Changing tracks: Red Bull Ring

Changing tracks

Start, Osterreichring, 1987 Austrian Grand PrixThe circuit originally known as the Osterreiching was the first F1 track to be overhauled by Hermann Tilke, whose designs have become almost ubiquitous since.

It was renamed the A1 Ring when Tilke’s new version was used for the first time in 1997. It’s back on the calendar once more – and now it’s called the Red Bull Ring.

Today’s track is markedly different to its original incarnation. Here’s how the Osterreichring got a facelift.

Osterreiching: 1970

Length: 5.911km

Austria’s first world championship event was held in 1964 at Zeltwet. But the bumpy, four-turn circuit was not well-liked, and so a new circuit was built a short distance away.

Taking advantage of the rolling Austrian countryside, the Osterreichring blended gradient with fast, open corners to produce one of the fastest layouts in use at the time. And after the additions of chicanes to Monza and Silvestone, the daunting Osterreiching gained the distinction of being F1’s fastest track – even after it too had a chicane installed at the first corner.

It remained on the calendar until 1987, by which time some of its shortcomings were becoming apparent. Particularly the narrow start/finish area, where two crashes during that final meeting meant it took three attempts to get the race started.

McLaren driver Stefan Johansson also criticised the organisers after he struck a deer at over 150mph during practice. The organisers had allowed the session to continue despite the animal being spotted in the vicinity of the track long before Johansson hit it, causing huge damage to his car and giving the driver a nasty shock.

Red Bull Ring: 2014

Length: 4.326km

Ten years later F1 returned to a track where little had been left as it was, including the name: Austrian Telecommunications company A1 had rebranded it.

Start, A1-Ring, 2003The shortened circuit and its slower corners may have had little in common with its predecessor, but it met the FIA’s ever-increasing safety requirements. And, thanks in part to its simple layout and many straights, it tended to produce exciting races.

It did, however, exhibit one of the problems which other modern circuits have been afflicted by. Its run-off areas were so wide and so forgiving that drivers could often run far off the track to gain an advantage – particularly at the first corner.

The A1-Ring held its last F1 race in 2003. In the intervening period, Red Bull purchased the circuit and it began holding major races again, including a round of the DTM.

No changes have been made to the track layout since F1 last raced on it 11 years ago. It is the third-shortest track on this year’s calendar, just 17 metres longer than Interlagos.

And it is likely to have one of the shortest lap times. The lap record set during the 2003 event by Michael Schumacher was 1’08.337 (refuelling was still permitted) and the fastest lap of the entire weekend was Schumacher’s 1’07.908.

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Images © Williams/LAT, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

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72 comments on Changing tracks: Red Bull Ring

  1. petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 16th June 2014, 12:01

    I’m so excited to see the A1 Ring back on the calendar! It was always my favourite to drive on the old F1 games so doing it on a next-gen console is going to be epic!

    • kpcart said on 16th June 2014, 17:37

      Im with you that it is fun to driver on sim games like gp3 and gp4, but unfortunantly it is not that great in real life for f1, where overtaking is harder then in games. the track elevations make it a bit interesting. 2 drs might make the track a bit interesting with fake overtaking.

      • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 16th June 2014, 20:52

        The thing is – DRS makes overtaking too easy and the tracks where overtaking is difficult tend to be the only ones where DRS actually works as it should. Valencia was a horrible track before DRS when races suddenly became exciting! Fingers crossed anyway….

        • Strontium (@strontium) said on 17th June 2014, 0:17

          Actually, even with DRS, Valencia was still horrifically dull – it was just that one year which was exciting due to 5 accidents and a bunch of safety cars, along with engine failures. Nothing to do with the track itself.

  2. Ninad (@nin13) said on 16th June 2014, 12:06

    Only 4 drivers have raced here in past. Button, Raikkonen and Alonso in 2003 and Massa in 2002. But nothing too difficult for other drivers to learn.

    No long straights, mostly medium-short straights so overtaking will be difficult as will medium speed turns.

