Austrian Grand Prix

Austrian Grand Prix

The Austrian Grand Prix (Großer Preis von Österreich in German) organisers had been trying to get the FIA to sanction a World Championship Grand Prix in Austria since the late ‘50s. They staged two non-Championship contests, one in 1961 and the other in 1963.

The race in 1961 was won by Innes Ireland, a Briton in a Lotus. The second event in 1963 was won by Jack Brabham, an Australian. After the 1963 contest, the FIA sanctioned the Austrian Grand Prix to be organised in 1964.

The Austrian Grand Prix was held in 1964, 1970-1987 and 1997 to 2003. The event returned to the Formula One calendar year in 2014. Every time the event was cancelled because the FIA’s was concerned for the safety of the contestants as well as the spectators.

Lap Length: 4.326 km

Race Laps: 71

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Race distance: 307.21 km

Direction: Clockwise

Lap Record: 1:05.619 Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren-Renault, 2020

How did the Austrian Grand Prix originate?

The Austrian organisers of the Grand Prix held two non-official contests to prove to the FIA official that Austria was capable of hosting a Grand Prix. Satisfied, the FIA approved for a Grand Event to be held in 1964, to be called the Austrian Grand Prix.

Zwelteg Airfield Circuit
 
The first Austrian Grand Prix was held at the Zwelteg Air Base which is about 70 km south of Graz in 1964. Lorenzo Bandini of Italy won the race in a Ferrari. That would be his first and only World Championship race win. Jochen Rindt, an Austrian driver and a future World Champion, had the honour of debuting in the debut Grand Prix in his country that year.
 
Although the event was a success the circuit was deemed to be too bumpy and several drivers suffered from suspension failure during practice. The FIA halted any more World Championship event at the venue.
 
The Zwelteg Airfield Circuit continued to hold non-Championship contestants every year after the first Grand Prix. Austrian motor racing authorities in the meanwhile built another circuit called the Österreichring and presented it to the FIA.

How did the Red Bull Ring change over the years?

Österreichring (1970-1987)
Österreichring (which means the Austria Circuit) was constructed just 5 km away from Zwelteg. Built among the scenic Styrian Mountains, it was close to Spielberg and an equal distance from Graz. Österreichring was 5.911 km long with an elevation difference of 65 meters.
 
The FIA sanctioned its approval to hold the 1970 Austrian Grand Prix at the venue. Österreichring was a fast circuit and long with sweeping turns. The circuit with long straights and fast turns was soon a favourite among the F1 drivers.
 
The first event held in 1970 was won by Jacky Ickx of Belgium in a Ferrari. In 1971 the race was won by Jo Siffert, a Swiss in a BRM. Lotus-Ford dominated the race the following two years with Brazillian Emerson Fittipaldi and Swede, Ronnie Peterson winning the races.
 
The year 1974 saw Carl Reutemann from Argentina winning at the Grand Prix. The 1975 Austrian Grand Prix saw Mark Donahue Jr. the American driver meet with a fatal crash. Although Donahue emerged from the car wreck relatively unharmed, he later succumbed to head injuries in a hospital.

The Voest-Huel Corner is converted into a Chicane
 
Italian Vittorio Brambilla won the 1975 race on a rainy day but crashed after crossing the finishing line in 1976 on an even wetter circuit. In 1976, the sweeping Voest-Hugel corner was changed to two corners but 1977 saw the corner changed into a chicane with three corners.
 
This changed the fastest turn on the circuit into the slowest corner and changed the circuit length to 5.941 km with 18 turns. The turn was renamed the Hella-Licht chicane This .was the turn where Mark Donahue had crashed a couple of years earlier.

Österreichring continued to host the Grand Prix through to 1987. Nicki Lauda became the only Austrian to win a World Championship Grand Prix at home in 1985. In 1987, the race had to be restarted twice after accidents stopped the race.
 
The new cars mostly had turbocharged engines and increased speed of the cars, were becoming a concern on the narrow and fast circuit. In 1987, Nelson Piquet set a circuit record pole time of 1:23. 357 with a record average speed of 159. 457km/h. It was second only to the average speed record of Keke Roseberg’s set at the Silverstone Circuit. 
 
Before FIA brought the Austrian Grand Prix to a halt after the 1987 race, Frenchman had won the event Alain Prost had won the event 3 times in the ‘80s. Ronnie Peterson from Sweden had won the event twice in the ‘70s.
 
Niki Lauda won his third and final World Championship in 1984 defeating his McLaren teammate. The margin was a half a point and is still a record for the smallest margin a driver has won the World Championship.

A1- Ring
 
In 1995 and 1996 the track was redesigned and rebuilt by Hermann Tilke at the instance of the mobile phone company A1. Three sweeping turns were transformed into tight corners so that overtaking opportunities are created.
 
The length of the circuit for the Grand Prix was drastically reduced by more than 1.5km to 4.362 km. The three long straights were shortened and the infield was less twisty after Hile and A1 finished with the track.
 
FIA finally approved that the circuit could host the Austrian Grand Prix. The A1-ring hosted the Austrian Grand Prix from 1996 to 2003, as well as the Austrian motorcycle Grand Prix and several other DTM races.
 
