Adam’s Travel Report – 2023 Austrian Grand Prix

Adam Rosales tells us about his trip to the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix and why the Red Bull Ring offers one of the best trackside experiences on the current F1 calendar.

The Red Bull Ring is a shorter version of a historic circuit called the Österreichring which F1 stopped racing at in the mid 1980s due to safety concerns. It was known as the A1 Ring before being purchased and redeveloped by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who named it after his company. The Red Bull Ring returned to the F1 calendar in 2014 and is also the host of MotoGP, DTM and several other racing series. It’s located in a very picturesque area in the Styrian Mountains, about a 3-hour drive (or train journey) from Vienna and about an hour from Austria’s second largest city, Graz, which is where I opted to stay.

Trackside Experience at the Red Bull Ring

The circuit is located next to the small town of Spielberg and feels pretty remote. However, it is right off the motorway. Walking around the circuit is very easy but access is limited by your ticket type. For example, General Admission and Turn 3 have a separate entrance up on the hill near Turn 3. Tickets to those sections don’t allow you to enter the Red Bull grandstands behind the Fanzone or the Max Verstappen Grandstand by Turn 6. You can enter the Fanzone but won’t be allowed past the secondary ticket checks.

The Fanzone is located behind the first corner and has a lot of tables and chairs. It was easy to find a spot to eat but I was by myself so I could kind of squeeze into tables with open seats. It would be harder to find a full table for a group of four, for example. The Fanzone has a real party vibe with almost nonstop music and dancers on stage throughout the day. There is bungee jumping from a crane and plenty of beer to drink with your schnitzel. The area became quite congested at peak times, with long snaking lines for the bathrooms. But it was nowhere near as bad as Montreal, for example, where the lines block the pathways, and you can get really stuck.

The Steiermark village is a secondary Fanzone behind the Main (Start-Ziel) grandstand. This had some more food options with beer hall style tents that also had live music, although it was more traditional compared to the EDM at the main Fanzone.

Bathrooms were mobile indoor types. There were attendants keeping them clean with soap and toilet roll. The bathrooms were always clean whenever I used them. There were some permanent bathrooms near the Welcome Center that were also very clean and nice to use, which seem like they would have been reserved for VIP types of tickets but were open for anybody near the public areas outside the Main grandstand.

The crowd at the Austrian Grand Prix was fun and friendly. It doesn’t matter what team gear you are wearing. I didn’t see any animosity towards people not supporting Max or Red Bull Racing. I spoke to my seat neighbors a lot between support races. Everyone was nice and willing to talk about F1 or things to do while in Austria. It seemed like about two thirds of the crowd was Dutch and the rest Austrian or German, so those were the prominent languages spoken.

The track commentary was audible during the races. It switched every few minutes between German and English. Cell service was also working 90% of the time. I was able to have the F1TV stream working during the sprint race and listen to that commentary on Saturday. It was the first time at a race where I could hear the commentary on the speakers and have great cell phone service, which was very surprising.

Red Bull Grandstand

The circuit is situated in a beautiful mountain side landscape. The natural elevation provides some fantastic grandstand locations. The circuit only has ten corners, so it is fairly small compared to Spa or COTA, for example. If you look at the Red Bull Ring Map you’ll see the circuit separated into a few distinct areas. I bought tickets to Section N of the Red Bull Grandstand. My seat was assigned automatically, which ended up being Row 21 (one row from the top), Seats 12 and 13. The numbering for the seats at this circuit continues through each section, across the stairs. I think there were about 19 seats in each row. I didn’t see any actual row numbers in my section, I just asked a few people when I got there and went back to the same row. The leg spacing at this section is reasonable for fixed back seats. I had enough space for my backpack between my legs and only needed to execute a small turn of my knees to let people pass by.

From my seat, I was able to view the exit of Turn 1 through to the apex of Turn 3. The cars then reappeared from Turns 5 through 7, then disappeared away towards Turn 9. I could also get a quick glimpse of Turn 10 between some trees, and was able to see reflections of the cars driving along the Main Straight via the glass above the Main grandstand.

With the beautiful backdrop of the tress and mountains, it felt a bit like being in a windows wallpaper! During the changeable weather on Saturday, the clouds rolled over the mountains by the Turn 3 grandstand. The Red Bull Ring is easily the most beautiful and picturesque circuit I’ve visited. The circuit is not unlike Spa-Francorchamps, but the wide-open mountain views allow you to see more of the track.

Food & Drink at the Red Bull Ring

There was a surprising amount of different food vendors at the Red Bull Ring. The usual stuff like burgers and hot dogs were available, along with local staples like schnitzels. I also saw plenty of vegetarian and vegan options like falafel, salads, and rice bowls. Beer was readily available for €6.50, with some wine and radler options also on offer.

The Red Bull Ring FAQ states the event is cashless and that vendors only accept card payments. They offer their own cashless card which ironically requires cash to buy and top up, which was very annoying. Some vendors only accepted the cashless card even though the signage on the booth said they accepted credit cards. Especially annoying if you wait in line and don’t find out until you try and pay!