  3. Patrick (@paeschli) said on 16th June 2014, 12:06

    “No changes have been made to the track layout since F1 last raced on it 11 years ago.”

    I’ve heard somewhere that changes had been made before Red Bull acquired the circuit and Red Bull reversed the layout back to the 2003 edition one. I can’t find any evidence of this on Google though, so is it just me?

  4. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 16th June 2014, 12:27

    The old Boschkurve was badass. But the crazy, three-wide first laps at the new track were good fun, too.
    There’s more tarmac run-off now than in the Schumi video, notably turn 2 (top left of the map). In the Renault 3.5 races last year, most of the field took a very wide line on the exit on lap 1!

  5. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 16th June 2014, 12:31

    It is interesting to see how reactions to this track have changed since its last return to the calendar. In 1997, I read comments how it was too short, boring, and had no proper corners. Now it is hailed almost as a classic even though the layout is the same (apart from the sandtraps being changed into tarmac).

    I do like the track and the variation it brings to the calendar. Finally something other than tracks that are 5.5 km/20 corners/have two 1 km straights.

    • Strontium (@strontium) said on 16th June 2014, 16:54

      Ha well, pretty much anything that isn’t a Tilkedrome (although he did modify it, but most of his modifications are okay) is considered good. Apart from the Hungaroring (in my view).

    • JackySteeg (@jackysteeg) said on 17th June 2014, 1:16

      Indeed. As I recall the Austrian Grand Prix was rather unpopular during the days of the A1-Ring. I’ve got an old copy of an F1 magazine from mid-2003 which, shortly after its final race, featured a small article on how the F1 circus will not be missing the unloved A1-Ring.

      But I suppose back in those days the F1 community hadn’t been subjected to Yas Marina, Valencia, Yeongam, Buddh with their tight hairpins separated by mile-long straights and their many, many miles of tarmac run-off located in vast flat plains of nothingness. Perhaps it could be said that the Red Bull Ring isn’t a brilliant track by classic standards, but it’s a great track by modern standards. Compared to every cookie-cutter race track that has come from the mind of Tilke, this place is like Spa.

      Personally, I’m welcoming it back with open arms. It’s an in exceptional location, it has an unusually short length and a ton of elevation changes. Of all the bland circuits to have joined the calendar in recent years, how many can claim to have anything like what the Red Bull Ring has?

  6. juan fanger (@juan-fanger) said on 16th June 2014, 12:33

    Hey, does anyone know if there is DRS for Austria? (No sign of it on the official Formula 1 site, but there is for later tracks.)

  7. Deej92 (@deej92) said on 16th June 2014, 12:43

    I’m really excited for the Austrian Grand Prix’s return! It was a good race to watch in its last stint in F1 and one of my favourite tracks to drive on F1 games 97 to 2003.

    It seems that Red Bull have done a fine job on it as well. It’s nice to see the layout unchanged, but also they’ve built new pit buildings, a brand new grandstand and the Red Bull sculpture is a nice touch.

    Hopefully it remains on the calendar for years to come.

  8. David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 16th June 2014, 12:58

    @keithcollantine I think itshould be noted that this is the site of the,ast round of the World Championship Jochen Rindt started.

  9. Robert McKay said on 16th June 2014, 13:25

    I’ve said it a few times before but I like A1 Ring because it’s Tilke before he started to (apparently) be paid for his work by the corner.

    All the new tracks are, frankly, overdesigned. Too long a lap, too many corners, too many fiddly bits, too much to spread the field out. Some of the newer tracks still manage to maintain a decent layout (as an example, Austin), but it doesn’t mean that they’re not afflicted by the problem.

    I’m really looking forward to a race on a fairly simple, straightforward layout, where you whack up the number of laps to compensate. More laps means going through your major overtaking zones more times…so potentially more overtaking. For the sake of variety if nothing else it’s a big weekend.

    • Patrick (@paeschli) said on 16th June 2014, 13:39

      “More laps means going through your major overtaking zones more times…so potentially more overtaking.”
      So simple, but I never looked at it that way :O

      And yes, it’s not a terrific track, but it’s different than the other Tilkedromes, which is good.

