Austrian GP 2014: 10 Facts About the Red Bull Ring
The Red Bull Ring hosts the Austrian Grand Prix, the eighth round of the 2014 Formula One season.
The Spielberg circuit is classed as a new addition to the F1 calendar for this year, but the sport is all too familiar with the venue, having visited the Styrian facilities on countless occasions in the past.
Red Bull Racing, the home heroes, arrive at the circuit which bears their name buoyed by Daniel Ricciardo's maiden F1 victory in Canada less than two weeks ago, and the reigning constructors' world champions will be determined to put on a show for the locals.
The champions-to-be, Mercedes, will be eager to return to winning ways after their six-race victory streak was ended last time out at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
And on paper, the Mercedes duo of championship leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will be the ones to beat at a circuit which will suit their car—but we remember saying something similar prior to the Canadian Grand Prix.
As race weekend approaches, here are 10 facts about the Red Bull Ring.
The Red Bull Ring is located near the town of Spielberg in the Styria region of Austria.
The circuit is arguably the most scenic in the entire Formula One calendar, with races taking place against the backdrop of the Styrian mountains, which—according to Red Bull Racing's circuit preview—sees the region often referred to as "The Green Heart of Austria."
According to the official Formula One website, the track sits in excess of 600 metres above sea level with "60 per cent of Styrian land covered by forest."
The circuit has gone through a number of changes in name since it was built in 1969.
Originally named the Osterreichring, the circuit was renamed the A1-Ring in 1996 after a nine-year absence from the calendar after A1, the Austrian telephone network funded the circuit's redevelopment.
After the track slipped off the calendar at the end of the 2003 season, Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitz purchased the venue in 2004—a year before the Austrian's team lined up on the F1 grid for the first time—with another reconstruction beginning in 2008.
The circuit officially reopened as the Red Bull Ring in May 2011 and its return to the Formula One schedule was confirmed last December.
The Red Bull Ring has a circuit length of 4.326 km, according to the official Formula One website, with a race distance of 307.070 km.
With Red Bull Racing's track preview estimating that the race's 71 laps will take 120 minutes to complete, the grand prix is likely to push the two-hour time limit.
It may be a case of counting down the clock, rather than ticking off laps, as the race enters its latter stages.
Red Bull's Reward
You probably thought four consecutive drivers' and constructors' world championships were just reward for Red Bull humiliating their opposition between 2010 and 2013, didn't you?
The reintroduction of the Red Bull Ring, the venue under the ownership of the energy drinks manufacturer since 2004, to the Formula One calendar for 2014 is an added bonus for both Red Bull's success and their impact on the sport.
We have seen this before in F1.
The Nurburgring hosted the European Grand Prix during the peak of Michael Schumacher's dominance with Ferrari, while the Valencia street circuit succeeded the German track as the host of the European event within two years of Fernando Alonso becoming a two-time world champion in 2006.
Red Bull head into their home race, of course, with renewed momentum after Daniel Ricciardo secured his maiden win at the last round in Canada.
The Most Controversial Grand Prix Ever?
There is no shortage of contenders for the most controversial grand prix in Formula One history—and the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix is certainly up there.
The closing stages saw pole man Rubens Barrichello leading Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher home, but a series of team radio calls from team principal Jean Todt instructed the Brazilian to allow Schumacher to take the victory.
Barrichello resisted until the run to the finish line, slowing his pace dramatically to allow Schumacher to take maximum points and solidify the German's position in the championship—even though Schumacher held a comfortable 21-point lead over Juan Pablo Montoya in the standings prior to the Spielberg race.
Schumacher refused to take to the top step of the podium, however, forcing Barrichello on to it instead before handing his teammate the winners' trophy in a showcase of supreme awkwardness.
In the circuit's history as the Osterreichring and the A1-Ring, Alain Prost is the most frequent winner of the Austrian Grand Prix.
The four-time world champion triumphed on three occasions, winning first for Renault in 1983 and then with McLaren in 1985 and 1986.
The late Ronnie Peterson, 1980 champion Alan Jones, two-time title winner Mika Hakkinen and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher—if you count that 2002 victory—are the only other multiple winners of the Austrian Grand Prix.
No current drivers have won at the track.
Unfamiliar Territory for Most Drivers
Since Formula One last visited Austria in 2003, the sport has seen three drivers—Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel—become the youngest-ever world champion.
F1 has gone young over the last decade, so it will come as no surprise to learn that only four drivers on the current grid have driven an F1 car in anger in Austria.
And those who did take part in the 2003 event—Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button—all went on to become world champions, while Felipe Massa, who raced at Austria in 2002, came within one point of the 2008 crown.
That 18 of the 2014's 22 drivers have never raced a Formula One car at the circuit will make Friday's practice sessions among the most important of the season as the likes of Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat—who was just nine years old when the last Austrian Grand Prix took place but does have an outstanding record at the track in junior categories—get to grips with the circuit.
Driving Challenges and Setup
The Red Bull Ring's mixture of long straights and technical, medium-speed sections calls for a compromised setup.
The circuit's short, sharp turns—particularly at the beginning of the lap—can encourage drivers to bite off more they can chew as they strive to set the fastest lap possible.
The short lap—featuring only nine corners—encourages close, tight racing, with the best overtaking spot arguably at Turn 2, which follows one of the circuit's two DRS zones (the other, like most circuits, is located on the pit straight).
Like the previous round in Canada, the Austrian circuit requires both good traction and durable brakes, with the Red Bull Ring's high altitude set to pose unique challenges for the new-for-2014 power units.
Strategy and Tyres
Pirelli, Formula One's sole tyre supplier, will be bringing the soft and supersoft compounds to a third consecutive race after taking both to Monaco and Canada previously.
The sheer length of the Austrian Grand Prix, at 71 laps, will open avenues for various strategies, although Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery has suggested a two-stop grand prix will occur.
Hembery is quoted in an emailed Pirelli grand prix preview as stating: "Simulation data suggests that we will see a two-stop race, but this is subject to weather conditions and track evolution, which we will only understand properly after free practice.”
The emailed Pirelli grand prix preview added that, in theory, "starting (the race) on the supersoft followed by two stints on the soft would seem to be the most popular option" among teams and drivers.
Wildlife on and off Track
The on-track action at the Red Bull Ring takes place in the shadows of a giant Red Bull sculpture, which sits in the middle of the infield section at Turns 4, 5, 6 and 7.
But that isn't the only wildlife at the Austrian GP.
In the 1987 event, McLaren's Stefan Johansson struck a deer at the Rindt Curve and was fortunate to escape without serious injury.
More deer-related chaos followed in 2001 when the animal somehow made it into the venue and dashed across the track, and incident fondly remembered for a hilarious team radio conversation between Juan Pablo Montoya and his Williams team, above.