While Michael Schumacher won two races in 2002 and 2003 in a Ferrari. Ferrari had won one other race on the A1-Ring before. Mercedes also won three races during the eight years with Mika Häkkinen winning two of them.

Red Bull Ring
 
In 2004 Red Bull bought over the entire circuit and set out forthwith to raze the grandstands and the Pit buildings. Speculation was rife whether Red Bull intended to renew motorsports on the site or use it for other purposes.
 
Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder and a majority shareholder of Red Bull that he did not want to waste money on a useless circuit. As activity continued in the circuit in 2005, again questions were asked whether the newly founded Red Bull-Racing would renovate the circuit.
 
Towards the end of 2008, Red Bull announced plans of investing €70 million to rebuild the circuit. The circuit, now named the Red Bull ring, hosted the first 2011 DTM contest. That same year the circuit also hosted the 2011 F2 championship event.
 
That year the FIA Historic Formula One championship was also invited to provide headline attraction with cars from the 3-litre era. In 2012 Red Bull approached the FIA to resume the Australian Grand Prix as a World Championship contest.
 
On 22 June 2014, the Red Bull circuit hosted the Austrian Grand Prix as a part of the World Championship. In June 2019, the first corner on the Red Bull Circuit was named the Niki Lauda Curve in honour of the three-time Austrian World Champion Niki Lauda.
 
On 30 may 2020 the Austrian government granted permission to hold 2 Formula One races on 5 and 12 July mid the COVID19 pandemic. On 5 July 2020, the Red Bull Ring hosted the Austrian Grand Prix 2020 as the inaugural event of the World Championship.
 
Austria also became the first European Circuit to host the first race of the F1 season after Circuit de Monaco in 1966. The honour of hosting the inaugural race of the World Championship season has been granted to only 13 venues previously since 1950.

Who has won more than one Austrian Grand Prix?

The four-time World Champion Alain Prost of France is the only driver to have won the Austrian Grand Prix 3 times during the Österreichring era. Ronnie Peterson and 1980 World Champion also won the Alan Jones have won at the venue twice before Alain Prost.

The two-time champion Mika Hakkinen and seven-time title winner Micheal Schumacher won when the track was called the A1 Ring. Nico Rosberg in 2014 and 2015 and Max Verstappen in 2018 and 2019 are the only two contestants to win at the Red Bull Ring.

Why go to the Austrian Grand Prix?

Red Bull has spent over $65 million on renovating the circuit with Herrmann Tilke’s talent for designing racing circuits. Spectators can view multiple sections of the circuit from any of the grandstands.

The long straight between Corners 1 and two have seen cars achieving incredible speeds. Thre are plenty of overtaking opportunities on the track and the races are very competitive. Only a few drivers have won the race twice and only one, thrice. The track has an incredible knack of throwing up surprise winners.
The red Bull Ring is located in a bowl among the Styrian Mountains and is one of the most scenic circuits on the Formula One calendar. The track is at an elevation of 650 m from the mean sea level and the countryside is green and beautiful.

The track itself has a difference in elevation from its lowest point to the highest, and forests cover 60% per cent of the Styrian mountainous land. The region is known as the “Green Heart of Austria.”

Wildlife abounds in the Styrian mountains and drivers and spectators have encountered it on the circuit. In 1987 McLaren’s Stefan Johansson hit a deer on the track. He was lucky to get away without any injuries and in 2001 a deer raced across the track.

Among other things, when you are not on the circuit, you can visit the museum in Graz dedicated to Graz’s favourite son, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Graz is the second-largest city in Austria and is a medieval town. Its buildings reflect the influences of Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

How much are tickets for the Austrian Grand Prix?

The Austrian Grand Prix 2020 was the inaugural race of the F1 calendar year in July instead of the Australian Grand Prix in March. That was because of the COVID19 pandemic. The race was run with the stands empty. Only a few journalists and the requisite personnel were allowed into the Red Bull ring in sharp contrast to 2019 when 200,000 fans thronged the venue.
 
Unlike other Grand Prix venues in the world, one doesn’t have to scratch one’s head too much when choosing where to sit in the Red Bull Ring. There are only three Grandstands, a family area and a General Admission area.
 
Tickets for the General Admission are less than €100 and other tickets range from €395 to €495. These were the rates for the Austrian Grand Prix 2020 but were not much different from 2019. We expect the tickets for the 2021 event to be relatively the same and will update this page as soon as the tickets are announced.
 
A unique feature of the 3 corner offer at The Red Bull Ring is that the spectator is rotated between different stands. Which stand the spectator will be seating in, is determined by whether he buys the Platinum, Gold or Silver Plan.

The 3 Corner Plans
This is an innovative idea offered at the Red Bull ring. It is a good deal for newcomers to a Grand Prix event. The 3 Corner Plan ticket includes seats for all the three days of the race weekend but one among the three different stands around the circuit each day.
 
