Following Formula 1’s brief trip across the Atlantic to Canada, the sport returns to its European heartland this weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix, held at Red Bull’s circuit in the Styrian Mountains.
The Austrian Grand Prix was revived in 2014 following a decade-long absence and the event rapidly became a favourite within the Formula 1 community, with the short but tricky circuit surrounded by spectacular undulating scenery and rammed with passionate fans from across the central European belt.
Austria joined the calendar in 1963 at the unpopular Zeltweg Airbase, which lasted only a further season before it was dropped. Since then, the Austrian Grand Prix has been held at the same location, albeit under different names and layouts. The initial one was the fearsome Österreichring, held between 1970 and 1987, with fast and flowing corners surrounded by little run-off eventually causing the track to be deemed unsuitable towards the end of the 1980s.
The event was revived in 1997 at the same location, albeit renamed as the A1 Ring and with the circuit significantly shortened. It fell off the calendar in 2003 prior to its current revival by Red Bull in 2014.
The current layout is the same as the one used between 1997 and 2003, with the first sector all about straight line speed and braking ability. The middle sector is more flowing, before a couple of tricky right handers to round off the shortest lap of the season in terms of timing and only nine corners across the 4.326km.
“The circuit has a simple layout and few corners and so the margins between drivers are smaller compared to some other tracks,” explains Force India’s Sergio Pérez.
“It means a mistake in qualifying can set you back a long way. It requires a lot of concentration but it's fun to drive, with elevation changes and some very tricky corners.”
Lewis Hamilton heads into the Austrian Grand Prix having extended his lead in the championship over Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to 17 points, courtesy of his fourth victory of the year in Canada. Sebastian Vettel lies a further 26 points back in third position. Mercedes enjoys a comfortable advantage in the Constructors’ battle, with 285 points to the 180 of nearest rivals Ferrari.
Rosberg is the only victor of the Austrian Grand Prix on the grid, having triumphed at the event in 2014. Whereas last season the majority of drivers had never raced at the Red Bull Ring, this year’s current crop all have experience of the circuit, with the five rookies all sampling the track in other formula.
For the third race weekend in succession, Pirelli will bring its Super Soft and Soft tyres in order to deal with the characteristics of the Red Bull Ring.
Danny Sullivan will act as the drivers' representative among the FIA stewards.
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 19 June
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 20 June
- Practice Three: 11:00 – 12:00
- Qualifying: 14:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 21 June
- Race: 14:00 (70 laps or two hours)