Fans, Red Bull Ring, 2018

Why the Red Bull Ring showed Paul Ricard how to run a race

Paddock Diary: Austrian Grand Prix day four

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Visiting the Red Bull Ring was a breath of fresh, Alpine, air for @DieterRencken after the horrendous traffic problems at Paul Ricard one week earlier.

9am Sunday

The full scale of Red Bull's impressive 'Holzhaus'
The full scale of Red Bull’s impressive ‘Holzhaus’
Arrive at circuit, breakfast – standard Continental – then take a call from the media centre: I’ve been granted access to the pit building roof to have an unimpeded view of Red Bull’s ‘Holzhaus’ Energy Station. So large is this wooden, ‘rustic’ building that it’s impossible to photograph in its entirety from the paddock.

The hospitality unit serves Red Bull’s KTM and Honda teams at Moto GP, and provides a marketing base for the company’s Rookie Cup championship – a separate ex-F1 unit provides hospitality for the junior series. I’d been told that the Holzhaus ruffled a few feathers in the Moto GP paddock, and once I’m on the rooftop I see why.

It’s simply enormous, dwarfing the (already spacious) Mercedes unit beside it. Yet it’s only Red Bull’s third-largest unit, after the special Monaco floating motorhome and F1 units which serve both Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso. From the roof it’s also obvious the company spares no expense on facilities: Red Bull’s track-side F1 technical centre is by far the largest unit in the paddock.

12:15pm

Head for lunch at Pirelli – I’d booked a table for four. If that sounds restaurant style, it’s because the kitchen and service would do a superior restaurant proud. Today is no exception. Apart from an extensive buffet, the kitchen offers a full menu. An Australian colleague and I order swordfish with Mediterranean vegetables; the other two in the party fancy steak and ravioli respectively.

Tasty desserts round off a superb dining experience. Thanks guys!

1:30pm

The day drags through to pit lane opening at 2:30pm. Sure, there are frissons of excitement when news breaks that Fernando Alonso will start from the pit lane and Brendon Hartley incurs a tactical engine change. But, frankly, the sooner Liberty return to traditional start times, the better for F1 personnel. When experiments don’t work, scrap them.

2:30pm

On the grid I chat with Derek Warwick, ex-F1 driver and BRDC president and driver steward for this race, and I’m reminded of a discussion I had with Stuart Pringle, CEO of Silverstone, on Saturday, namely my suggestion that the club, owner of the circuit should seek a one-year extension to present contract, which expires (prematurely) in 2019.

Post-2020 F1 is currently in limbo, plus Lewis Hamilton is talking of a two-year deal with Mercedes ahead of retiring – at end-2020. Both factors are crucial to the success of the race, so extending the current deal makes sense: Liberty and the BRDC have clearer ideas of F1’s landscape and Lewis’s future, which affects crowds. It also provides a longer negotiating window just as Liberty battles to maintain 20-race calendars.

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5:30pm

After the (downcast) post-race session with Toto Wolff, I mention Christian Horner’s suggestion that the Red Bull-developed Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro could beat Porsche’s new Nürburgring Norschleife lap record – salient in view of his comments on Friday that Mercedes would be unlikely to fund such a project. He perks up and divulges that Mercedes is looking at doing a lap simulation.

What if data shows an adapted Mercedes F1 car could smash the record? There’s a thought…

7:30pm

Leave circuit, and reflect on the weekend as I drive out. It’s been an absolute pleasure staying within 10 minutes of the track and commuting on unclogged roads controlled by friendly wardens. Unlike Paul Ricard a week ago, everything just worked in Spielberg.

If attendance figures are to be believed – I’ve been in the business too long to glibly swallow numbers put out by promoters who need to justify events – Spielberg hosted 185,000 walk-ins over four days, whereas the French circuit pulled 165,000 punters. Both circuits are situated in rural areas, with the closest city, in this case Graz, being around 45 miles away.

From Paul Ricard it took me two-and-a-half hours to drive 45 miles to Marseilles. From the Red Bull Ring this weekend I took the same time to cover the 140-mile journey to Vienna airport. And in France I left it and hour-and-a-half longer after the race to leave the track.

I expect my experience will have been shared by many fans who attended these races. So is there any wonder the French circuit (reportedly) received scathing reviews from Liberty, whereas Spielberg will (deservedly) receive high scores?

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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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19 comments on “Why the Red Bull Ring showed Paul Ricard how to run a race”

  1. enjoyable perspective as ever. my main takeaway from these articles is just how well the paddock eats – it’s somewhat gratifying to know that teams take pride in doing this kind of thing well. it also reminds me of a regular feature that used to run in F1 News magazine where they interviewed the caterers of each team – they were far more revealing than you might expect. i recall that minardi routinely had the finest ingredients and some eye-popping adventures going to buy groceries in sao paulo.

    1. YellowSubmarine
      3rd July 2018, 0:17

      Have noted the eats comments in the articles as well. Is the chow free? lol

      1. No, but it’s chow MINE!

  2. It looked great fun on TV. I love these old circuits on the calendar. My only issues is the stupid CGI Heineken star they keep putting in. It makes this racing look juvenile and are distracting.