  10. Japhew Ryder (@japhew-ryder) said on 16th June 2014, 13:50

    The old ring was epic, so fast and selective. The new layout is nice and everything, but they destroyed something there, just like at Hockenheim.

  11. George (@george) said on 16th June 2014, 14:42

    Geez that Ferrari looks horrible to drive in that video

  12. stefano (@alfa145) said on 16th June 2014, 14:52

    typo on first line on zeltweg

  13. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 16th June 2014, 15:11

    Return of this track is a breath of fresh air after recent Tilkedromes. Finally, a new addition is a short track, because it seems that 5,5 km or so is the norm of track length now. And it’s really fast, without those slow corners after long straights, which Tilke is obsessed with. And the best part – it’s in Europe – continent, where F1 is loved the most and not those poor countries with rich governments, which are ready to pay buckets of money to stage a race.

    All in all, I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s race.

  14. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 16th June 2014, 15:24

    Whilst I’m happy to see another European race on the calendar, I would perhaps welcome a return a return to Mangy Cours or especially Imola more; the Spielberg layout is a touch bland. That said, I think we will still have a great race with the long straights highly conducive to overtaking and the perfect host for the next chapter of Hamilton versus Rosberg (the characteristics that Spielberg shares with Bahrain may put Nico in good stead). Ironically the track to which Red Bull lend their name could not be much less complementary of the RB10, and inversely the three long straights are a perfect match with the Mercedes donkey fitted to the W05, so barring reliability, the top two places on the podium are reserved. The laptimes themselves will also be interesting this weekend, with the excellent straight line speed made possible by this year’s V6s perhaps making it possible for pole to be within range of Schumacher’s 1’07.908 lap, in spite of having substantially less downforce.

    • mantresx (@mantresx) said on 16th June 2014, 16:12

      “The laptimes themselves will also be interesting this weekend, with the excellent straight line speed made possible by this year’s V6s”

      Not only that, but the slick tyres should also be considerably quicker, I still think the cars will be slower but in a couple of years with engine and specially aero developments, the cars will be very close.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 16th June 2014, 17:56

        @mantresx – Personally I think there is a good chance of seeing a lap in the 1’07s this weekend. The V6 powetrains make the cars substantially faster than the V10 engines of 2003 on the straights, on which there are three long ones, and with the effect of the slicks tyres as you mentioned redressing some of the grip deficit the 2014 cars have, I think there is an excellent chance of seeing a lap within the vicinity of a 7.9/.

        • Kim Philby (@philby) said on 17th June 2014, 6:03

          I believe that we won’t be seeing any laps under 1.09. People suggesting that the V6s are faster than the V10s are dellusional, in 2003 Schumacher reached without DRS 348km/h in Canada while this year Massa reached 343. What appears to be the case is that in high downforce tracks the V6s are faster while in low downforce the V10s prevail, it seems that the V10s generated much more downforce and hence they are heavily affected by it while the V6s aren’t.
          My prediction is that the V6s will continue to be faster in high df tracks like they were in Malaysia and Spain the speeds will be similar in medium df tracks and the V10s will remain in front in low df tracks.
          In 2003 Schumacher reached 368.8km/h in Monza, I seriously doubt we will see 370+ this year.

          • Mr win or lose said on 17th June 2014, 9:47

            In 2003 the cars were 600 kg and had 900 hp, compared to the 690 kg and 700 or 800 hp we have today. Also the tyres were much better in 2003. In Canada 2002 the poletime was 2 seconds faster than this year’s poletime, so I only expect cars to break through the 1:10 barrier in Q3.

    • Strontium (@strontium) said on 16th June 2014, 17:00

      Oh yes, definitely need France and Imola back. Those 2 would complete the European calendar quite well (although not as well as F1 getting Portugal too)

    • Dizzy said on 16th June 2014, 19:51

      I don’t get why people always go on about how we need Magny-Cours & Imola back as both circuits always produced rubbish racing & when they were a part of the F1 schedule everyone always complained about that fact.

