Start, Osterreichring, 1987 Austrian Grand Prix

Changing tracks: Red Bull Ring

Changing tracksPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

73 comments on “Changing tracks: Red Bull Ring”

  1. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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….

        1. 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.

          1. 2012 was pretty epic if you ask me…

          2. @jaymenon10 it’s like I said, because of five accidents and a bunch of safety cars, along with engine failures, which does not reflect the rest of the races there. 2011 had DRS and that was the second most boring F1 race I have ever watched.

  2. 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.

    1. Piyush (@square-route)
      16th June 2014, 13:23

      Others have … but not in F1

    2. Other drivers to have raced here are Rosberg, Vettel, Sutil (when it was the A1-Ring, in Formula BMW championships), while Kvyat and Magnussen have driven in the Red Bull Ring iteration, Magnussen last year in WSR, Kvyat in 2012 in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps.

  3. “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?

    1. @paeschli When RBR bought it they wanted to extend the old circuit with a “West-Schleife” to include the original track as well (from the 1970s), but the environmental study failed and they went ahead with the original A1 layout and refurbished it + included a cart track, some off-road tracks and some alternative layouts to accommodate various series. I think the switch from the West-Schleife concept to the concept we se now is what you mean.

      1. “West-Schleife”, isn’t that the dutch version of the popular Irish boy band? ;D

    2. Here’s the proposed layout. Looks interesting, though I don’t know if it would improve racing in any way, especially the Remus complex looks something similar to Bahrain’s endurance layout.

      1. It kind of misses the point.
        Could have been worse though – the proposal from 1994 on that page is horrible!

        1. @bullfrog Yeah, a proper Tilkedrome it could’ve been.

          1. The current layout was designed by Tilke.

            It was the 1st F1 circuit he handled & the praise it got from drivers & fans was what led him to get the contract to design Sepang & again the praise he got from that got him a longer term deal.

      2. Thanks everybody for the quick anwser :)

      3. Nice to see the link still using “Niki Lauda Kurve” and “Gerhard Berger Kurve” as names for the respective turns. The turns have been given new sponsor-names, but I think nobody shall ever use those.

        Furthermore we, the F1-fans (and I sincerely hope I can speak for all of us on this matter), insist the name of the “Jochen Rindt Kurve” shall never be changed. Ever.

  4. 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. 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.

    1. 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).

    2. 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. 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.)

    1. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall)
      16th June 2014, 12:36

      Two DRS zones on the pit and back straights.

      1. Gideon Hadi (@)
        16th June 2014, 17:11

        how long both DRS zones???

    2. I think there’s one on the pit straight and one between turns 2 and 3.

  7. 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.

    1. Yes. Do we know how many years the contract is?

      1. I don’t know, sorry.

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

    1. of the *last round of the World Championship…….

  9. Robert McKay
    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.

    1. “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. 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. Geez that Ferrari looks horrible to drive in that video

  12. typo on first line on zeltweg

    1. Lewisham Milton
      16th June 2014, 20:53

      It’s Zeltwet when it rains.

  13. 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)
    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.

    1. “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.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        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/.

        1. 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.

          1. Mr win or lose
            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.

    2. 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)

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        16th June 2014, 18:03

        @strontium – My ideal European calender would see additional rounds at Imola and Mangy Cours, and Austria replaced by a Portuguese Grand Prix at the fabulous Portimao circuit.

    3. 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.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        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…

        1. 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!!!!

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

        1. 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.

          1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            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?

    4. @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. 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.

    1. 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.

  16. Given how short this track is in terms of distance, I wonder what the shortest track has been in F1 in terms of time. For example, have there ever been any tracks which have been lapped in under 1 minute in history?

    1. Indy (with the asterisk). Shortest time but not shortest track.

    2. Possibly Dijon. And the Paul Ricard short circuit (used in the late 80s) was not much over a minute.

      1. For a Formula One-regulated race, the shortest ever lap time was at the 1974 French Grand Prix at Dijon, which enabled a pole-position time of 58.79 seconds set by Niki Lauda in a Ferrari.

  17. I never hated A1. It’s one of the few tracks left where you feel like you are “going somewhere.” The plunge from T1 to T2 seems breathtaking, and the scenery is beautiful. Of course these wonderful straights usually end in a sharp hairpin or 90-degree corner. But I’ll take this over 10 Koreas or Abu Dhabis that just seem to be a car in no place going nowhere.

  18. Considering how this circuit was always one of the easiest circuits to overtake on, I dread to think what 2 DRS zones on the 2 parts of the circuit that always produced lots of overtaking is going to produce.

    If there was ever 1 circuit that never needed any DRS zones its this one.

    If they insist on keeping DRS they really need to look at using it better.
    Not every track needs 2 zones,
    Some tracks would be fine with no DRS at all,
    Why always put it on the long straights where there was already overtaking.

    1. I agree. DRS shouldn’t be used for the sake of it. It needs to be done sparingly. The likes of Brazil don’t need any zones, while some tracks could get 1. Few could get 2 if it is reasonable, but not every track has to have 2 zones.

      1. I think Montreal shows how to do DRS badly.

        The single detection point miles before the activation line which discourages overtaking into the hairpin.
        Then a long zone on the place where we already saw all the overtaking with a 2nd zone directly after.

        The 1 detection point for both zones then usually works to allow a pass into the final corner & allow the passing car to the pull away down to turn 1 killing any opportunity for the car which got passed to try & get the place back.

        The whole way they use DRS is just so unimaginative & the only thought it clearly to simply guarantee a high quantity of passing regardless of quality & regardless of how it often has a negative impact on the quality of the racing & battling.

        DRS does help improve overtaking possibilities on some circuits, But its completely unnecisary others & does nothing but hurt the racing rather than help it.

  19. I was at the 1999 race Eddie Irvine won and thought the track was quite good. You can walk on the old track after Turn one and you have good viewing points around the track.

  20. I can’t wait, I’m very exciting!

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