F1 GP: everything about the Austrian Ring
WHAT'S AUSTRIA LIKE TO WATCH?
The Red Bull Ring might not be the most famous or most demanding of grand prix circuits, but its compact modern layout can produce some great racing.
The circuit's roots lie in the Osterreichring, which certainly was a demanding track: a high-speed blast through the Styrian hills that was eventually deemed to be too dangerous. The shorter layout driven today was designed by Hermann Tilke and opened in 1996 as the A1 Ring, which welcomed Formula 1 back to Austria the following year. It later underwent a further revamp and reopened as the Red Bull Ring in 2011, with F1 returning once more three years later.
The first part of the lap is dominated by three straights separated by tight corners, which provides an excellent opportunity for drivers to ride in the slipstream of their rivals and make a move on the brakes.
Over the years this has led to some fantastic overtakes, as well as some notable flashpoints, such as the collisions between McLaren team-mates Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard on the first lap in 1999 and Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the last lap in 2016, or the bang of wheels between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in 2019.
WHAT'S AUSTRIA LIKE TO DRIVE?
If the first part of the lap is where the fun is in terms of racing, it's the rest of the lap that provides the most enjoyment for the drivers over a single lap. Once the circuit has climbed to its highest point at the tight Turn 3, the rest of the lap is mostly downhill all the way to the finish line.
And while most of the lap is made up of right-hand bends, it's the two left turns which come consecutively in the middle of the lap that are the two fastest corners – and which generate the greatest forces on the tyres, the cars and the drivers' necks.
From there, speeds increase again on the run to the penultimate downhill right-hander (named after Austria's first Formula 1 champion Jochen Rindt) which is blind and falls away on exit, luring the drivers into using all of the run-off area on the outside as they set themselves up for a clean run through the final turn and onto the pit straight. And momentum is key come the race, because it doesn't take much for a rival to drag up behind you and make a lunge under braking…
WHAT'S AUSTRIA LIKE TO VISIT?
Peaceful. The Austrian Grand Prix is the most rural race of the year, with the nearest town, Graz, around an hour away. The surrounding area is populated by a series of villages scattered throughout verdant rolling countryside, punctuated by the occasional gothic castle, like something straight out of The Sound of Music.
Aside from hiking and schnitzel-tasting, there's not a huge amount to do in the local area apart from watch the race (and try a bit of racing yourself, thanks to the Red Bull-branded go kart track next to the circuit). Red Bull is everywhere in the area: even around the circuit you'll find a few Red Bull cars of various descriptions hanging around, not to mention portraits of Austria's most famous drivers. They are very proud of their racing heritage round here.
Competition aside, there a number of interesting museums in the area, which range from military aircraft to model railways. Don't forget the nearby Puch museum as well, which is essential viewing for anyone who's into mopeds.
As paradoxical as it sounds though, part of the appeal of the Austrian Grand Prix is that you can combine Formula 1 with relaxation, making it a unique venue on the calendar. Breathe in, chill out, and enjoy.