Grand Prix History – Austrian GP
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.
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.