PRIXVIEW – Styrian & Austrian Grands Prix

Features Testing & Race Reports

Rounds nine and ten take Formula One to Styrian Hills in Austria for two races at the Red Bull ring starting with the Styrian Grand Prix. The circuit formerly called the Österreichring and the A1-Ring held its first Grand Prix in 1970 replaying the narrow and bumpy Zeltweg airfield five kilometres away, making it the shortest distance between race circuits that has hosted Grand Prix in the world.

The Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar following a ten-year hiatus in 2014 but is a circuit that has been off and on the calendar for decades. The current circuit layout dates back to the 1990’s when Herman Tilke redesigned the circuit shortening it first to 2.888mi and rebuilding the entire circuit to largely baring minor changes.

Throughout the history, both the Zeltweg and Red Bull Ring have maintained the high speed and downforce as drivers sweep through the Styrian Hills, many corners are taken in no lower than fourth gear. This circuit is one of long straights and fast flowing corners giving opportunities for overtaking,

The circuit is one which favours the power unit we are in the mountains which means there is less oxygen for the engines. Meaning we see cars go even faster and being one of the shortest circuits of the season we have seen lap times around the sixty-four-second mark.  This also leads to close racing as the advantage on power can be offset by the altitude.

The first race at this location was held in 1970 proving that this is a power circuit with Ferrari dominating the race with their Flat-12 engines enabled them to be 10 mph faster- which is a lot in racing terms. As we have seen in the early hybrid era, Mercedes have dominated the race given their power advantage.

The 1971 race saw Swiss driver Jo Siffert dominate in his BRM and Briton Jackie Stewart took his second Drivers’ Championship. The 1975 event was marred by the fatal accident of American Mark Donohue, and the race itself was rain-soaked and was won by Vittorio Brambilla, winning the only F1 race of his career.

Niki Lauda missed the following year’s race after his accident at the Nürburgring, that race being won by John Watson. While 1978 saw Mario Andretti’s Lotus teammate Ronnie Peterson took the victory. 1979 started to show the superiority of turbo-charged engines on this fast and high-altitude circuit. Although Jones won again in a Williams, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Rene Arnoux in their Renaults were able to dominate this event and the following year’s race, which Jabouille won.

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 1987 race was restarted twice due to accidents on the narrow pit-straight grid; and this track was also deemed too dangerous by FIA standards, because of the number of high-speed corners, lack of protection from trees and embankments and accidents at the start of many races on the narrow and confined pit straight

The first rebuild and renaming of the circuit allowed F1 to return to the A1-Ring in 1997, Jacques Villeneuve took pole ahead of David Coulthard. But the defining moment in that race was the collision between Eddie Irvine and Jean Alesi.

As they battled for 4th place on lap 37, Alesi tried to out-brake Irvine into the chicane from approximately eight car-lengths behind, and as Irvine took evasive action,[1] the Frenchman drove into the Northern Irishman’s car at such speed that Alesi’s car went over the top of Irvine’s while the latter was pitched into a spin. Villeneuve taking victory ahead of Coulthard.

Mika Häkkinen took victory the following year but the carnage on the opening lap saw four retirements by lap three. The first accident at Lauda saw several cars crash into each other with  Olivier Panis in the Prost did not even get off the line with clutch failure. While at Remus, both Arrows collided collecting Coulthard in the process, the McLaren driver dropping to the back of the field.

Ferrari’s Irvine took victory in 1999 as he set after his championship following Schumacher broken leg at Silverstone, it was the teams first victory in Austria since 1970. McLaren took victory in both 2000 and 2001, Häkkinen leading from pole ahead of Coulthard.

Schumacher’s 2002 victory is one of the most controversial finishes to an F1 race in the sport’s history, teammate Rubens Barrichello took pole position and led most of the race. Ferrari then invoking team orders so visibly on the final lap allowing the German into the lead of the race and take the victory.

