Race guide for the Austrian Grand Prix

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Following the incident-filled Canadian Grand Prix, teams and drivers head back to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 9 of the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó picks out the vital facts ahead of this weekend's Spielberg round.


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 history of the Austrian Grand Prix. A non-championship event was held in 1963 which was won by Jack Brabham. The first championship race took place 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, this time bearing the name of 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. Since then, Red Bull and Mercedes have dominated the F1 races at the fast circuit with Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas winning five races for the Anglo-German squad and Max Verstappen taking the victory in three races. However, last year saw Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc dominate the Austrian Grand Prix, taking his first victory at the Red Bull Ring.

The Red Bull Ring also hosted the Stryrian Grand Prix in 2020 and 2021 when the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for the sport to host races at its international venues. In 2020, it was Lewis Hamilton who came out on top while last year saw Max Verstappen grab the victory at the second Styrian Grand Prix.

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 with the high exit kerbs inviting 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.

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.