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Austria’s Home Race F1 Heroes

Nine Austrian drivers have appeared in their home Grand Prix in Formula 1. While the country has had two World Champions, Niki Lauda is the only Austrian to win on home soil. We look at the Austrian drivers who’ve raced at home in the Austrian Grand Prix.

Jochen Rindt

The first running of the Austrian Grand Prix as a round of the Formula 1 World Championship was in 1964. The race was held on a circuit at Zeltweg Airfield, just 5km away from the current host of the event.

There was a single Austrian driver on the grid for the 1964 race: Jochen Rindt, who made his F1 debut at the event, driving a Brabham. He failed to reach the end of the Grand Prix. Six years later, the Austrian Grand Prix returned at the Österreichring. Once again, Rindt was the only home racer on the grid.

Expectations were high ahead of the race, as Rindt was on a streak of four successive victories with the Lotus team. However, engine issues forced him out early in the race. This was to be Rindt’s last race start, as he would be killed in practice for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. He went on to be crowned, posthumously, as Austria’s first World Champion.

Helmut Marko

Helmut Marko became the first Austrian driver to finish the Austrian Grand Prix at the 1971 event. Marko – now an advisor at Red Bull Racing – finished outside of the points in the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix, finishing in eleventh place. It would be his only home appearance in F1. His career came to an end prior to the 1972 race, as an incident in the 1972 French Grand Prix left him permanently blind in his left eye.

Dieter Quester

Dieter Quester made his only Formula 1 start at the 1974 Austrian Grand Prix. Racing with the Surtees team, Quester just made the grid, qualifying in 25th place. He finished the race in ninth place, three laps down on race winner Carlos Reutemann.

Niki Lauda

In total, Niki Lauda was on the grid at eleven Austrian Grands Prix. He also missed two races at the track due to injury – in 1973, suffering a broken wrist at the previous race in Germany, and in 1976, following his near-fatal accident at the Nurburgring.

Lauda scored at home for the first time in 1975, finishing in sixth place. In 1977, he became the first Austrian to finish on the podium at their home race. Having started from pole, Lauda finished as runner-up to Alan Jones. More points finishes followed in during Lauda’s comeback stint with McLaren. He , finisheding fifth in 1982 and sixth the following year.

Lauda finally made the top step of the podium in 1984, becoming the first – and so far only – Austrian driver to win at home. However, his afternoon was not straightforward. Lauda started the race from fourth place and, despite losing two positions at the start, was soon able to break into the top three. He sat behind team-mate Alain Prost until the Frenchman span out of the race just beyond the halfway point. Race leader Nelson Piquet was suffering with tyre troubles, and Lauda was able to capitalise. He took the lead, but his McLaren car began having its own problems, with the gearbox failing. Lauda considered retiring from the race and looked for a place to park up – but he was so far from his garage that he decided to coast the car down the hill nearer to the pits. During this time, he realised that the issue was manageable, and would go on to win the race by over 20 seconds.

One more home appearance followed in 1985, but it was a disappointing afternoon, as Lauda recorded his eighth retirement from the first ten races of the season.

Harald Ertl

Harald Ertl made three appearances at his home Grand Prix. Though he retired in 1975 and 1978, Ertl finished the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix in eighth place. It was one of only four top eight finishes in his 28 appearances in Formula 1.

 

Hans Binder

Hans Binder made 13 starts in his Formula 1 career: two of those coming at the Austrian Grand Prix. Binder made his F1 debut at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix, retiring from the race with just seven laps remaining while running in ninth place. The 1977 Austrian Grand Prix, in which he finished twelfth, is the only occasion on which Binder reached the chequered flag at his home event. His final F1 appearance came at home in 1978, but he failed to qualify for the race.

Jo Gartner

In his only season in Formula 1, Jo Gartner drove for the Osella team. Having retired on all of his first three race starts in the season, Gartner had no more luck at his home race on his fourth appearance. He retired once again, this time due to engine issues after only six laps.

Gerhard Berger

Gerhard Berger came close to emulating Niki Lauda’s home success in 1986. Berger qualified alongside Benetton team-mate Teo Fabi on the front row and took the lead at the start. Berger led for the opening stint of the race, before being passed by his team-mate. But Fabi’s day would come to an end moments later, as his engine failed. Problems then befell Berger, who pitted with a battery problem. The issue saw him plummet down the order, and he finished three laps down in seventh place.

Seventh would be Berger’s best result at home, having previously finished 12th in 1984 and retired in 1985. He would race twice more at home: in 1987, when he was out after just five laps, and in his final season in 1997, where he finished tenth.

Alex Wurz

Alex Wurz remains the last Austrian driver to race in the Austrian Grand Prix. Wurz made three appearances at the event, all with Benetton, between 1998 and 2000. While he finished all three races, the 1999 Austrian Grand Prix – in which he came home fifth – is the only time he scored points at the A1 Ring.

Wurz allegedly came close to buying the Austrian circuit in 2006, before the venue was bought by Red Bull.

Austrian F1 drivers who didn’t race at home

There are seven Austrian drivers who raced in F1, but never got the opportunity to race at their home event. That list includes three drivers who failed to qualify for races on home turf.

Helmuth Koinigg failed to qualify on his F1 debut at the 1974 Austrian Grand Prix, while Otto Stuppacher and team-mate Karl Oppitzhauser were refused entry to the 1976 running of the event.

Other Austrian drivers were unlucky to miss out on racing at a timehome when the Austrian venue was not on the Formula 1 calendar. Karl Wendlinger, Roland Ratzenberger, Christian Klien and Patrick Friesacher all raced in F1 during seasons in which the sport did not visit their home country.

Who has been your favourite Austrian Formula 1 driver? Leave a comment below!

Header image: MacKrys, CC BY-SA 4.0

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