Even with the new, faster generation of F1 cars it’s unusual to see outright race lap records being broken, at least for F1’s older circuits.
This is because most records were set in the early-to-mid 2000s when a combination of V10 engines, tyre war rubber, lower minimum weight limits and in-race refuelling meant cars were capable of lapping more quickly later in races.
However there’s a good chance that a 14-year-old lap record will be broken this weekend at the Red Bull Ring. The benchmark dates back to when the track was still called the A1-Ring.
Michael Schumacher set the current record of 1’08.337 on his way to winning the 2003 race on F1’s last visit to the track before its 2014 return. Last year Lewis Hamilton got within a few hundredths of a second of beating it.
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So far this year the cars have lapped at least 0.7 seconds quicker at every circuit than they did 12 months ago, and often much more than that. So providing race day is dry we should see a new lap record on Sunday.
The Red Bull Ring is the shortest track of the year in terms of lap time. The all-time track record set by Hamilton last year, a 1’06.228, was around four seconds less than that seen at Interlagos, the next-shortest lap time. We can therefore expect to see a very close grid in terms of lap times.
The venue formerly known as the Osterreichring first held a round of the world championship in 1970. However the track configuration used today does not share a single significant corner with the old layout.
That may change in the future, as owners Red Bull have been looking into re-opening part of the track which used to be the quickest in Formula One.
The current version of the track joined the calendar 20 years. The abbreviated A1-Ring was Formula One’s first taste of Hermann Tilke’s brand of circuit design. Today almost every venue on the calendar has at least one Tilke-designed corner, and most new tracks have been designed by him.
The form book
Williams have their most recent pole position to date at this track. Felipe Massa took pole in 2014, taking advantages of errors by the Mercedes drivers in Q3.
Nico Rosberg came close to completing a hat-trick of wins at the circuit last year. Having won the 2014 and 2015 races he began the final lap in first place last year, only to be overtaken by Lewis Hamilton. Nonetheless Mercedes have been undefeated at Red Bull’s track since it returned to the calendar.
Max Verstappen at least managed to lead five laps for Red Bull last year, the first they had led on home ground. He left Azerbaijan in a foul mood, refusing to speak to the media following his fourth retirement of the year and the third due to a technical problem. He has the worst finishing rate of any driver who’s started every race so far this year.
Hamilton continued to assert his supremacy in qualifying at the last race, taking his fifth pole position out of the eight races so far. No other driver has had more than one pole position yet. Another for Hamilton on Saturday would be the 67th of his career and give him the chance to equal Schumachers all-time record of 68 at his home race next week.
His title rival Sebastian Vettel will have to be on his best behaviour. He arrives in Austria with nine penalty points on his licence, the most any driver has ever amassed, and three more will earn him a one-race ban:
The fastest lap set during each Austrian Grand Prix weekend:
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