Paddock Diary: 2023 Austrian Grand Prix

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

The dreadful news from Spa-Francorchamps cast a pall over Formula 1’s Austrian Grand Prix weekend.


After a hair-raising landing at Vienna airport I was glad to hit ground, collect my hire car and make the two-and-a-half-hour journey to my very quaint lodge in the town of Hirschegg deep in the mountains, 45 minutes from the Red Bull Ring.

The llamas at the nearby farm were gracious enough to allow me a silent night’s sleep, and I woke early to the sound of the running river outside my room. I have never had a bad experience at an Austrian hotel and this was no different.

The kind lady at the desk told me the quickest way to the circuit, explaining it was “quite mountainy”. She wasn’t wrong – the pleasant but tricky drive consisted of many hairpin corners, sheer drops down the mountains and the occasional bovine chicane. I loved it.

Red Bull Ring, 2023

After dumping my bags at one of the best media centres on the calendar, the day started with a trip to Red Bull and AlphaTauri’s hospitality to speak to Yuki Tsunoda. I greeted the doorman and walked up the stairs. The building is run sustainably so it does not have any air conditioning, and with the hot temperatures outside, it felt like a sauna.

Esteban Ocon was up next with an unsurprising amount of people coming to his session at Alpine. The team’s recent announcement it had attracted investment from a trio of celebrities had certainly done the job in terms of marketing. “Wow, lots of you today,” Ocon joked as we joined him. “I wonder why!”

Walking down to Mercedes I chuckled when I saw the team in their usual Austrian get-up. Those who presented as women wore dirndl and for the men, lederhosen. Bradley Lord, the communications officer, was already sporting the latter when Lewis Hamilton walked in. After laughing for a bit about why he wasn’t wearing lederhosen with Bradley, he turned to us and began picking out various members of the media (thankfully excluding me) to ask why they weren’t in the outfit. After a lengthy chat with us in which he suggested a means of preventing teams dominating in F1 and gave his thoughts about environmental protesters who have disrupted recent sport events, he was rushed off to an engineering debrief.

Red Bull Racing celebrate their 100 F1 victories, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


After another easy journey into the track, I made my way straight to AlphaTauri to hear from team principal Franz Tost and Peter Bayer, the team’s incoming new CEO. Cramped around a small table around the hustle and bustle of hospitality, we struggled to hear as the microphones weren’t working. I exchanged glances with Ted Kravitz from Sky – we couldn’t quite work out what the future of AlphaTauri looked like, but happily once we’d retrieved our voice recorders we were able to make out more of what Bayer and Tost told us.

Feeling very excited for the only practice session, which can’t often be said in F1, I shoved my tabard over my dress to meet a good photographer friend of mine. We were heading trackside, one of the most exciting perks of the weekend.

Bundling into a shuttle we crept up the hill to turns three and four – which gave us one of the most incredible panoramic views of the track. I stopped to breathe it in before the cars came thundering past us.

My photography degree came into full force and I was in my element snapping pictures through the flowers and grass, as the fans cheered around us. At this moment I snapped an image of Sergio Perez with the helicopter, which I thought nothing of at the time.

Uploading it to my Instagram account a few hours later I was shocked when my friend Alice Powell dropped me a note saying “the bee!”. Looking at the image again I realised I had captured a beautiful picture of the Red Bull and the Austrian backdrop – with a bee, flying perfectly adjacent to it. Couldn’t do it again if I tried. I’m sure Sebastian Vettel would approve.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2023

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Rain was coming down hard as I woke up on Saturday morning ready for a busy day. The race organisers had thoughtfully made sure the car park was covered in wood chips to stop our cars getting stuck. I skipped past mud puddles in my sandals to reach the entrance.

The ‘sprint shootout’ – the qualifying session for the afternoon’s sprint race – was a bit of a damp squib, and we have no opportunity to speak to the drivers after it, so instead I wandered the paddock after the session.

I was stopped on my travels by the CEO of Sauber Motorsport Andreas Seidl, formerly of McLaren. As always he was chatty and friendly and explained how much he was enjoying his time half-travelling and half at the track and how he felt the team were coming along.

“What about Daniel Ricciardo for the future?” I asked him. “Well, that’s his decision” came the response, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye before heading back into the team’s motorhome.

Fan zone, Red Bull Ring, 2023

As the day drew to an end I spotted someone wearing a big coat with a hood up signing autographs. It took me a moment to realise it was Mick Schumacher. I briefly stopped to ask him how he was and if he was looking forward to a few weeks’ time.

“I’ve never been to Goodwood,” he exclaimed. “Very excited to drive my dad’s car.”

I replied that he would love it and I looked forward to seeing him there, before I made my way back to the lodge for the evening.

Rain enlivened the sprint race somewhat, though once Max Verstappen had seen off his team mate on the first lap there was never any doubt who was going to win.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


We started the day with a very early trip to the circuit to speak to McLaren’s Andrea Stella, Ferrari’s Jock Clear and AlphaTauri’s Jonathan Eddolls. Stella was first up and greeted us with a huge smile, shaking everyone’s hands. Team principals or members have no obligation to make any effort with us, but when they do, it is greatly appreciated and Stella is always incredibly polite to us all.

After tech talk was done we had some time to catch our breath before the race. I had been granted a grid pass and was keen to go down early to soak up the atmosphere.

Before the festivities began, the grid assembled to observe a moment of silence. The paddock had been stunned the day before to learn of the death of Dilano Van ‘T Hoff in a Formula Regional European Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday.

Van ‘T Hoff’s MP Motorsport team were also competing in the support races at the Red Bull Ring, and his fellow Dutch racer Richard Verschoor won Sunday’s morning’s Formula 2 race and dedicated his triumph to the young race.

The grid fell silent and we bowed our heads in respect. It’s easy to forget how dangerous motorsport is, and that was a reminder we desperately didn’t want.

Wiping away a tear afterwards I turned to see Toto Wolff greet me. By now there was only time for a brief hello before heading back to the media centre.

Red Bull Ring, 2023

Track limit violations were by far the biggest talking point of the race. Verstappen won again, and after praising his driver’s fifth consecutive win Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was quick to speak out about the track, saying the track limits situation made the sport look amateurish. But it turned out this was only the beginning.

After Aston Martin protested the race result, it took five hours for the final classification to appear, once the stewards had dished out a further dozen penalties to eight drivers. The top three remain unchanged, but other drivers landed back in their home countries to discover they hadn’t finished where they thought they had.

It all felt a little silly, and very hard for new fans, or indeed existing fans to get their head around. The weekend left two questions about F1 tracks uppermost in people’s minds: safety standards and how track limits can be policed better. With that I packed my bags and headed to Vienna for a quick turnaround on to my home race.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Red Bull Ring, 2023

2023 Austrian Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Austrian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

2 comments on “Paddock Diary: 2023 Austrian Grand Prix”

  1. I really like these diaries. Great photo on top though the occasion is very sad. Hadn’t seen this image on the world feed.

  2. What’s the “Zoo” or “Loo”? “200”? “Captcha? You said there’d be no MATH!

Comments are closed.