PRIXVIEW – Austrian & Styrian Grands Prix

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The opening two races of the season sees the first closed doors races and the circuit to hold a double-header championship Grands Prix in the history of Formula One take place at the Red Bull Ring.

After the longest period without a Grand Prix since the end of World War Two, the 70th Formula One Championship will begin around the short and fast Spielberg circuit. Built as a replacement for the nearby Zeltweg Airfield in the 1960s the circuit has seen different names over the years but remains one where speed and downforce are required.

The circuit was originally named Österreichring, Circuit of Austria, set against the Styrian Mountains it provides drivers with the high speed sweeping corners they love, many corners aren’t taken lower than fourth gear. The circuit requires downforce which places the demand on the engines and tyres.

The Spielberg circuit provides great racing, placing demands on the car which we don’t get at other circuits. Its long straights and hard braking zones means it is tough on the cars but creates opportunities for drivers to overtake. This means that the racing could be close.

Throughout the history the race has been one where power has been king, Ferrari dominated the first race at this circuit using the more powerful Flat-12 engines enabled them to be 10 mph faster- which is a lot in racing terms. The 1971 race saw Swiss driver Jo Siffert dominate in his BRM and Sir Jackie Stewart took his second Drivers’ Championship.

The 1975 race was marked by the death of Mark Donohue, and the race itself was rain-soaked and was won by Vittorio Brambilla, winning the only F1 race of his career, and, true to form, he crashed when he crossed the finish line when the race was stopped early because the rain got worse.

Niki Lauda is the only Austrian to win his home Grand Prix, he took victory in 1984 after Alain Prost, Lauda’s teammate and the World Championship leader going into the race, failed to finish after spinning off on oil at the Jochen Rindt Curve on lap 28.

The current layout of the circuit is based on the 1997 modernisation done by Hermann Tilke, who shorten the circuit and introduced the sweeping sections the infield.

However, this year’s race is set to go down in history, the latest start to a Formula One season, the first circuit to hold double-header championship races and the first without fans. After a four-month ‘sabbatical’, as Lewis Hamilton described it drivers and teams will be rusty.

This combined with the opportunities of long straights and flowing corners means that since its return to the calendar has been largely dominated by Mercedes. The German team has dominated most of the races in the turbo-hybrid era, with all three drivers Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas taking the victory.

However, during last year’s European heatwave they appeared to struggle with the cooling of the car meaning if it’s hot they could not stop Max Verstappen securing back to back wins at the same Grand Prix for the first time his career.

Facts and figures

Round 1 & 2
Race Formula 1 Rolex Grosser Preis von Osterreich 2020
Formula 1 Pirelli Grosser Preis der Steinermark 2020
Venue Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria
Circuit Length 4.318 km (2.683 mi)
Laps 71
Race Distance 306.452 km (190.420 mi)
Lap Record 01:06.957 (Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari, 2018, Race)

01:03.003 (Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 2019, Qualifying)

Most wins drivers Alain Prost (3)
Most wins manufacture McLaren (6)

Fast facts

  • The 2002 race is remembered for all the wrong reasons. Under team orders, Rubens Barrichello yielded the lead of the race to his Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher on the last corner, incensing the local fans.
  • The Red Bull Ring has the quickest overall lap time on the calendar, though it’s only the fourth shortest track (behind Monaco, Mexico and Brazil).
  • The Red Bull Ring is one of five current Formula One circuits to also host a round of the MotoGP calendar.
  • Rolf Stommelen took the only podium finish of his F1 career at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1970. He finished third having started seventeenth, the furthest back grid positions a podium finish has come from at the track.
  • Pole position has been decided by less than a tenth of a second nine times at this circuit. The smallest ever pole margin at this track came in 2018 when Valtteri Bottas secured his second consecutive Austrian Grand Prix pole by just 0.019 seconds.
  • The 1976 Austrian Grand Prix marks the last time a female driver finished a race. Lella Lombardi entered her seventeenth and final race here with RAM Racing. After qualifying 24th, she completed the race four laps down on the leader in twelfth place.