    1. @Shippy I don’t find the trackside CGI-ads distracting.

      1. @jerejj I also don’t find trackside CGI ads distracting, but overtrack CGI ads I do. Distracting and detracting.

    2. I agree, it was horrid along with the giant flashing f1 logo.

  3. Thanks @DieterRencken. Did you meet Bernie Ecclestone? As far as I know he showed up.
    Bernie was always highly appreciative of Mateschitz and had good relationship with him.

    1. Were the Liberty people like Shawn Bratches there to see how classic purpose build tracks, altough far from a city center, are better for F1 than a dime in a dozen street tracks, Dieter?

  4. I expect my experience will have been shared by many fans who attended these (France/Austria) races.

    I am so glad that these races occurred in succession. Last week, when various journalists complained about the traffic problems, there was a recurring (though not dominant) theme in the comments that the journos were being too harsh on the Paul Ricard circuit, and that other circuits have also faced traffic problems, insinuating that the journos were biased against the French circuit for . So, to see the various reviews stating just how hassle-free it was to attend the race weekend, and with people drawing a comparison between them, it seems to fittingly put paid to those claims.

  5. Sergiu Fotache
    2nd July 2018, 21:00

    I drove to the circuit from Romania. It was about 13:30 when I had 8 more kilometers to the circuit when I reached the first exit from the highway to the circuit where it was closed, it was open only for VIPs if I remember well. There was a lady from the staff which was guiding the cars to another exit. After another 4-5 km there was another exit where we also got out of the highway to a more rural road, which was full of staff guiding us around. It was flawless, the parking, the whole thing. I left the car in the parking lot at about 13:45. It was so easy. Getting out of the parking lot took me about max. 30 minutes, but I think that was good.

    I`ve also been at the Hungaroring in the last couple of years, it wasn`t that great, only if you really got there with 2-3 hours before.

    I heard it was chaos at the Paul Ricard circuit, maybe they will learn from it for 2019.

  6. Soo Mercedes and RedBull tackling Nurburgring lap record…

    I wanna see Lewis H. Driving a simulated lap of the place in a quali mode Mercedes with de-restricted power supply.

    1. Not sure Lewis would be the best one to do, The Lap, on-track. In the simulator, yes. There are probably some quick drivers with more experience on the course.
      What would really be an interesting adventure would be to use a non hybrid, “out of date” 3 L V-10 car. If that can lap faster than the Porsche, it would help to keep some perspective. Especially if it were faster than the Porsche.
      To be realistic, Toto is probably right, leave well enough alone.

  7. Thanks for mentioning the comparison ( contrast ) with the Paul Ricard fiasco last week. Until this moment none of the fans received any response, let alone an apology from the French promoter. It’s a shame that while we continue to see Quantum leaps when it comes to enhancing safety for the F1drivers, global expansion, monetizing/ commercialization of the sport and increase in revenues for the owners, we still continue to stagnate in the dark ages when it comes to taking care of the fans. I’m glad that reporters like yourself haven’t forgotten the fans and continue to bring up this issue.
    Thanks again

  8. A S (@aminsarur)
    3rd July 2018, 4:47

    I went there in 2015, race was a little bit boring, but the setting was simply amazing.

  9. We went there last year, I really liked the experience. And are looking at going again next year (this year personal issues prevented it).

    As you say @dieterrencken, it was definitely an example of a well organized event, and I’m glad it looks like they got a bigger number of people attending this year,as it is a good advertisement of the events Red Bull can organize.

  10. I live in Austria since four years. Whether it’s sporting events, big music festivals or any other event that involves gathering a large number of people, cars and machinery in the same place, the organization is always impeccable. Nothing is left to chance. I am not saying Austria is perfect. But when it comes to event organization, other countries, even the most developed, have a lot to learn from the green alpine country.

  11. In agreement with several other posters above, attending Austrian GP was a super experience. Went with the ‘Three Corner’ weekend ticket sitting in: Steiermark Tribune, Red Bull Tribune and Start/Finish.

    Took an apartment that was 8km away for an easy 10 min drive to the circuit, efficient organisation of the parking as others have mentioned.

    Views are stellar from the circuit, and the Styrian landscape is beautiful. As usual we completed a full walk around the circuit and the Red Bull ring probably has the best General Admission views we’ve see. and easy camping access we have seen.

    Would recommend the Austrian GP for anyone thinking about attending a European event next year, especially if you are a camper or happy to pay the rate for a local hotel or apartment.

    If you are Dutch it would be a fun one to attend with the festival atmosphere and tens of thousands of Max Verstappen fans!

  12. I didn’t have the luck of getting of the parking lot that easily. Left at 6.30 pm and it took me about 2 hours to get of the parking lot near the Max Verstappen Village. When I finally reached the road it went smoothly from there.

    But it was worth it. 3 days of fun at the track and campsite. And great to see Max win. Not a lot of sleep though.

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