The day after the race, the FIA summoned Ferrari and its drivers to a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council to explain why the team ordered Barrichello to yield the victory to Michael Schumacher and their actions on the podium. Resulting in a fine for Schumacher, Barrichello and Ferrari as well as a ban on team orders.

The ban on team orders would be scrapped after Ferrari used a loophole eight years later at Hockenheim, but the 2002 race was one of the defining moments of the sport’s history. The following year’s race would be the last before a ten year hiatus, Schumacher talking victory in wet conditions after getting past Juan-Pablo Montoya when his engine blew up, mid-way through the race.

Spielberg’s return to the calendar in 2014 co-inside with the beginning of Mercedes domination of the sport, however, it was the Williams of Felipe Massa and teammate Valtteri Bottas who locked out the front row. In the race, however, they were soon passed by Nico Rosberg, while Hamilton worked his way to second during the first part of the race as then the Mercedes managed to undercut Bottas. Rosberg taking victory.

Hamilton took pole the following year, but Rosberg took the lead into Turn One before controlling the remainder of the race taking victory by three seconds. Sebastian Vettel had held third for much of the race before a slow stop due to a stuck wheelnut caused him to drop to fourth behind Massa.

Meanwhile, World Champions Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso were eliminated on the first lap, after Räikkönen lost control of his Ferrari at the second turn and collided with Alonso. The two came to rest against the safety barrier, with Alonso’s McLaren atop the Ferrari.

Hamilton took pole the following season and was put up against his teammate Rosberg after he got up into second in the first ten laps. At the start, Hamilton got away well from pole position while Hülkenberg lost ground. Button was second as Rosberg moved ahead of Ricciardo and Verstappen.

On the final lap of the race, while fighting for the lead Hamilton and Rosberg collided when the Englishman went to the outside at Turn Two late on the inside and both cars touched, damaging Rosberg’s front wing and pushing Hamilton off the track. They almost touched again as Hamilton re-joined the track. Hamilton eventually got ahead into turn three as Rosberg nursed his damaged car to the finish line.

Bottas took victory following his move to Mercedes in 2017, the Finn has always appeared to go strongly in Spielberg he will be hoping that the next two weekends can see him find the form he needs to stay at Mercedes. This circuit is his best having taken his first podium here in 2014.

Since joining Mercedes, excluding his 2019 retirement, Bottas has always finished on the podium. Mercedes have also won every race year that 2019 race also saw Hamilton and Bottas suffer a double DNF the teams first because of technical issues since Melbourne 2011.

Last year due to COVID-19 the first two races of the season took place in Spielberg, a historic fortnight of racing followed as it marked the first time world championship Grands Prix were held at the same circuit.

Bottas again took pole for the opening race of the season ahead of Hamilton, that was despite him dipping a wheel onto the grass on his last Q3 attempt. Verstappen finished third in his Red Bull RB16, half a second behind the Mercedes pair. Lando Norris qualified a career-best fourth in his McLaren before taking his maiden podium.

Facts and figures

Round 9 & 10 of 24
Race Formula 1 BWT Grosser Preis von Steiermark 2021

Formula 1 BWT Grosser Preis von Osterreich 2021

Venue Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria
Configuration 2016
Circuit Length 4.318km (2.683mi)
Laps 71
Race Distance 306.452km (190.420mi)
Lap Record Race 1:05.619 (Spain Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren-Renault MCL35, 2020, Formula One)
Outright 01:02.939 (Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 2020, Formula One)
Most wins drivers Jo Siffert (3)
Alain Prost
Most wins manufacture McLaren
Ferrari (6)
Mercedes *

Including 2020 Styrian Grand Prix

Fast facts

  • 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).
  • Niki Lauda is the only Austrian driver to have won his home race. He did this in 1984, the year he took his third and final World Championship. Lauda also took three pole positions at the Österreichring.
  • 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. This weekend marks the first Grand Prix with W Series as a support race.

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

Race 15:00 14:00

What happened in 2020?

