, taking the championship lead from McLaren team mate Alain Prost, a lead he would keep until the end of the season to claim his third drivers title. The race saw no Ford-Cosworth engine car take the start, after both Tyrrells failed to qualify, the first race to be held without the previously dominant manufacturer since they introduced the DFV engine in 1967.The race also marked the F1 debut of Gerhard Berger, driving for ATS. In the race, Piquet in a Brabham led from Prost, but as they came upon oil spilled from Elio De Angelis blown turbo, Piquet wobbled and Prost spun off into the barriers and a costly retirement. Lauda overtook Piquet for the lead, and coasted clear to record a famous home victory.
1999 – With Ferrari number one Michael Schumacher out after breaking his leg in the previous race, his team mate Eddie Irvine rose to the challenge of leading the Scuderia and claimed victory, pushing him into genuine championship contention. He was aided by David Coulthard nudging team-mate and championship leader Mika Hakkinen into a spin at turn 2 on the opening lap, sending Mika to the back of the pack. Irvine jumped Coulthard in the pits and held on for a memorable victory by less than a second from a late charging Coulthard, while Hakkinen sliced his way back through the field to come third.
2003 –Michael Schumacher led from the start, but lost the lead to Juan Pablo Montoya after his car was briefly set alight in the pits after fuel leaked during refuelling. Team mate Barichello had pitted prior to Schumacher, and after a problem with his refuelling rig the team swapped to Michael’s. Schumacher came into the pits next, and as the team rushed forward to connect the refuelling hose fuel dripped onto Schumachers car, catching fire. As the crew removed the hose more fuel spilled onto the flames, increasing the blaze and the crew showered the car with fire extinguisher as Schumacher waited calmly to be released, putting his foot down once given the all clear to resume, re-joining in third place behind Montoya and Kimi Raikonen. Schumacher chased down Kimi Raikkonen to take second, and took the lead and a deserved victory after Montoya retired with engine failure while in his sights.
There is a full complement of support races on show in Austria as GP2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup will all provide action in between the F1 sessions.
In GP2, no-one seems to want to take control of the championship. Last time out, the leaders stumbled, with Norman Nato losing the lead after failing to register a points finish in Baku having thrown it away at the start of the feature race. Artem Markelov took over the series lead with a 5th place finish in the sprint race after being taken out of the feature race by Arthur Pic. Antonio Giovinazzi hadn’t put a point on the board prior to Baku, but victory in both the feature and sprint races around the streets of Baku put him into third in the overall standings. It was the first time since Bahrain in 2012 that a driver managed to win both the feature and sprint races, a feat managed that weekend by the champion of that season, former Lotus 3rd driver Davide Valsecchi. Sergey Sirotkin finally converted promise into some decent points, coming home second in the feature race. Both he and Alex Lynn, who had a pointless weekend in Baku, will fancy their chances in Austria, where both made the podium behind McLaren’s future star and 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne. Nobuharu Matsushita will be suspended for the Austrian race, having been found guilty of driving in an erratic manner and causing danger to other drivers during the Safety Car period!
GP3 returns for only its second race of the season, after a long gap since the opener in Spain. The drivers had a chance to test at the Spielberg track on 7th/8th June, so those off the pace in Spain will be hoping to be ready to impress. Ferrari driver academy prospect Charles Leclerc, who has recently been boosted by confirmation he will drive in FP1 for Haas on 5 Grand Prix Fridays this year starting at the British Grand Prix, leads the title race after winning the feature in Spain. Leclerc will be highly fancied to record a second straight feature race win to start the season after looking very impressive in the test sessions in Spielberg. His team mate Alexander Albon sits second in the championship after winning the Spain sprint race, while another Ferrari driver academy prospect Italian Antonio Fuoco also posted impressive times during the test sessions and will be hoping to pose a threat for victory.
The Porsche Supercup returns for its third round after entertaining at Spain and Monaco, with Italian Matteo Cairoli winning both the opening rounds to open up a lead over the chasing pack. The teams have been testing in Monza in the gap between rounds 2 and 3, and the race should provide plenty of entertainment as usual.