Servus & Grüß Gott! Following the nail-biting French Grand Prix just a week ago, Formula 1 returns to race action this weekend as the field descends at Spielberg for the Steiermark Grand Prix. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó delivers his preview on Round 8 of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Tricky to get it right
The current layout of the Red Bull Ring is just 4.318km long, but it is far from easy to perform a perfect lap. The track packs a lot into a short lap with plenty of elevation changes punctuated by fast sweeping turns and a number of heavy braking zones. The biggest difficulty is usually presented by the fact that lap time differences are quite tiny and drivers have to find the last drop of performance of their cars as tenths of a second can decide over multiple places.
After resting a bit on the long start-finish straight, drivers climb up the hill to approach the first corner. The Niki Lauda turn is a tricky one as drivers have to get the best possible exit as the longest full-throttle section awaits them, albeit the high exit kerbs invite the too ambitious drivers to make mistakes.
The following section is a bit bumpy and curvy, but taken easily at full throttle. After posting top-speeds of over 310kph, drivers need to act perfectly as they brake down to Turn 3.
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📍 Spielberg, Austria
⏱️ Top Speed with DRS: 324.0km/h
📈 Full Throttle Distance: 78%
🔁 Lap: Short
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The second sector begins with another full-speed section before drivers brake to take Turn 4. The exit of that corner is always tricky as drivers usually suffer understeer from the mid-point of Turn 4.
The next section presents drivers with a different challenge as Turn 6, 7 and 8 are taken at high speeds. A perfect balance is the recipe in those three corners – a weak front-end of the car see drivers lose everything they need for a good lap time.
Sector 3 starts with an uphill section before drivers suddenly start to descend for the last two corners of the track. Turn 9, named after Jochen Rindt, is a brutally fast corner with a tricky exit where drivers have to demonstrate that they really trust in the rear-end downforce of their cars. The last corner invites drivers to use the exit kerbs as much as they can without leaving the track.
The extremely high downforce levels produced by current Formula One cars means that drivers are at full throttle for more than two-thirds of the lap. The short nature of the Red Bull Ring means that the DRS is open for more than a third of the lap – the highest percentage of the entire season.
For the first race at the Red Bull Ring, known as the Steiermark Grand Prix, C2 will be the P Zero White hard, C3 will be the P Zero Yellow medium, and C4 will be the P Zero Red soft.
In the past, this has been a one-stop race on paper – apart from the occasions when a safety car has prompted drivers to take a ‘free’ pit stop. This is set to be the case again at the Steiermark Grand Prix, but the softer nomination a week later could push teams closer to a two-stopper for the Austrian Grand Prix.
At the Austrian Grand Prix, held just one weekend later on an identical track, P Zero White hard will be the C3, P Zero Yellow medium will be the C4 and P Zero Red soft will be the C5: the softest combination in the Pirelli range.
Commenting on the tyre nomination for the Spielberg Grand Prix, Pirelli's Head of F1 and Car Racing Mario Isola said: “Once again after last year Austria hosts a back-to-back race, which means that the teams have plenty of data on this track and recent experience of how to deal with its particular challenges and tactics.
"However, having two different tyre nominations is a first for the Red Bull Ring, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the teams get to grips with the softest C5 tyres for the second race weekend – and how the new selection influences strategy in order to create different opportunities compared to the preceding Steiermark Grand Prix," Isola concluded.
Austria has a long and rich history in F1. The relatively small country hosted races for the pinnacle of the motorsport on two different venues and in different periods with a few interruptions.
The Zeltweg Airfield circuit opened the book of the Austrian GP history. A non-championship event was held in 1963 which was won by Jack Brabham. The first championship race was then held in the following year. As the track proved to be too dangerous, the Zeltweg track did not host any more races.
As Austria did not give up its hopes and will of organizing further GPs, the country built a suitable track also in the Zeltweg area. It was named the Österreichring. It is located in the scenic Styrian mountains with a picturesque background of green lands and big trees.
Races were held between 1970 and 1987. This fast, flowing track featured long straights and long corners with only a couple of slower turns. This nature of the track meant the governing body FIA was not happy with the safety conditions. The lack of protection from trees and the number of high-speed corners meant the FIA refused to give the green light for further races from 1987 on.
Austria disappeared from F1 for a decade, but the Österreichring was renewed in 1995 and 1996 and the Circus returned to the modernised track in the following year which was renamed A1-Ring. The whole layout was redesigned by German architect Hermann Tilke and the track partly lost its original nature. However, it is still a fast circuit with its long uphill sections. The A1 Ring hosted the Austrian GP in 2003 for the last time.
Thereafter the Austrian energy drink company Red Bull purchased the former Östreichring and renamed it as Red Bull Ring. The track was also updated with many changes to the pit area, the grandstands and run off zones. Since then the track has been a venue for various events: a series of motorsport races, the Red Bull Air Race and concerts were held there.
In 2014, Austria celebrated its welcome return to action on the highest level of motorsport.