AUSTRIAN GP PREVIEW
F1 RETURNS TO THE ALPS
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.