This weekend sees the return of one of F1′s great historical venues as the revamped Red Bull Ring hosts the Austrian Grand Prix.
Set in the hills, this circuit is one of the most scenic anywhere in the world, but the challenge that awaits this weekend is much different to the original design.
Then called the Osterriechring it wasn’t a 10+ mile monster like the Nordschleife or the original Spa-Francorchamps but the speeds at the circuit made it just as scary.
Every corner was a ‘hang on for dear life’ roller coaster ride and with very little run-off around some of the turns any crash could prove fatal.
Surprisingly despite the danger the original layout went largely unchanged up until 1996 when current F1 track designer Herman Tilke was in charge of a Hockenheim-esque redesign.
The straights were shortened removing some of the great high-speed corners, including the most famous Bosch Kurve, and a more technical mid and final sector installed.
Though the current track shares vaguely the same shape as the original, the challenge and demands a much different.
The number of corners is now the lowest on the calendar, with just nine officially marked, but the straights mean it is just over 2.6 miles (4.3km) long and therefore the race is over 71 laps.
Before I go into the track in more detail check the video of a legend driving a lap of this great circuit and enjoy the V10 soundtrack of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari from 2002.
Straight away you can see the big difference between this and the modern circuits because of the sometimes huge changes in elevation.
At the end of the video you saw Schumacher spinning exiting the crucial turn one and you can expect much of the same 12 years on.
The climb from the pit straight into the right-hand first corner inspired the design for the approach to turn one at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas and the drivers will be wanting to brake as little as possible to maintain speed onto the next straight which runs upto turn two.
The first corner will likely be a hive of activity for the stewards too as drivers run wide onto the run-off, so just how lenient Race Director Charlie Whiting decides to be will be interesting.
As I mentioned good speed is essential through turn one as the next straight is the longest on the circuit and may see cars nudging 200mph (320kph) as they again climb steeply uphill into the braking zone for the best overtaking spot at turn two.
A slow right-hander, traction on the cambered exit will be key as another straight awaits this time running to turn three.
A downhill approach this time will see a lot of lock ups and potentially drivers running wide but it also offers another decent place for overtaking.
A curved straight marked as turn four leads into the technical part of the track. Turn five is a long downhill left hander where again it is very easy to run wide, this leads into another left at turn six which will see drivers feathering the throttle for the exit through the right kink of turn seven.
Another shorter straight over a crest leads into the blind off-camber turn eight, a sweeping right hander followed immediately by the slower turn nine where drivers will run wide again to carry speed onto the main straight and complete a lap.
Michael Schumacher holds the lap record of a 1:08.337, however, with less power along the straights, despite potentially higher cornering speeds, I expect times to be in the 1:10 range and possibly slower.
It will be fascinating for me as a long-time F1 follower to see how a modern car compares to the old V10 monsters around this great track and for those who haven’t seen a race here all I can say is you are in for a hell of a treat.
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