A Platinum Plan ticket holder will get to sit in  Red Bull H Grandstand on Friday, Red Bull A Grandstand on Saturday and in Main Grandstand on Sunday.
A Gold Plan ticket holder will be seated in the Main Grandstand on Friday, Red Bull H Grandstand on Saturday and in the Red Bull A Grandstand on the Race Day.
A Silver Plan ticket holder will get a seat in the Red Bull A Grandstand on Friday, in the Main Grandstand on Saturday and in the Red Bull H Grandstand on Sunday.

Information about the tickets
 
●      There is a discount for early booking of the tickets as cited in the table above.
●      Thre is no Free Friday at the Red Bull Ring. All tickets are for all the three days of the racing weekend.
●      Tickets exclusively for the racing day are available at only a fraction less than a weekend ticket.
●      Children aged 14 on below (taken from 1 January) are allowed free entry. However, their tickets are booked and they must be accompanied by a ticket-holding adult.
●      All the Grandstands have numbered seats with seat numbers indicated on the tickets.
●      A wheelchair section is available in the Main Grandstand for the disabled for €95 before discounts. The accompanying person will have to pay the same fare. All other Grandstands offer a discount for a disabled person.
●      While the Main Grandstand and the Nord Grandstands are covered, there is an only limited shelter in the General Admission areas. All other Grandstands are uncovered.
●      All Grandstands and the General Admission Area have giant television screens in front of them keeping viewers in the loop throughout the action.

Where is the best place to watch the Austrian Grand Prix?

As mentioned before, choosing a location to watch the Austrian Grand Prix is not much of a task as there are only three Grandstands. Then there are the General Admission Areas which are probably the best such areas among the circuits in the world.
 
All Grandstands, as well as the General Admission Areas. have giant television screens in front of them keeping the spectators in the action throughout. Only some of the grandstands are covered while the rest are exposed to the elements.

Main/Start-Finish Grandstand
 
Like at all other venues the Main Grandstand is in front of the start-finish line and overlooks the pits. The sections in the middle of the Grandstand are costlier and offer a better view of the pits. Those seated higher up in the stands will get a panoramic view of the circuit.

Steiermark/South-West Grandstand
 
This Grandstand has among the highest-priced seats. But if you pay the fare you will get good views of a major part of the circuit on all the three days. The stand is also close to the Fan Zone with the best catering stalls, merchandise and concerts. Only the top section of these Grandstands is covered.

Red Bull Grandstand
 
Seated in this Grandstand a spectator gets to see the cars along the longest straights from Turn 1 to 2. A seat high up in the stands affords a good panoramic view of the circuit. The seats in the middle sections of the stand also give you a good view of the cars as they negotiate turns 4 and 5.

General Admission Area
 
The General viewing Areas are among the best such areas on any circuit in the world with multiple giant screens to keep track of the action. The largest area is located at the highest point on the circuit. This gives the spectators a panoramic view of the entire circuit.

How do you get to the Red Bull Ring?

The Red Bull ring is located among the Styrian Mountains in a rural area. The best way to get to the circuit is to fly into the Vienna International Airport. There are smaller airports nearby the Red Bull Ring like the Flughafen Graz and the Klagenfurt which have connections with limited cities.
 
The Vienna International airport is 200 km away from the Red Bull Ring and can be reached in 2 hours by car. There are also frequent busses and trains during the racing weekend fro Vienna to Graz.
 
Knittelfeld is the train station closest to the Red Bull Ring. It is well connected to most Austrian cities. A journey from Vienna to Kiittlefeld will take 3 hours while one from Graz will take 80 minutes. Shuttle buses will reach you to the Red Bull Ring when you alight at the station.
 
Graz is also connected by train to cities like Salzburg, Innsbruck, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich. Eventbus and Postbus also operate busses from all over Austria during the racing weekend. The schedule of the busses is announced shortly before the race.
 
Driving to the Red Bull is not much trouble as Austria is located in Central Europe. One can drive in from Germany Italy or from Switzerland easily as the motorways are well marked. The use of the GPS or Google maps always helps.

Where is the best place to stay for the Austrian Grand Prix?

Accommodation close to the Red Bull Ring is limited and is often booked by the team staff or those working on the circuit quite early. However, accommodation from five star hotels to affordable boarding is available within an hour’s driving from the Red Bull Ring.
 
Vienna is also a favourite tourist destination albeit two hours driving distance from the Red Bull Ring. If you are planning for a longer holiday than the racing weekend Vienna is the best place to stay at.
 
Thousands of fans camp around the Red Bull Ring. There are colour coded campsites and you can get accommodation for two for around €170  for the weekend. If you don’t intend to carry your own camping gear, GPtents offer pre-erected tents for around €240 for the weekend.
 
Graz is the closest city and provides good accommodation. But prices during the Grand Prix weekend are hiked. Although trains are available from Graz to Knittlefeld, hiring a cab is the best option of getting to the Red Bull Ring from Graz.

Conclusion

As mentioned before the Austrian Grand Prix was the inaugural event of the Formula One calendar in 2020. If the pandemic subsides, Formula One will start with the Australian Grand Prix in 2021. This page will be updated as soon as the schedule and the tickets for the 2021 Austrian Grand Prix are announced.

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