After a three and a half month delay the first qualifying of 2020 took place, Valtteri Bottas out qualified Mercedes teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton by a hundredth showing that the German manufacturer had the advantage. Max Verstappen was third but had the upper hand getting through Q2 on mediums, Lando Norris had the best qualifying of his career putting his McLaren fourth fastest, six tenths off the Mercedes.

The opening race of the season proved dramatic with Bottas taking victory after Hamilton was demoted to fourth following a collision with Alex Albon, as they fought for third in the latter stages. The six-time champion made a poor start allowing Bottas to pull away from him and Verstappen.

McLaren were again the main winners from Hamilton’s misfortune, with Norris inheriting third place after the six-times champion failed to build a big enough gap between himself and Norris to cancel out the five-second penalty for the collision with Albon.

Ferrari also another benefactor from Hamilton’s misfortune with Leclerc finishing second after his drive through the field to third. Vettel, who had already been dropped by Ferrari, had a characteristic spin when trying to pass Carlos Sainz midway through the race.

Conditions were totally different, when it came to qualifying the following Saturday, with wet and stormy conditions. Hamilton pulled out one of his mega laps in the wet which put him a second ahead of Verstappen, even if he hadn’t spun the Dutchman didn’t have the pace in the wet to keep p with the Mercedes.

Carlos Sainz put his McLaren third ahead of Bottas by three-hundredths of a second, while Ocon was fifth with Norris gaining a three-place grid penalty after speeding in FP1 in the pit lane.

Antonio Giovinazzi was the only casualty despite the conditions, the Alfa Romeo driver brought Q1 to an early conclusion after spinning across the kerbs at the exit of the penultimate corner, spearing off into the barriers at the final turn.

Hamilton took victory by seventeen seconds from Bottas after leading most of the race from pole. Hamilton pulled away at the start, converting pole into the lead before remaining in the lead for most of the race and then going on to take a win to close the gap in the drivers’ championship.

Alex Albon was fourth, forty-four seconds behind Hamilton. The British-Thai driver almost lost the place to Sergio Perez following a collision at Schlossgold, where he collided with Hamilton in last weekend’s race.

Perez sustained front wing damage and dropped back, allowing Lando Norris to enjoy another unbelievable late surge, passing Daniel Ricciardo, and both Racing Points taking fifth on the last lap.

Austrian Race Result – 1) V. Bottas, Mercedes, 01:30:55.739, 2) C. Leclerc, Ferrari, +2.700, 3) L. Norris, McLaren – Renault, +5.689
Styrian Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes 01:22:50.683, 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +13.719, 3) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +33.698

What to watch for?

Red Bull believe this race could be favourable to Mercedes, you need to believe that they have won nearly every race in the hybrid era, this circuit favours top speed and downforce. We however know that this season the teams are close and that is likely to be the case in Austria, being at altitude in the Styrian Hills also can be a bit of a performance leveller.

But you need to believe that Mercedes and Red Bull will be quick, last year in the dry qualifying we saw one of the fastest ever laps in the history of the sport. But we saw in Baku and Le Castellet that Mercedes can get it wrong. I feel this season is slowly starting to be one of those seasons where we need to stop saying this is a Mercedes circuit.

McLaren had a strong fortnight last year and as we saw on Sunday they were able to come through the field following a poor qualifying. Lando Norris last year took his maiden podium in the opening race of the season, this is a circuit where we know downforce and speed are needed.

The midfield battle can be close, but I think Ferrari are going to struggle like we saw in Paul Ricard as we saw still this weakness they have at high speed and downforce circuits. We know Austria is a short track and we see traffic can be an issue making it more likely that this can play a role in the race and qualifying, as the lap is the shortest of the year.

2020 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

STY

01:04.867 01:03.660 Cancelled 01:18.118 01:17.825 01:17.273 01:22:50.683 01:05.619

Diff

+0.051 -0.644 N/A +14.094 +14.810 +14.334 -08:05.156 +1.856

AUT

01:04.816 01:04.304 01:04.130 01:04.024 01:03.015 01:02.939 01:30:55.739 01:07.475

*Saturday at the Styrian Grand Prix took place under thunderstorms and wet conditions

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.