Race Facts – Austrian Grand Prix

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The Austrian Grand Prix made a welcome return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2014 after an eleven-year hiatus. It’s hosted at the picturesque Red Bull Ring, the most recent incarnation of the Österreichring circuit, which first held the race back in 1970.

Images © F1Destinations.com. The Editor attended the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix.

The original Österreichring circuit, measuring just under 6km, was comprised of a series of high-speed corners and elevation changes with little in the way of run off areas. American driver Mark Donohue lost his life following an accident in 1975, prompting the addition of a chicane to slow speeds on the fastest section of the circuit.

Nevertheless, the Österreichring remained frighteningly fast; in 1987, Nelson Piquet’s pole lap averaged 159.457 mph (255.756 km/h), the second fastest average speed ever at the time. In the same year, the deficiencies of the circuit – notably the narrow start-finish straight – were highlighted by two huge crashes on the opening lap, which saw the race restarted twice. This was the final nail in the coffin for the circuit, which was deemed unsafe for the era’s hugely powerful turbo cars. The Österreichring lost its place on the F1 calendar in 1988 and wouldn’t return for another ten years, despite updates to the circuit in the interim years, including the widening of the pit straight and the redesign of the fearsome Bosch Curve.

A1-Ring

When it did return in 1997, the circuit had a new name – the A1-Ring, thanks to its funding from a telecommunications company – and a completely new layout. This was thanks to Hermann Tilke, the track designer known for designing many of today’s F1 tracks. The A1-Ring was in fact Tilke’s first major commission, and he went to town on the original layout. Few of the fast, sweeping corners were retained for the shortened 4.3km circuit. The circuit hosted seven races between 1997-2003, with two wins apiece for Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher.

Red Bull Ring

The A1 Ring was not a money maker however, and was removed from the calendar in 2004 due to Austria’s support for anti-tobacco legislation in the EU. In came Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull, who purchased the circuit and announced big plans for redevelopment. No sooner had this got underway however, including demolishing the existing pit buildings, when local authorities upheld environmental complaints and halted work on the track. It remained idle for six years until Mateschitz finally finished a less ambitious revival of the circuit. The newly named Red Bull Ring opened in 2011. It wasn’t too long before Mateschitz persuaded Bernie Ecclestone to sign a new seven-year Formula 1 hosting contract. The first race was staged in 2014 and attracted a sell-out crowd.

Austrian Grand Prix: did you know?

  • Niki Lauda is the only Austrian driver to have won his home race (in 1984, the year he took his third and final World Championship). He also took three pole positions at the Österreichring.
  • Alain Prost is the most successful driver in Austria with 3 wins. His most likely challenger is current Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who has won the last two races (2014-5).
  • Stefan Johansson suffered one of the strangest F1 accidents ever in 1987 during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, when he struck a deer on a blind crest at 180 mph (290 km/h).  Very lucky to have only suffered a few broken ribs, Johannsen bravely competed in the race and finished in 7th place.
  • Vittorio Brambilla took his only victory in the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix. The race, which was run in treacherously wet conditions, was stopped on just lap 29. Brambilla punched the air with both fists as he took the chequered flag, prompting him to lose control of his March and hit the wall!
  • The 2002 race is remembered for all the wrong reasons. Under team orders, Rubens Barichello yielded the lead of the race to his Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher on the last corner of the race, incensing the local fans. Schumacher made a bad situation worse by trying to give Barichello the top step on the podium after the race. This incident contributed to the FIA introducing new rules designed to prevent team orders artificially affecting the results of races.

Austrian Grand Prix Facts

Circuit NameRed Bull Ring
Race first held1970
Track Length 4.326km (8 turns)
Race Distance71 laps (307.146km)
Lap Record (post-1996 layout)1:08.337, Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 2003)
2016 result1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:38.107
2nd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) + 5.719s
3rd Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +6.024s
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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He’s been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

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