AUS­TRIAN GP PRE­VIEW

F1 RE­TURNS TO THE ALPS

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - Pat Sy­monds,

Wil­liams’ chief tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer The Aus­trian Grand Prix brings F1 back to Styria for the first time in 11 years. Pre­vi­ously known as the A1 Ring (and, be­fore that, the Öster­re­ichring), the cir­cuit, now re­de­vel­oped as the Red Bull Ring, has hosted 26 grands prix and has a rich F1 his­tory.

The Red Bull Ring has very lit­tle in com­mon with the Öster­re­ichring, which oc­cu­pied a larger foot­print (run­ning across land be­long­ing to sev­eral dif­fer­ent land­lords, hence its even­tual re­duc­tion). The orig­i­nal lay­out was much longer, with fast sweep­ing cor­ners and big changes in el­e­va­tion. Its new in­car­na­tion is shorter and fol­lows the pop­u­lar recipe of straights fol­lowed by slow cor­ners, with a slow, twisty and tricky in­field, which was a key fea­ture of so many tracks in the 1990s.

The cir­cuit lacks any real high-speed cor­ners, so the chal­lenge pre­sented to driv­ers is to find as much time as pos­si­ble dur­ing the mid­dle sec­tor. This em­pha­sises the need to have a car that has good trac­tion and is sta­ble un­der brak­ing. One cor­ner stands out: the Re­mus Kurve (T2) is an up­hill hair­pin at the end of a straight. This, his­tor­i­cally, has been one of the bet­ter ar­eas to at­tempt to over­take, al­though in the past it has also been the site of many re­tire­ments.

His­tor­i­cally, at­tri­tion has al­ways been a large fac­tor in the out­come of, and the strate­gies de­ployed in, the Aus­trian Grand Prix. In the last one to be com­pleted (in 2003) only 13 cars fin­ished the race. It is not ex­pected that this will be the case this year, since re­li­a­bil­ity has steadily im­proved over the in­ter­ven­ing sea­sons.

Some­thing that has not changed since the last time F1 raced here is the un­pre­dictable Alpine weather. The cir­cuit it­self is of­ten cov­ered in snow over the win­ter months, and this usu­ally leaves be­hind a lot of de­bris once it thaws out and rac­ing starts again.

Strate­gies are go­ing to be par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult here be­cause the teams won’t have much in the way of use­ful his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion to rely on. They will there­fore need to learn many things (or at least check them) based on first prin­ci­ples. It will be a busy weekend for ev­ery­one and it may catch out a hand­ful of driv­ers and teams as they set about fa­mil­iaris­ing them­selves with this ‘new’ venue.

Round 8 / 20-22 June / Spiel­berg

Michael Schu­macher won for Fer­rari ahead of Kimi Räikkö­nen’s McLaren. The only drama for Schu­macher was a pit­lane fire dur­ing a mid-race fuel stop. His Fer­rari me­chan­ics put out the blaze and he coolly re-joined the race un­harmed. Team-mate Rubens Bar­richello fin­ished third.

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