After the battle in Baku F1 turns to Austria this weekend, scene of an on-track collision between the main title rivals last year, when the Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Rosberg crossed swords (and front wings) on the last lap.
Sebastian Vettel has had to own up to his loss of control in Baku, and will have to be on his best behaviour for the weekend, as he sits perilously close to a race ban after the penalty points he accrued in Baku. While Vettel may have scored a serious own goal in Baku, he did extend his lead in the drivers championship – Mercedes, who have had it all their own way in Austria since the Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar in 2014 will look to eat into that lead, with Valtteri Bottas on hand to run defense for Lewis. Ferrari have struggled here, and Red Bull have not had much joy here either– until they promoted Max Verstappen that is! While all eyes will be on the Ferrari/Mercedes battle, keep an eye out for Max this weekend to get into the mix, and don’t be surprised if he makes life awkward for one Sebastian Vettel.
Alain Prost has the most Austrian Grand Prix wins (3), while of the active drivers, only Lewis Hamilton has taken victory here, winning for the first time here last year.
Last year’s race saw plenty of drama, with the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton colliding on the last lap while disputing the lead, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel bring out the safety car after his tyre exploded earlier in the race. A wet qualifying session had thrown up surprises, with Nico Hulkenberg starting on the front row after Nico Rosberg took a grid penalty for a gearbox change. Jenson Button too had a superb qualifying session, lining his McLaren up 3rd on the grid after Sebastian Vettel took his gearbox penalty. What should have been an easy race for Lewis then was thrown into doubt by first a bad pit stop, which caused him to fall behind his two stopping team-mate, and then the safety car caused by Vettel’s blow out, which made Merc swap Lewis to a two stopper as well, which set up the last lap collision as Rosberg rather desperately attempted to hold position, running Lewis wide but damaging his own car in the process and falling back to fourth at the flag, with the impressive Max Verstappen bringing his Red Bull home in second place ahead of the surviving Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
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 3. 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 4, 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 6 and Turn 7, 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 9 and Turn 10 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 63.6m 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, 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 where trouble can all too easily occur at the start, the Ferrari’s better watch out for Valtteri Bottas Mercedes here! Back in it’s previous incarnation of the A1-Ring, the 2000 Grand Prix saw just how awkward this can be at the start, when Riccardo Zonta came in too hot and tagged Michael Schumacher, forcing both Schumacher and the unfortunate Jarno Trulli into retirement.
From here the cars will wind their way right left past the pit exit down the long straight and pass the 1st DRS activation point, curving slightly left at Turn 2 as they start to climb steeply back up into Turn 3, a tight right hander at the highest point of the circuit. It was here that the race was decided ont he last lap last year, with Lewis Hamilton moving to the outside of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg going through Turn 2 and holding the outside line into Turn 3, only for Nico to forget to take the corner and run Lewis off the track! Lewis would prevail for the win as Nico dropped back with damage, justice served!
Exiting turn 3, as the track starts to gently drop downhill the cars put the power down (this is where Kimi lost control in 2015 and collected Fernando Alonso!) and wind gently down another straight, the first DRS activation zone, heading towards turn 4, another right hander. Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of the straight to get his Ferrari past the McLaren of Jenson Button here last year after Jenson had surprised everyone with his excellent qualifying performance. From turn 4 the cars curve around the corner into the gentle sweep of turn 5, another right hander and opening down a short burst into the left hander Turn 6. Daniel Ricciardo added another fine pass to his collection here on the last lap in 2014, taking Nico Hulkenberg on the outside from turn 5 and holding the place through turn 6. On the exit of Turn 6 the cars run wide over the curbs to help propel them down into another left hander Turn 7.
From here the cars lean in to the right hander Turn 8, carrying as much speed as they can on the exit onto the next straight.
This straight leads down into the fast right hander Turn 9.
