Mercedes should be back on top in Red Bull’s backyard

2014 Austrian Grand Prix preview

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Fifty years since the first world championship Austrian Grand Prix, one of F1’s historic races returns this weekend.

It’s the first F1 race in Austria since 2003, after which its track became one of several casualties among European racing venues as Formula One expanded into new territory.

But the failures of far-flung races in South Korea and India left gaps to fill on the 2014 schedule. Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz swooped at the opportunity to restore Austria to the F1 schedule and it proved a popular move: tickets for the race sold out long ago, something which could not have been said of the two events which have been dropped.

This is the second return to the calendar for the venue now known as the Red Bull Ring. In its original incarnation, the Osterreichring was once the fastest circuit in Formula One. Axed from the calendar in 1987, it returned a decade later, renamed the A1-Ring.

At the time it was the first major F1 circuit construction to have been handled by the company which has held a near-monopoly on F1 track design since: Tilke Gmbh. While the passing of the grand old circuit is still lamented, the short and simple truncated version has its own appeal.

During its last run from 1997 to 2003 the A1-Ring gained a reputation for producing good races enlivened by several passing opportunities. Hopefully that will not be damaged too much by the addition of a pair of DRS zones.

Red Bull Ring circuit information

Lap length4.326km (2.688 miles)
Distance71 laps (307km/190.8 miles)
Lap record*1’08.337 (Michael Schumacher, 2003)
Fastest lap1’07.908 (Michael Schumacher, 2003)
TyresSoft and Super-soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Red Bull Ring track data in full

The irony of this track being owned by Red Bull can’t have escaped anybody, because one look at the track layout tells you it is unlikely to be a happy hunting ground for their F1 cars. Team principal Christian Horner joked about installing chicanes on its long straights to tip the balance away from horsepower, which they lack, and towards downforce, which they have in abundance.

But the last race was a timely reminder that Red Bull’s well-drilled F1 operation is never to be underestimated. On a day when Mercedes faltered and teams such as Force India and Williams could or even should have won, Red Bull were the ones who capitalised. Still, it’s hard to see them doing so again without another double disaster for Mercedes.

The latter part of the lap does offer something for the RB10 to get its teeth into, in the form of a few quick corners in the model of the old course. The presence of these bends make it all the more surprising Pirelli have allocated their softest available tyres for this race.

F1’s official tyre supplier has previously played it safe with their tyre choices when heading to new venues. The choice of the soft and super-soft rubber is another indication how conservative this year’s compounds are.

Another distinguishing feature of the Red Bull Ring is its relatively high altitude. Located 660m above sea level in the Styrian mountains, this is the highest venue on the calendar bar Interlagos in Brazil (750m).

This could have an effect on reliability. “At the time of naturally aspirated engines, the altitude – the circuit is over 600 metres above sea level – made life easier from a reliability point of view,” explained Ferrari’s engine and electronics deputy director Mattia Binotto. “But now with the use of the turbocharger this advantage is cancelled and we can expect a similar challenge to that posed by the Montreal circuit.”

Austrian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Austrian-owned but British-based, this is the first of two consecutive home races for the world champions, ahead of the British Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

Daniel Ricciardo arrives at the circuit on a high following his breakthrough win, but he and team mate Sebastian Vettel are likely to be hampered by their car’s lack of straight-line speed once again.


Lewis Hamilton’s second retirement of the season in Canada undid much of his work hauling in team mate Nico Rosberg in the championship.

“I caught up before and I can catch up again,” he said. “It’s going to take another four wins to make the difference so I’m going to do my best to get those results.” With two DNFs to his team mate’s none, he could do with a little help from the law of averages.


Given their poor performance in Bahrain and Canada, expect another tough weekend for Ferrari at a venue where power is especially important.

However technical director James Allison says the team has increased its rate of development: “In recent races we have brought more upgrades than usual to the track and this has improved our position marginally.”


Lotus’s resurgence faltered in Canada, but Romain Grosjean is optimistic of a better showing this weekend.

“I don’t think the circuit should be as much of a challenge to us as Monaco or Montreal,” he said. “Certainly there are fewer low speed corners which seem to have been more difficult for us this season and the downforce level could suit us better too.”


Jenson Button snatched an unheralded fourth place in Canada. But McLaren are doubtful of making big gains in Austria.

“We’ll be evaluating a number of short- and long-term performance steps,” said racing director Eric Boullier. “It’s still too early to feel confident about calling them race-able options – it’s more about evaluating their applicability at the circuit than simply hoping they’ll improve lap-time.”

Force India

As Canada suited Force India well, the team expect Austria will too. That should give Sergio Perez a chance to make amends for losing a strong finish on the final lap, though his collision with Felipe Massa means he has a five-place grid penalty this weekend.


It’s hard to see any major step forward from Sauber after their dreadfully tough 2014 continued in Canada.

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne was in fine form in Montreal while Daniil Kvyat suffered a trying grand prix. The latter has tackled a lot of new tracks this year, so he will be pleased to be among the few drivers with prior experience of this circuit.


