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. 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?

  2. DaveW (@dmw) said on 16th June 2014, 18:44

    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.

  3. PeterG said on 16th June 2014, 19:55

    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.

    • Strontium (@strontium) said on 17th June 2014, 0:28

      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.

      • PeterG said on 17th June 2014, 1:14

        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.

  4. our nige (@our-nige) said on 16th June 2014, 20:43

    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.

  5. SauberS1 (@saubers1) said on 16th June 2014, 22:48

    I can’t wait, I’m very exciting!

  6. SauberS1 (@saubers1) said on 16th June 2014, 22:50

    can’t wait, I’m very excited!

  7. ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 17th June 2014, 0:25

    I like this track.

    Infact, it was probably one of the first F1 races I watched part of. I seem to remember being at a 5-a-side football tournament in Clacton in 1997, and my friend’s dad who drove us there had his portable TV (a tiny little thing with an arial – May have only been black and white, too…). I seem to remember it being at the A1 ring…

    It was always cool to drive on the F1 games, too.

    Ok, it’s not the Osterreichring, BUT… It does at least still contain part of the old track (the start-finish, and still uses part of the Texaco curves), so there’s still that history there. Plus, it is effectively the same circuit, just modernised to facilitate the high-downforce cars (ie. tighter corners). These cars would just be flat out throughout the entire track, otherwise (still, i’d of course rather see that than the A1… but you get me).

    Nice, short track. History. Still has the flavour of the old track.

    I’m all for it.

    Oh, and don’t forget the beautiful green scenery, and the insane elevation changes! Love it.

    PS – Jochen Rindt curves are tremendous…

  8. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 17th June 2014, 11:06

    There seems to be a general approval of the current circuit (albeit with nostalgia for the original version), and someone has compared it to Interlagos. I wonder if some of its appeal is the fact that it has quite a lot of elevation change (just like Interlagos). Up and down slopes into and out of corners make a tremendous difference to the character of the turns and provide excellent spectator entertainment and opportunity.
    This seems to be a factor that has been written out of most Tilke tracks.
    Personally, I think this is a great track. Turn 2 is often very entertaining in lots of different formulae.

  9. Schlawiner (@bebilou) said on 17th June 2014, 13:09

    Just compare the 2 layouts (old & new), and cry. This is the biggest massacre of racing tracks history.
    Only 3 fast corners. The rest of the layout is boringly slow: it’s an insult to the former track.

  10. montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 17th June 2014, 17:27

    Great track that I like very much and always have. I can’t fathom those who would prefer having Magny Cours back instead of this. Magny Cours was the first ever Tilkedrome before even Tilke himself started ruining our GP weekends. This though is not a Tilkedrome even if the re-design was his: simple, fast, elevation changes(also mid-corner), off-camber corners that also reward attacking, short circuit with plenty of laps(good for the spectators on scene and everyone else)

    @keithcollantine That scribble of the Osterraichring is wrong. After BoschCurve the track went all the way till the current straight between turn 1 and turn 2(You can see it on the current track’s sat image). Then it had the current shaped corner but obviously of a much bigger radius

  11. Mark McDonald said on 17th June 2014, 19:18

    I’m happy that Austria is back on the calendar, but I sure do long for the circuit that I loved so much in my younger days (84,85,86.) The Osterreichring (and Zandvoort) used to be the high points of the season.

  12. JSC said on 18th June 2014, 11:46

    Large though the run off areas were, they weren’t particularly forgiving – I remember Schumacher and Barrichello taking car wrecking excursions through the gravel traps at the penultimate corner.

    I imagine that the gravel has now been replaced by tarmac, so it is unlikely anybody leaving the circuit will now suffer from anything more than a bit of lost time!

  13. Except for the Barrichello letting Schumacher through 50m before the end I don’t remember any race on this track.

  14. jpwildman said on 19th June 2014, 0:05

    The best motor racing circuits in the world feel like a journey. A lap onboard a Formula 1 car is a high-octane enactment of a cross-country trip through hills, valleys, past memorable landmarks, on snaking, meandering roadways. A lap on a great track feels like leaving a humble abode and arriving at an uncanny destination, and, despite its less than inspired layout idiosyncrasies, the ‘Ring provides that vital sensation of journeying at light-speed. Many Tilke tracks don’t afford the spectator that roller-coaster narrative, dashing the sport of its vital essence. Having the Austrian GP return to the calendar is, by motor racing standards, quite literally a trip down memory lane.

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