After back-to-back flyaways in the fan favourite of Canada and the brave new world of Baku, Formula 1 returns to its heartland this weekend for the Austrian Grand Prix, beginning a spell of four races in five weekends. The return of the Austrian Grand Prix was almost unanimously welcomed back in 2014 when Red Bull’s revival of the picturesque circuit was complete, and is now a firm fixture on the Formula 1 calendar.
Nico Rosberg arrives in Austria having ended his slump with a dominant performance around the streets of Baku, while Lewis Hamilton’s struggles meant he slipped 24 points adrift of his team-mate. Rosberg will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of wins at the Red Bull Ring having triumphed at the circuit in both 2014 and 2015.
The revered Osterreichring disappeared from the calendar in 1987 and a decade later the sport returned to the venue at the revamped, truncated A1 Ring. Another absence followed after the 2003 event but Red Bull revived the race in 2014 at the renovated circuit, albeit with the same layout retained. The circuit is one of the shortest on the calendar, with the quickest lap time, and there are only nine corners of which to speak. The circuit is punctuated by heavy braking zones and also fast flowing corners, with gravel looming nearby to trap any meandering drivers. However, there has been added run-off for this year’s event, with minor kerb changes and the entire track resurfaced.
“You arrive into Turn 1 and it’s a bit uphill,” explains Haas’ Esteban Gutiérrez, who raced for Sauber at the circuit in 2014.
“The first corner is a medium-speed corner, a bit on the tight side, with the exit kerb pretty particular. They put this sausage kerb there, which doesn’t allow us to cross a lot, so it’s a little bit like a street circuit where you don’t have a lot of margin to play on the exit kerb.
“The longest straight of the circuit goes into Turn 2, which is uphill as well with very hard braking. It’s a very slow-speed corner, pretty tight. It’s important for braking and traction because you arrive at a very high speed and, obviously, the brakes are important there.
“You arrive a bit downhill into Turn 3, which is a bit of a longish corner, pretty interesting exit, not a lot of margin to make a mistake because you’ll go into the gravel. Then you approach Turns 4 and 5, which are the two fast corners on the left, which I enjoy a lot. I love them. You enter into Turn 4 and it’s a blind corner. You exit using all the kerbs, preparing for the next corner, which basically makes it one corner altogether – a very, very fast one.
“Then you come into the back straight. You arrive into Turn 7, which is a very high-speed corner. You enter with a lot of speed and almost no braking, and that prepares you for the following corner which is straight away and has some banking. It’s pretty interesting and also pretty fast. Then you arrive into the main straight. It’s a pretty short circuit.”
It’s a case of as you were in the drivers standings. Hamilton’s victory in Monaco closed the gap to 24 points, which shrunk in Canada, before Rosberg moved back 24 points clear after Baku.
Mercedes has held the aces at the Red Bull Ring – which, no doubt, it will refer to as Spielberg for obvious marketing reasons – but it is not infallible. Last year both Hamilton and Rosberg messed up their final Q3 runs, albeit once assured of locking out the front row, while in 2014 Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas qualified first and second for Williams.
The resurfaced track, allied to softer tyres, should enable lap times to tumble this weekend though there is a threat of rain, meaning teams will have to be on their toes to react to the notoriously fickle Styrian weather.
Pirelli has nominated its three softest compounds, with teams largely favouring the Ultra Softs over the Super Softs and Softs.
The drivers’ representative on the stewarding panel is Martin Donnelly while there will be two DRS zones, along the main straight and back straight (between Turns 2 and 3), each with their own detection point.
Timetable (GMT +2):
Friday 1 July
- Practice One: 10:00 – 11:30
- Practice Two: 14:00 – 15:30
Saturday 2 July
- Practice Three: 11:00 – 12:00
- Qualifying: 14:00 (60 minutes)
Sunday 3 July
- Race: 14:00 (71 laps or two hours)