Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Ring, 2018

The 2019 F1 driver market comes to life in Austria

Paddock Diary: Austrian Grand Prix day one

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Kimi Raikkonen back to Sauber? Daniel Ricciardo staying put? Ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend the talk in the paddock is all about the 2019 F1 driver market as @DieterRencken reports.

4:30am Thursday

Alarm jolts me, up and out, ready for 45-minute drive to Brussels Airport. Through all formalities in a flash, and at the gate 15 minutes before boarding commences. The Vienna flight is listed ‘On Time’, and all are on board by take-off slot. We are delayed slightly, but land punctually. Hope the weekend continues as is started.


I’d arranged to give two mates a lift to the circuit – situated 160 miles south of Austria’s capital, about the only negative about Spielberg – subject to getting an upgraded rental car as they have big bags. The journalists Michael Lamonato (with whom I record my Box of Neutrals podcast) and Abhishek Takle, had flown across from Australia and India respectively for a set of races.

The trick is to request an upgrade without paying – the Europcar lady obliges magnificently: Golf? Petrol or diesel? Manual or Automatic? I settle for a Golf D with DSG ’box, and off we go. The roads are traffic free(ish) – even at that hour – and we arrive at the circuit situated in the magnificent Styrian mountains shortly before noon. Oh that every grand prix started so effortlessly.

As I walk in I’m struck by an enormous sign: Welcome Race Fans. What a wonderful gesture, I decide, even if it should be spelt ‘RaceFans’. Minor typos I can forgive…


Inside Red Bull's Holzhaus
Inside Red Bull’s Holzhaus
The Red Bull Ring is known for its superb hospitality, and today’s lunch is no exception: grilled chicken, accompanied by vegetable curry, followed by yoghurt and fruit. In the paddock a stall offers traditional Austrian country fare: various meats and sausages, salads and rye bread. Say what you like about Red Bull’s products, the company sure does things in style.


Head out to record my Viasat podcast, which will appear on Tuesday. During our chat I allude to the latest rumour: The stellar Charles Leclerc could be swapped with Kimi Räikkönen at Ferrari from the Belgian Grand Prix as preparation for a full 2019 F1 campaign as team-mate to Sebastian Vettel. The story, from two sources, has it that Kimi has been offered ‘return to the team you made your F1 debut with’ deal, or out.

There have been, of course, more outlandish stories that ultimately turned out to be true, and in F1 rumours often turn out to be premature facts, so let’s see where it goes. Certainly, Kimi still has many friends at Sauber, and long-standing team members would welcome the Finn back, even if just for half a season. Who knows, Kimi being Kimi, he may just accept…

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Interviews start, and I cover Williams before heading back to the Media Centre to catch the 3pm press conference. I’m amused by Daniel Ricciardo’s attempts at answering questions about his future without answering them, if you know what I mean. Double speak is clearly as much a part of a race driver’s skill set as late braking. My sources indicate an announcement is due soon.

“SoS we call it: Spielberg or Silverstone…” one said, which makes sense as the former is the team’s home circuit and Silverstone its spiritual base.

Sitcker tape driver portraits in the Holzhaus
Sitcker tape driver portraits in the Holzhaus
Thereafter its time for more interviews, plus more sleuthing.


Time to head for Red Bull’s Welcome Party at Das Holzhaus – Red Bull’s wooden Energy Station, built in rustic style and more usually used for Moto GP hospitality, but erected in Spielberg on account of the triple-header logistics, so the usual steel grey F1 hospitality unit did duty in France before heading to Silverstone.

I’m impressed by the Holzhaus’s minimalism, yet it seems to provide every facility while offering wonderful of the Styrian countryside from the rooftop terrace. Dinner is a choice of hähnchen schnitzel (Austrian fried chicken), goulash with spätzle (fried noodles) and local meats and cheeses.


I depart Red Bull before the England-Belgium football match starts – I’m outnumbered by the Brit Pack given that I obviously support my adoptive nation, plus its time to check into my cottage in Knittelfeld, a 10-minute drive away. Checked in, I watch the match idly while reflecting on the day’s proceedings.

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2018 Austrian Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Dieter Rencken
    Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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    9 comments on “The 2019 F1 driver market comes to life in Austria”

    1. 8 am: I wake up without alarm.
      wash. breakfast, cereal, coffee.
      The trick is to avoid all Dieter articles until late morning, my wife obliges magnificently
      by asking me to round up the kids and dog and set off for the park.

      9.57: However, at the park I read “Driver market comes to life in Austria” by Dieter.
      It is so obvious that every word of this is untrue, I just want to throw my phone in the pond. I refrain as my wife hands me a delicious coffee and sticky bun. Things are looking up again.

    2. “What a wonderful gesture, I decide, even if it should be spelt ‘RaceFans’. Minor typos I can forgive…”

      Genius :)

    3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      29th June 2018, 10:11

      There is bound to be a miscreant available to spraypaint dot net on that sign

    4. These reports are an excellent addition to the site, thanks!

    5. Is there a chance of an upset here? I know it all seems settled with Merc, Ferrari and RB but is it and is Renault still in the mix?

    6. Really love these. As someone who doesn’t live within 1000 miles of a trackon the calendar, it is great to get this sort of behind the scenes look at the weekend.

    7. Sounds like a real hard life….

    8. Best article series together with the Stats and Facts!

      Never thought I would enjoy reading about food other people eat. Turns out, if it is F1 food, I like reading about it 😀

    Comments are closed.