The pit entrance is on the exit of Turn 9, and after the turn the drivers pass the 2nd DRS activation point before darting in to another tight downhill right hander, the final Turn 10, 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:
The Red Bull Ring has some characteristics in common with the succession of low-grip circuits that have come immediately before it, with a slippery surface and relatively contained lateral forces. As opposed to Azerbaijan, Canada and Monaco, it’s an entirely permanent venue: a chopped down version of the mythical Osterreichring. This gives the track an old-school feel, and a lot of it is visible from any vantage point; it’s one of the shortest laps of the year. The three softest tyres in Pirelli’s Formula 1 range will be used in Austria: P Zero Yellow soft, P Zero Red supersoft and P Zero Purple ultrasoft. These should be well-suited to the rollercoaster Spielberg layout, providing the right compromise between warm-up, performance and durability.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS
1/ Purple ULTRASOFT
2/ Red SUPERSOFT
3/ Yellow SOFT
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- Track was entirely resurfaced in 2016: it’s one of the smoothest surfaces of the year.
- Tyre nominations are the same as last year: both one and two stops could be possible.
- The local geography means there’s a high risk of uncertain weather all weekend.
- Some graining was seen last year on ultrasoft but this is very unlikely with the new generation 2017 tyres, with almost zero graining so far this season.
- The first two sectors are fast and flowing, the final sector is slower and more technical.
- There’s plenty of elevation, including some tricky uphill braking that is easy to get wrong.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“The natural selection for this type of circuit is the three softest compounds in the range. Having said that, we’ve seen in the past that Austria also has the capability to spring a few surprises. When we get there we’ll see if one stops or two are more likely, but it will be important for teams to build some flexibility into the strategies as well. Longitudinal forces – so traction and braking – are the key aspects in Austria, rather than cornering. In spite of that, there’s still a good chance of the lap record coming down, as we saw in Baku”.
- There are no major alterations to the Red Bull Ring compared to last year.
- Pirelli has been working in another famous mountain location recently: a new allelectric Acura has tackled the famous Pikes Peak hill climb on P Zero slick tyres.
AUSTRIA MINIMUM STARTING PRESSURES (SLICKS)
21.5 psi (front) – 19.5 psi (rear)
EOS CAMBER LIMIT -3.50° (front) | -2.00° (rear)
The battle between Ferrari and Mercedes wages on with interest, and this weekend sees the battle move to another track that Mercedes have dominated in recent years….but then they’ve tended to do that at all tracks. While Ferrari seemed to have suffered from the clamp down on oil burning in qualy spec, they were much more confident in their race pace, and Austria will provide another interesting battle between the top teams. In terms of the drivers, Austria is a track that can cause problems, with neither Lewis Hamilton nor Sebastian Vettel enjoying trouble free times here. Vettel may have increased his points lead in Baku, but the pressure will surely be on for Seb after he was forced to admit road rage got the better of him. Lost in the noise of the Vettel/Hamilton clash is that not for the first time this year Kimi had gotten the better of Vettel as well, although Bottas first corner bumper car approach denied Kimi the chance for a positive result, Kimi could yet well be the dark horse for this weekend’s race. While Ricciardo lucked into the win (not to deny a great drive), Bottas was arguably the luckiest man in Baku, his first lap collision wiped away in a sea of safety cars, allowing him to snatch an unlucky second place from Lance Stroll at the line, but Bottas needs to keep his nose (and front wing) clean this weekend. Red Bull may have been the lucky beneficiaries in Baku (well, Ricciardo anyway), but the feeling is they are making genuine progress too, and should the rain clouds spoil a summer day in Spielberg, then Max could well be the joker in the pack!
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 F2, GP3 and the Porsche Supercup will all provide action in between the F1 sessions.
In F2, Ferrari academy driver Charles LeClerc put in a dominant performance in Baku, taking the feature race and placing second in the sprint after a time penalty for not slowing under yellow flags denied him the win. LeClerc really has looked to be in a class of his own this season, and his championship lead is back out to 42 points. Renault Sport development driver Oliver Rowland saw his title challenge suffer as he retired while leading from the sprint race, and will hope to spark his title bid, and impress the Renault hierarchy with a result this weekend.
GP3 returns for only its second race of the season, after a long gap since the opener in Spain. The drivers have had the opportunity to test in Hungary since the first race, so those off the pace in Spain will be hoping to be ready to impress. Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi tops the standings after winning the feature race in Spain, leading from Alessio Lorandi (who took a pair of 3rd positions), with sprint race winner and Haas development driver Arjun Maini in third.
The Porsche Supercup also returns for its fourth round after entertaining at Spain and Monaco, with Germany’s Michael Ammermuller coming out on top in all 3 races so far this season.