Austrian Grand Prix – Preview

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Following last weekend’s French Grand Prix, Formula One is looking forward to the Austrian Grand Prix which is the middle event of the sport’s first triple header of races. The race on the Red Bull Ring is the ninth round of the 2018 championship.

History of the Austrian Grand Prix
The Austrian Grand Prix is not an unknown territory for Formula One, however, it had longer absences from the calendar. Following the 1963 non-championship event, the first ever race was held in Zeltweg in 1964. It was the Italian Lorenzo Bandini who took the victory in the inaugural race. The race was a success, but the track was deemed too dangerous; it was narrow and very bumpy, and spectators complained of poor viewing areas. The FIA removed the race from the F1 calendar until a suitable track was built.

The Austrian GP returned to the championship calendar in 1970. A new track named as Österreichring was built near the Zeltweg Airport. The new circuit in the scenic Styrian was a fast, flowing track where almost every corner was taken at high speed. The first race held at this new venue was won by Ferrari’s Jacky Ickx. The 1984 race saw the home hero Niki Lauda winning the GP for McLaren-TAG. 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 amount 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. That meant the end of the second period of the Austrian GP’s presence on the calendar. The most successful driver in this 17-year-long period was Alain Prost who was victorious three times, firstly for Renault and then for McLaren-TAG.

1995 and 1996 saw the Österreichring being refurbished, allowing the race to run again in 1997. The track was renamed A1-Ring after a sponsor. The municipal territory of Spielberg was given as the site of the GP. The track was redesigned by Hermann Tilke’s company, losing some of is high-speed corners. This period lasted from 1997 until 2003. During this six-year-long adventure, Ferrari won three, McLaren two, Williams on race.

In July 2013, it was reported that the circuit's new owners Red Bull GmbH had reached an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone to revive the Austrian Grand Prix after a ten-year absence from the calendar. Mercedes has been the absolute dominant force on the Red Bull Ring, winning all of the last four races.

Circuit with flowing corners and long straights

The current configuration of the Red Bull Ring is 4.326km. Completing 71 laps, drivers cover a total of 307.02km during the Grand Prix. The lap record was set by Lewis Hamilton in last year’s race when the Briton clocked a lap time of 1:07.411.

The track is made of ten corners of which seven are right-handed ones. Turn one and three are slow speed corners while most of the remaining ones are middle- or high-speed turns. The sequence of turns in the middle sector of the track is characterized by a flowing nature.

The distance from the pole position to the first apex is only 330.8m, meaning that making up places directly after the start is quite difficult. However, the first corner often sees collisions between drivers starting from the mid-field after the start thanks to its tight nature.

The pit lane has a tricky, quite dangerous entry. In total, the pit lane is 358.1m long where drivers must adhere to a speed limit of 80kph. The time loss in the pit lane is 16.1 seconds without changing the tyres.

Fuel consumption is on a medium level while brakes are put under little load because there are only two heavy braking zones.

FIA nominated three DRS zones. The first has a detection point 160m before turn 1 with an activation point 102m after turn one. The second zone will have a detection point 40m before turn 3 and an activation point 100m after turn 3. The detection point of the final zone is 151m before turn 10 while its activation point is 106m after turn 10.

Compared to last year, there are minor changes to the track. The verge on the left approaching turn 3 has been widened at the request of MotoGP. The opening in the corner of the run-off area at turn 4 has been closed and a new one created further around the run-off.