      I’ve not seen a good race on either circuit in any single seater category, Not even GP2 managed it & back when both were on the schedule GP2 managed to produce great racing just about everywhere.

      Imola was good for racing on its original layout, But since they built the chicanes at Tamburello/Villeneuve the racing was always terrible.

      Both should be kept off the F1 schedule.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 16th June 2014, 20:29

        Personally, and I’m sure many would echo my rationale, I’d rather see cars race on exciting high-speed and well attended circuits with passionate crowds and not have wall-to-wall overtaking than see cars overtake on car-park Tilkedromes where the toilet attendants outnumber the spectators. And you are referring to racing in a completely different era, with a) more aerodynamic grip (and therefore greater aerodynamic turbulence) and b) without DRS (a DRS zone before the Adelaide hairpin would guarantee overtaking at Mangy-Cours and a zone on the pit-straight at Imola could aid passing into Tamburello). Inversely, one can only marvel at the great racing consistently served up by the Valencia Street Circuit, Yeongam, Buddh Circuit and Abu Dhabi…

        • Dizzy said on 16th June 2014, 21:16

          DRS highway passing is not overtaking & add’s no value to a race, They should not go to circuits & rely just on that gimmick to get false non-entertiainment.

          I also doubt they could use DRS at imole anyway because of the kink on the start straght added a few years ago which has been the scene on a couple big accidents without DRS generated stupid closing rates.

          Bad DRS, Ban it now before it completely kills the racing!

          DRS is rubbish, it isnt racing, it isnt exciting, nor intersting. its a stoud gimmick, artificial idiocy, ban the drs, ban it now!!!!

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th June 2014, 0:08

        I remember 2 great races at Imola in 2005 and 2006.

        • davey said on 17th June 2014, 1:09

          Only the final few laps were exciting but even then with overtaking impossible at Imola (There was only 1 on-track pass at Imola in 2006) it was obvious nothing of interest was going to happen unless they drove into each other which was highly unlikely given how both drivers were at the very best at the time.

          I always liked driving round both circuits on racing simulations but hated watching races on both just because they were never that interesting as nothing of interest really ever happened.

          • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 17th June 2014, 11:12

            …but the important point is there doesn’t always need to be overtakes to produce great racing. Why is there a Monaco Grand Prix and why is it a firm favourite with many fans if, in spite of the overtaking impossibilities, it doesn’t produce a great racing spectacle?

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 17th June 2014, 17:15

      @william-brierty I don’t think they’ll get anywhere near the 1:07 this year – I’d be even surprised if they go below 1:10 – or high 1:09’s in Q3.
      The track is pretty demanding on traction and they had TC back then – combined with the V10 power and the lighter weight, I don’t see this year’s car to be a match. Maybe the S3 times will be closer, but also there I don’t expect the 2014 cars to beat MSCs S3 time. But we’ll see.

  15. David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 16th June 2014, 17:34

    Now, all the world of motor racing needs is a brand new yet decent, F1-Standard circuit.

    Try not to pay Tilke do design it, by the way. Jon Anderson would do a better job at it I reckon.

    • anon said on 17th June 2014, 19:24

      I was under the impression that part of the issue is that, because racetrack construction is a pretty niche industry, that Tilke’s design studio was one of the few companies that can actually offer a “turnkey” operation.

      The other question is, in a number of situations, whether Tilke really has had a free hand in designing the circuit or, as is much more likely, he had to thread a circuit around infrastructure designed by other people.

      Valencia is one circuit which is criticised, but it should be borne in mind that part of the limitation was that the circuit had to use a certain amount of pre-existing roads to qualify for central government funding (it was technically paid for under a central government “regeneration” scheme). In Korea and Abu Dhabi, the circuits were in effect after thoughts tacked on to developments planned by other companies – as for Sochi, the International Olympic Committee effectively dictated the layout around the facilities there.

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