The ninth round of the Formula 1 World Championship will take place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. This is the 31st running of the Austrian GP in the picturesque Styrian mountains, 680 m above sea level.
Austrian GP – History, Stats, Circuit Guide
The Austrian GP first debuted on the F1 calendar in 1964 at the Zeltweg Airfield. The circuit was deemed dangerous and dropped after one race there. The race rejoined the calendar at the Österreichring (Austrian circuit) in 1970.
Since then the race has been held at differently configured and named circuits there. Currently, the circuit is called the Red Bull Ring and has been back on the calendar since 2014. The inaugural Austrian GP was won by Lorenzo Bandini for Ferrari.
The Teams and Drivers
McLaren is the most successful team at the Austrian GP with six wins. Ferrari is second on the leaderboard with five wins. Mercedes has been dominant since the race rejoined the calendar, winning all four races in the hybrid era (2014-2017).
Alain Prost, Ronnie Peterson, and Alan Jones (3 wins) have the most wins here. Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher, and Nico Rosberg with two wins are joint second on the leaderboard.
Lewis Hamilton (2016) and Valtteri Bottas (2017) are the only winners on the current grid.
The 4.318 km Red Bull Ring has ten corners, the fewest on a current F1 circuit. The circuit consists of four long straights which end in tight corners. This is a medium downforce circuit and puts a premium on straight-line speed.
The cars are on full throttle 65% of the lap and it is a high brake-wear circuit. The engines are stressed out more at this track as it is high above sea level. This is one the fastest circuits on the F1 calendar with the shortest lap time of the year.
Sectors and Corners
Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 2) starts with a right-hander at Turn 1 and a very long uphill straight leading into Turn 2.
Sector 2 (Turn 3 to Turn 6) starts with Turn 3 a heavy braking zone that offers good overtaking opportunities. This turn is an almost ninety-degree right-hander which leads to a long straight. The sector ends with the left-hander at Turn 6.
Sector 3 (Turn 7 to Turn 10) starts with the fast left-hander at Turn 7 which takes the cars around the “Bull of Spielberg” statue. The sector is then comprised of a series of fast right-hand corners with two long straights. The Jochen Rindt Kurve at Turn 9 is the fastest corner on the lap which is at the top of a crest and drops downhill after the apex.
There is an additional third DRS zone this year. The first DRS detection point is after Turn 10 with the DRS activation zone is after Turn 1. The second DRS detection point is before Turn 3 and the activation zone is on the long straight after Turn 3. The newly added third DRS zone has its detection point after Turn 9 and the DRS activation zone is on the long straight after Turn 10.
This is a circuit that offers good overtaking opportunities. This is further enhanced by the new DRS zone that has been added. The race was won last season by the pole-sitter Bottas.
Pirelli tyre choices for this race are the yellow-striped soft tyres, red-striped supersoft tyres and the purple-striped ultrasoft tyres. The drivers have chosen seven or more sets of the ultrasoft tyres of the thirteen sets allocated to them.
The race is likely to be a one-stop race given the durability of the tyres this season. The track surface is very smooth and tyre degradation is low. Rain is expected on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday are expected to be dry.
Mercedes (237 pts) has extended the lead in the constructors’ championship to 23 points from arch-rival Ferrari (214 pts). Red Bull Racing (164 pts) is in a strong third position with good performances in recent races.
Renault (62 pts) leads the midfield teams in fourth position. McLaren (40 pts) completes the top 5 positions. Force India (28 pts) is now in sixth position and is catching the underperforming McLaren team.
Mercedes and Ferrari have three wins each this season. The form has swung from track to track between these two teams, with Red Bull also very closely matched. Mercedes come to the second race of the triple-header after a good race at the French GP. The Mercedes team also has brought a big upgrade package to their car for this race.
This is the home Grand Prix for Red Bull Racing, the Austrian team owners own the track. On this circuit with long straights, the Milton-Keynes based team will be at a slight disadvantage. But their drivers have taken turns at finishing on the podium the last two seasons and should challenge again.
Daniel Ricciardo (96 pts) is in third position now. Valtteri Bottas (92 pts) is now fourth, after the misfortune in the previous race when he was tagged by Vettel at turn 1. The Finn recovered to seventh position but lost ground in the championship. Kimi Raikkonen (83 pts) is in fifth position and rounds out the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.
The pendulum has swung between the top 2 contenders in the drivers’ championship from track to track. At this track, both the Mercedes and Ferrari cars are likely to be evenly matched. Vettel’s mistake at the start in France cost him the lead in the championship. In this tight battle, the frontrunners cannot afford to make mistakes.
Will the Mercedes cars with significant upgrades manage to have a performance advantage over their rivals this weekend? Who will lead the drivers’ championship on Sunday evening? An exciting race is in prospect at the Red Bull Ring.
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