June 19, 2014

2014 Austrian GP Preview: Into the ring with Red Bull

Formula One visits schloss Red Bull this week end.

As part of their plan for world domination, Red Bull bought what used to the be Österreichring and later the A-1 Ring in 2003, before they even started competing in Formula 1.

Formula 1 had raced at the original track from 1970, when it was opened, until 1987.  The original Österreichring was an epic, scary fast track with open corners, elevation chances and long straights.

Here is what it looked like in it's final 1987 configuration, a chicane added to try and keep speeds from being too ridiculous.

By the mid and later 80's though, it had become obvious safety features such as drainage ditches were completely inadequate.

Safety concerns coupled with complaints about noise from nearby residents spelled the death for the old track.  It was the Wutz family, ex-rally cross champion Frank and his son Alex, who led efforts to resurrect the track in the mid 90's. A then unknown circuit designer, one Herman Tilke, was hired to redesign the facility.

The new track, renamed the A-1 Ring, was a shadow of the former one.  For one thing it was much shorter, the lap record stands at 1:08.337 set in the race by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari in 2003.  (Schumi did a 1:07 in Q1 that year).  Gone are many of the fast sweepers and in came the sharp second gear corners, a Tilke trademark.

Darren Heath/Twitter
The A-1 ring was dropped from the calendar in 2004.   Since Red Bull's takeover the track has had a complete renovation of its facilities.  The assembled media are already raving because Red Bull architects actually gave them a window with a view rather than a dark cubicle... imagine that!

As for the racing, it is an anomalous track on the calendar:   Short laps should mean pit stops will be costly.   14% of the lap, according to Brembo are spent braking,  so everyone will be looking to see if Mercedes resolved the issue that plagued them in Canada.

There are only nine corners but two of them will be flat for sure.  The track will put a premium on aero grip in the middle section.  Teams will probably choose a very high downforce setup, advantage Red Bull.

With the short lap and the first two tight corners, the first lap will be especially important as contact is almost inevitable.

Of the current drivers only Raikkonen, Button and Alonso have any experience there in a Formula 1 car, albeit in very very different machines.


  1. it's amazing the amount of damage Tilke has done.

  2. An excellent primer. Thanks!

  3. Excellent point! I've never understood why modern GP circuits are not designed by real racers like Schumi (when he was still with us :o( ), Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Nikki Lauda, Jackie Stewart etc., real racers who know what makes for a good racing circuit. If Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicholas, and Greg Norman can make millions a year designing golf courses, why can't real racers design real racing circuits. Tilke knows nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yeah he can make a pit garage look pretty, but real racers need to be designing these new circuits.

    As an aside, its always funny to me that people appreciate the old cars and old circuits, but they favor the new 2014 cars, which are in complete contradiction to the real spirit of real '70's, 80's, and early '90's F1...real F1. This seasons cars are an abomination.

  4. that picture with the two layouts just hurts. Chopped, I can't find another word


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