For example, all the signage said they accepted American Express, but it was never available when I tried to use it. Only about half the vendors accepted credit cards at all. I started just walking up and asking before getting in line. This was the only significant thing that seemed mismanaged and miscommunicated.

Transportation to the Red Bull Ring

Getting to the circuit was quite easy, with several options available. I opted to stay at an Airbnb in Graz, which is about an hour drive from the circuit without traffic. The circuit organizes bus shuttles from a wide range of cities in Austria. It was very simple and easy to use.

A few different options were available for Graz. Once I knew the area I would be staying in, I was able to find the closest shuttle bus stop. It was only a 5-minute walk from my apartment near the Main square of Graz. A few days before the event, I was sent an email confirming the departure times and pick up locations. The buses left on time each day and had a set return time from the same drop-off point at the circuit.

After parking at the circuit in the morning, the bus stays in the same place and you board the same bus for the return in the evening. Some people stored personal items in the luggage hold, such as coolers and chairs. On Friday, our departure was at 9am and the return was at 7pm. It took about 2.5hrs to return to Graz due to rain and traffic issues. Saturday’s departure was at 8am and we returned at 7pm, with a more reasonable 1.5hr return trip. Sunday was a 7am departure and a 6:30pm return. It took about 2.5hrs to get back after the race.

There were two different bus parking locations. On Friday and Sunday, we parked on a section of the old circuit behind the Red Bull Grandstand. I think this impacted the time it took to leave as we are basically having to drive across the circuit to leave. On Saturday we parked in the same lot where the shuttles to Knittelfeld train station leave from. This side is closest to the highway but is a 20-minute walk from the Fanzone.

You can also arrive by train to Knittelfeld station where the circuit has a constant flow of shuttles to the circuit. The lines to board the shuttles on Saturday weren’t too bad; it looked like you could basically just walk straight onto one without more than a couple of minutes waiting.

Arrival by car is an option but be prepared for some traffic on the way out. The people I spoke to over the weekend that had driven, said it had taken a couple of hours just to get out of the parking lots. Parking lots are free with some premium lots where you can pay to be closer to the circuit and the exit points.

Staying in Graz

The city of Graz is about an hour drive from the circuit. Graz was a very welcoming city and great base for the race weekend. Everybody I interacted with was very friendly and spoke or understood English. I used Google Translate ordering food for most menus but several restaurants I dined at did have English menus available. Graz is very welcoming to tourists visiting for the race. The only downside is that I didn’t have time to do very much in Graz.

My trip was fairly short, but I’d recommend taking an extra day or two to explore the city. The early starts and late returns of the circuit shuttle limited the time available for extra activities in Graz. A lot of restaurant kitchens closed around 10pm, limiting available options for late night food, but I always managed to find something open eventually. It felt very safe walking around Graz alone, there seemed to be people out at all times.

Quick Vienna Visit

On arrival at Vienna airport, I took a train from the airport station straight to Graz. I didn’t get to really visit Vienna until my return on Monday after the race. The main train station is pretty big and can be a bit overwhelming if you’re arriving without any research. Google Maps is helpful, but you need to figure out which tickets you need for either the bus, train or tram to get where you need to go.

I was staying at a Hilton for one night before I had to catch an early flight back home. I did have an afternoon to explore the Innere Stadt and eat some food such as Sacher-Torte at Cafe Sacher. It feels very safe walking around in Vienna, and it’s very clean for a major city. I wish I had more time to explore, but sadly my trip was fairly short. The tram is pretty easy to use and can get you to and from the airport very easily.

I had a 7am flight, so I got a taxi to the airport at around 5am. Upon arrival, it was extremely busy. The line would have been pretty bad if I didn’t have sky priority with my Delta medallion status, which helped me skip baggage check and security lines.

Final Thoughts

I had an incredible weekend at the Red Bull Ring. The people are very welcoming and it was pretty easy to use the shuttles, which were booked through the website. Tickets, accommodation and food were all reasonably priced without the ‘surge pricing’ that some circuits seem to impose on fans. I would definitely return to this race and stay in Graz, but next time I’d extend my trip to spend a couple of days being a tourist in both Graz and Vienna It’s such a beautiful part of the world to visit, let alone watch a bunch of cars race. I hope the Austrian Grand Prix contract gets renewed for a very long time, as it’s one of the best circuits on the calendar

Attending the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix – Adam’s Cost Breakdown

  • Airbnb in Graz = $701 USD for 4 nights
  • Race Ticket = €215 (3 Days, Section N of Red Bull Grandstand)
  • Train Tickets from Vienna to Graz = €60 (business class each way)
  • Shuttle to Red Bull Ring = €96 (€32 per day)
  • Flight: Austin to London one way = 20k Points + $230 (Virgin)
  • Flight: London to Vienna one way = $200 (British Airways)
  • Flight: Vienna to Austin one way = €670 (Delta)

The last tickets are now on sale for the 2024 Austrian Grand Prix (June 28-30)

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