After a brief foreplay in American lands, F1 returns to Europe. And it does so in a circuit, owned by Red Bull, in which there hasn’t been races for 11 years; the Red Bull ring, the old A1-Ring in Spielberg, Austria. Will the RBR cars be able to repeat victory at home? If so, Will Ricciardo win again in front of four-time world champion? The answers to this and more on June 22..
The Austrian Grand Prix might seem like something completely new, but the famous A1 ring was the circuit to hold this Grand Prix for many years.
The first Austrian Grand Prix was a non-championship race. It took place in 1963 at the Zeltweg Airfield and was won by Jack Brabham. The following year, it was part of the championship, but the track was too dangerous and it was withdrawn from the calendar. In 1969, the Österreichring was built, and the first race there took place in 1970. The race was held each year until 1987, when the race was withdrawn again. After a decade of absence and a redesign of the layout, The circuit returned to the calendar in 1997, now named the A1 Ring. The old layout was too dangerous because of its very fast and long corners. Herman Tilke made those corners slower and shorter, improving safety. The circuit was also drastically shortened, from 5.911km to just 4.326km. Pilots will race 71 laps for a total of 307km. The circuit has only 9 corners, 6 right and 3 left, making it a fairly simple circuit. Of these nine curves, 4 are potential overtaking points. The track also has 4 long straights that will test the Renault engines of the cars which race at 'home'. As usual, there are two DRS zones, which are located on the two long straights. The current lap record is the lowest of all of the current circuits at just 1m 8.337s. It hosted its last race in 2003. Red Bull took ownership of the circuit, and renamed it the Red Bull Ring in 2011. DTM started to use the circuit, and this year, it’s the return of Formula 1!
The viewing should be fantastic with hills and forests surrounding the track. There are 60 meters difference between the lowest and highest point of the track, and because the Red Bull Ring is located at the foot of the Austrian Alps. It has undoubtedly one of the most spectacular scenery around a F1 circuit, also the fact that 'No big Cities' are around, this makes it quite different to the modern Formula 1.
The circuit starts of with plenty of run up to the first corner. This could make the start very important. The corner is a scene of many accidents in the past, as the braking point is very important. You then have a long straight before another tight corner, almost a hairpin. Turns 1, 2 and 3 will be very good overtaking spots, as they all have a long straight before them, giving drivers a good opportunity to out-brake their opponents. Turn 3 is very long, and opens up. The track transforms into a straight just as the driver reaches the braking point for the next corner. It is then a quick and smooth left-hand corner, a short straight and another very similar corner. Drivers have to be careful not to take too much kerb on the outside, as they could cut across the grass and find themselves in a gravel trap on the opposite side. It’s then a battle with understeer coming down the hill into a very fast right-hand corner. It’s important to take the kerbs before the final corner of the circuit. The drivers will then cut down to the apex and take a very wide exit over the kerbs. The exit is very much like Bahrain, where there is a slight bend before the track straightens.
Given the narrowness of the asphalt, we will have to cross our fingers to witness a lot of action on the track. The necessary downforce is high, but not the highest in the calendar, which may favor the RBR, and the tire wear is medium on the optimum conditions. That could be an advantage for the teams that treats the rubbers in a better way. Will we again see the Force India doing just a pit-stop? Further speaking on the strategies, Pirelli has chosen the softs and supersofts for this event. Considering the length of the track and the small amount of corners, we should expect no more than a 0.5 second difference between the different compounds. It will be interesting to observe the strategies that teams will use. The nature of the circuit is also particularly harsh on the front left tyre, but the rear tyres will also be under stress from acceleration at low speeds.
Even though it is a historical circuit, it has been into abeyance many years, so only the oldest drivers on the grid know how it is to go racing on it; Kimi, Alonso, Button and Massa have all raced here, and also few of the young drivers including the likes of Rosberg, and Maldonado have raced in this very circuit in different series. We'll see if the experience helps them overcome the kings of this season or if the mighty Mercedes can reign the powers, as they have done so far. One thing is sure, Mercedes will want to extend their championship lead, while Red Bull will definitely want to win at their own circuit. Ferrari will be looking for a strong result too, especially after a disappointing season so far. After seeing the performance of Williams in Canada, it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. It will be very hard to predict a winner, as usual..