A new (or at least, revived) round of the championship was held not in some far-flung corner of the globe, but within easy reach of the teams’ headquarters. Instead of empty grandstands, locals flocked to the race in huge numbers.
There were surprises for the competitors as well. The Red Bull Ring may have been the first F1 venue to get the Hermann Tilke treatment back in 1997, but it retains a whisper of the character of the old Osterreichring. Drivers reacted with surprise to the rare pleasure of racing on a circuit where most of the corners are mid-to-high speed.
This should all set the scene for an exciting contest, but as recent rounds have shown Formula One is struggling to provide that at the moment.
Track data: Red Bull Ring
|Lap length||4.326km (2.688 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||307.02km (190.773 miles)|
|Lap record (in a race)||1’08.337 (Michael Schumacher, 2003)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’07.908 (Michael Schumacher, 2003, qualifying one)|
|Tyre comounds||Soft and Super-soft|
|2014 Rate the Race||6.7/10|
|2014 Driver of the Weekend||Valtteri Bottas|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Or, perhaps, none of those things. Yes, F1 has its problems, but that’s not to say it can’t serve up a good race when the stars align. We all know that – that’s why we all keep tuning in and turning up.
Last year’s Austrian Grand Prix weekend showed that even in hyper-professional Formula One, mistakes can be made – several slip-ups by Lewis Hamilton in qualifying compromised his and Nico Rosberg’s run in Q3 and opened the door for Williams to lock out the front row of the grid. That set up an intriguing race as the Mercedes drivers set about prising the lead from the hands of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
Twelve months on, no one has beaten Mercedes to a pole position since. But Williams and Ferrari could be a more competitive proposition this weekend, and the Red Bull Ring’s compact layout often serves to lessen the performance gap between cars.
Austrian Grand Prix team-by-team preview
Nico Rosberg won this race last year but while he remains firmly in contention for the championship there’s been a lack of conviction about his title bid so far. As he demonstrated last year, if he can line up in front of his team mate on the grid he should be able to count on getting to the chequered flag first.
Red Bull’s round of the world championship ironically takes place on a circuit which is profoundly ill-suited to its cars. Last year Christian Horner jokingly suggested they insert a few chicanes to break up the long straights on which their Renault power unit is outgunned.
It’s hard to see the team managing much better than the sole eighth place they mustered last year. It could turn out to be an even tougher weekend, as the threat of grid penalties looms overs their two drivers should they need a replacement engine.
Williams may have locked out the front row of the grid last year but that owed more to problems at Mercedes’ end. However hopes are high for the team as they plan to bring a significant upgrade package to this weekend’s race.
Valtteri Bottas has taken Ferrari scalps on more than one occasion already this year, and will be looking to repeat the form with which delivered his first podium finish in this race last year.
We may be yet to see the true combined effect of the aerodynamic upgrades Ferrari introduced in Spain, but did not immediately master, and the power unit revisions which came in Canada, the gains from which were disguised by Sebastian Vettel’s qualifying problems and Kimi Raikkonen’s mid-race spin.
That, plus Pirelli’s choice of the softest tyre mix for a circuit which includes several quick corners, may give Ferrari cause for optimism that they will have Mercedes within range this weekend.
The 2015 season is placing far higher demands on McLaren’s media spin-masters than it is their drivers. Both MP4-30s conked out as per routine in Canada, leaving the PR department to once again devise a fresh positive angle on an excruciating situation.
Nico Hulkenberg arrives fresh from winning one of the world’s greatest races but it was Sergio Perez who surprisingly led 11 laps of this race last year.
Don’t expect a repeat performance from Force India this time out, but they intend to have their B-spec car ready for the post-race test, which they hope will deliver front-end aero gains.
“It’s a bit of an old-school track,” said Verstappen, “which is the type of circuit I like.” He has some good memories from the circuit too: it was after testing a Formula Renault 3.5 car here last year that Red Bull took the surprising decision to promote him straight to F1.
Canada was by far the most impressive showing from Lotus so far, and but for Romain Grosjean’s needless collision with Will Stevens would have resulted in a strong double points finish.
“There’s nothing to say we can’t perform as we did in Montreal,” reckons technical director Nick Chester. However he admitted their usual pattern of being stronger in the races than in qualifying was inverted last time out. “Generally our drivers report an understeery car in qualifying but a more balanced car in the race, whereas this time the feedback was more of a well-balanced car in qualifying but some oversteer in the race.”
That season-opening fifth place in Melbourne now seems a distant memory. The C34 appears little-changed since then, which goes some way towards explaining why the team has only added seven points to the fifteen it scored in Australia.
Things are looking up for Roberto Merhi – he was on terms with team mate Will Stevens for the first time this year in Canada and he gave his Pons Formula Renault 3.5 team their first podium finish in four years at the Hungaroring last weekend.
2015 driver form
|Driver||G avg||R avg||R best||R worst||Classified||Form guide|
|Lewis Hamilton||1.14||1.57||1||3||7/7||Form guide|
|Nico Rosberg||2.14||2.00||1||3||7/7||Form guide|
|Daniel Ricciardo||6.71||8.00||5||13||7/7||Form guide|
|Daniil Kvyat||9.57||8.20||4||10||5/6||Form guide|
|Felipe Massa||8.00||7.43||4||15||7/7||Form guide|
|Valtteri Bottas||6.86||6.00||3||14||6/7||Form guide|
|Sebastian Vettel||5.00||3.14||1||5||7/7||Form guide|
|Kimi Raikkonen||6.00||4.17||2||6||6/7||Form guide|
|Fernando Alonso||14.83||11.50||11||12||2/6||Form guide|
|Jenson Button||16.29||12.25||8||16||4/6||Form guide|
|Nico Hulkenberg||12.14||11.33||7||15||6/7||Form guide|
|Sergio Perez||12.71||10.43||7||13||7/7||Form guide|
|Max Verstappen||11.29||12.50||7||17||4/7||Form guide|
|Carlos Sainz Jnr||11.57||10.17||8||13||6/7||Form guide|
|Romain Grosjean||9.57||9.17||7||12||6/7||Form guide|
|Pastor Maldonado||10.57||11.00||7||15||2/7||Form guide|
|Marcus Ericsson||13.14||12.17||8||14||6/7||Form guide|
|Felipe Nasr||12.86||10.57||5||16||7/7||Form guide|
|Will Stevens||18.50||16.40||15||17||5/5||Form guide|
|Roberto Merhi||18.83||16.40||15||18||5/6||Form guide|
|Kevin Magnussen||17.00||0/0||Form guide|
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2015 Austrian Grand Prix
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- Vote for your 2015 Austrian GP Driver of the Weekend