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

P1 11:00-12:30 10:00-11:30
P2 15:00-16:30 14:00-15:30

Saturday

P3 12:00-13:00 11:00-12:00
Qualifying 15:00-16:00 14:00-15:00

Sunday

Race 15:10 14:10

What happened in 2019?

The first stop of the summer leg of the championship took F1 to Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix. Charles Leclerc was on it as was Lewis Hamilton, providing for a final lap showdown for pole. Hamilton set the benchmark before Leclerc improved going two tenths faster, the world champion dropped three places for impeding Kimi Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen would start Red Bull’s home race from second, setting him up for a fight with Leclerc ahead of the two Mercedes. Engine issues for Vettel left him ninth.

Leclerc held pole at the start but looked to have covered the inside, but Verstappen moved right to the edge of the track, forced Leclerc wide, and the two bumped wheels as Leclerc tried in vain to hang on again on the outside. That dropped Verstappen back to eighth, neither was deemed to be at fault for the collision.

Valtteri Bottas finished third and Hamilton’s chances of victory were gone when he sustained front-wing damage. The world champion was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages. Mercedes being beaten for the first time compressively for the first time since Mexico last year, a run of eight consecutive wins.

Following the race, the future of Pierre Gasly was in the spotlight, as speculation about his future with Red Bull continued. The team insisted that the Frenchman would finish the season at Red Bull…

Race Result – 1) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, 01:xx:xx.zzz, 2) , 3)

What to watch for?

This race is the first time we would have seen cars on track in seven months, its going to be interesting how rusty or not the teams are because they have not had to perform under the pressure of a Grand Prix weekend since December. The other thing to watch is whether anyone can get close to Mercedes, when we left Barcelona it appeared that Ferrari were needing to do a lot of work to close the gap.

Austria has been a really good place for Mercedes, they have won most of the races since 2014. It seems to suit the teams car and both drivers, and when we left Barcelona in February the upgrades we will see brings teams bring the ‘Spec 3” cars, as they are likely to have some updates.

This is more a Valtteri Bottas track, looking at his record her he has taken wins and podiums around Spielberg. It one where you need some fluidity in the style of driving and this could be important through the ten days.

The other dynamic is that we have two race weekends here, for the first time in history teams will look to learn from the first weekend and carry that into the second. The question is how close the race is the first week and whether the four days in between could make gains creating a different race.

There are so many unknowns going into this race, but we should have a better understanding of what to expect at the second weekend once we analyse the first weekend. We also

The other thing we will find out is whether the midfield in closer, we saw back in February many different teams fight in testing for that best of the rest spot. Based on testing we believe that we will see a close fight between teams like Racing Point, McLaren and Renault. We know that fourth in the constructors is important for these teams financially in normal times even without the coronavirus pandemic.

2018 vs 2019 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2019

01:04.838 01:05.086 01:05.086 01:03.807 01:03.378 01:03.003 01:22:01.822 01:07.475

Diff

-0.001 0.507 -0.016 -0.273 -0.166 -0.1277 -05:28.162 -1.482

2018

01:04.839 01:04.579 01:04.070 01:04.080 01:03.544 01:03.130 01:27:29.784 01:06.957

A lap of the Red Bull Ring

Valtteri Bottas comes into the final corner from the outside carrying all the speed at goes straight on to the outside running his car along the kerb and stays there as he climbs the hill towards Castrol Edge. He breaks around seventy metres before the corner. Turns in opening up the speed as he runs to the outside.

He then allows the car to drift across to the inside and back carries the speed all the way to 100m before Schlossgold. He comes in from the outside, slowing the car right down and has already gone faster. Hits the apex before running the car to the outside. He briefly goes through the centre before returning to the outside, breaking just after the 100m board. Hits the apex of Schlossgold, before opening the car up towards Rauch. He lifts on entry before opening the power and runs along the inside.

Be breaks briefly going toward Wurth Kurve, hits apex on entry and exit running the car to the outside. Breaks as he turns into Rindt going to the inside, and back to the outside running he then nips back to the inside for the final corner. Returning to the outside where he stays to take pole with a 01:03.130.

Tyres

White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.