It’s starting to look a bit like 2012 for Williams, who have all too often failed to capitalise on the potential of the FW35. Its Mercedes engine should make them a force to be reckoned with here, if they can avoid any hiccups.


From the high of Monaco to the low of Montreal. Chilton’s three-place grid penalty should at least limit his opportunity to wipe out both the team’s cars on the first lap.


Some wild rumours after the Canadian Grand Prix claimed Caterham wouldn’t be racing in Austria. That proved not to be the case, but it’s hard to see them doing anything other than bringing up the rear of the field.

2014 driver form

DriverG avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel7.004.20365/7Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo4.863.00145/7Form guide
Lewis Hamilton1.431.20125/7Form guide
Nico Rosberg2.141.71127/7Form guide
Fernando Alonso6.005.14397/7Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.869.437127/7Form guide
Romain Grosjean13.439.758124/7Form guide
Pastor Maldonado18.4314.3314153/7Form guide
Jenson Button9.578.293177/7Form guide
Kevin Magnussen9.869.172136/7Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg9.296.005107/7Form guide
Sergio Perez12.008.403115/6Form guide
Adrian Sutil16.5713.6711173/7Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez16.8614.5012164/7Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne10.719.338123/7Form guide
Daniil Kvyat11.4310.809145/7Form guide
Felipe Massa9.2910.177156/7Form guide
Valtteri Bottas9.146.67586/7Form guide
Jules Bianchi19.0015.009184/7Form guide
Max Chilton19.1415.5013196/7Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi18.7114.7513184/7Form guide
Marcus Ericsson20.2916.2511204/7Form guide

Are you going to the Austrian Grand Prix?

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Austrian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2014 Austrian Grand Prix

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Images © Renault/LAT, Red Bull/Getty, Lotus/LAT, Williams/LAT

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Mercedes should be back on top in Red Bull’s backyard”

  1. Hamilton retired in Canada, not Austria! I hope he doesn’t retire in Austria!

  2. Lets see how wide they will try to go around turn 1.
    In Monza a couple of years ago they allowed the drivers to go wide on the exit of the last corner. The claim was that if they wanted to take the longer route than it was ok.

  3. As much as I’m looking forward to the race, I’m also curious in seeing how decked out the place is with Red Bull stuff. The range of sports they touch is really hard to comprehend, I imagine they’ll put on quite the show off the track in their homeland.

  4. “Chilton’s three-place grid penalty should at least limit his opportunity to wipe out both the team’s cars on the first lap” Brilliant, I think he was the only person in the world who couldn’t see that his own stupid fault…

  5. Only one sentence about Sauber. Probably, because currently it’s the dullest team on the grid.

  6. 2 DRS zones again. Why don’t they just cut it off already?! untested territory, and they risk producing a ridiculous Autobahn-like race.

  7. Obviously the Mercs will be the cars to beat, but what I like about this weekend, this venue, is that it cannot be called ‘LH’s track’. I highlight LH only because it seems few have talked about any of the tracks being ‘Nico’s’ other than perhaps China, but several tracks have been called ‘Lewis’s’. Perhaps that is only natural because LH has had race-winning and WDC capable equipment far more often than NR, but anyway the point being this is either drivers’ track this weekend, and that’s exciting.

    1. Hold on. Articles and commentators have said there have been two Nico tracks so far, China and Monaco, even some hints about Bahrain whereas there has been one for Hamilton, Canada. I also love the fact that its a new race and we just don’t know who is probably going to be better.

    2. Lewis hasn’t ever driven an F1 car at this circuit (maybe he’s never raced anything at this circuit) while Nico definitely has (in a Williams I think) – maybe a small advantage?

      1. The last race held at this track was in 2003. Rosberg joined in 2006.

  8. I too think that Merc will dominate but I’m not absolutely certain that they will blow the rest away like they did in Bahrain or Montreal (before they had troubles). Reason why I’m not convinced is the rather unique layout and the missing data/experience regarding track evolution.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      19th June 2014, 15:27

      But then… they’re all missing that data. Not just Merc.

      To be honest, I think the short lap distance will allow Merc to lap quite a few cars this weekend.

      1. yes but if Merc doesn’t get it completely right and either Ferrari or RBR do then I think they might be vulnerable – if not really for the win then maybe to split the 1-2 – but we’ll see.

    2. Are the straights as long as in Canada?

      1. @mike-dee I think it’s a bit shorter – the longest straight between T1 and T2 is about 850m or so. In Canada the back straight is 1.1 km if I’m not mistaken.

  9. I like how every Austria GP preview article in the web has to use pictures of the old 2002-2003 F1 cars, certainly better looking than now!

  10. Interesting thing from Kimi at the press coneference:

    Luca di Montezemolo, chairman of Ferrari, says that Formula 1 has become boring. What do you think?

    “I think F1 would not be boring if we would win all the races, believe me!”

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