F1/Round 9: Preview of 2018 Austrian Grand Prix and Starting Positions

Race starts at 1:10 pm in Austria/9:10 pm in Malaysia

Following last weekend’s French Grand Prix, the Formula 1 Championship is in Austria this weekend for the ninth round, the second of three races in a row. While this be the 31st Austrian Grand Prix, the race has not always been held at this weekend’s venue at the Red Bull Ring. The first Austrian GP was held at Zeltweg airfield in 1964 but then immediately got left off the calendar. The Grand Prix returned in 1970 at Osterreichring which hosted the event until 1987. Then Austria didn’t have a F1 GP for another 10 years until it returned at a shortened version of the Osterreichring (named the A1 Ring) from 1997 until 2003.

The Red Bull Ring is actually the former Osterreichring/A1 Ring which was purchased by Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz and rebuilt at a cost of 70 million euros. After another absence of 11 years, the Austrian GP returned in 2014 to the circuit.

The rural circuit features one of the season’s most picturesque backdrops with the short 4.318-km track draped across the foothills of the spectacular Styrian mountains. Since its return in 2014, it has provided fans with some spectacular action thanks in most part to the high-speed nature of the layout and to the shortness of the lap, which helps to promote close racing.

Made up of just 10 corners, with the kink between Turn 1 and the old Turn 2 now recognised as a corner, the Red Bull Ring is essentially made up 4 straights ending in tight corners and that means that good traction and straight-line speed are key attributes in the quest for success here.

To aid with traction on the smooth track surface, the teams can choose soft, supersoft and ultrasoft compounds. From what is known, the drivers have overwhelmingly prioritised the ultrasoft, with only the Haas pairing of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean selecting less than 8 sets of the purple-banded tyre.

In the Drivers’ Championship standings, a faultless drive to victory from pole position in France last weekend saw Lewis Hamilton regain top spot, and he now has 145 points, 14 points clear of Sebastian Vettel, who recovered from a first-lap collision with Valtteri Bottas to finish fifth. Daniel Ricciardo lies third with 96 points, 4 ahead of Bottas.

The results in France a week ago mean Mercedes-AMG currently leads the race for the Constructors’ title, with 237 points, 23 points ahead of Ferrari, while Red Bull Racing are in third place with 164 points.

McLaren has been the most successful team at this race, having won the Austrian GP six times. The British team won in 1984 with Niki Lauda and in 1985 and 1986 with Alain Prost. The team then took 3 wins during the period the track was known as the A1 Ring, with Mika Hakkinen victorious in 1998 and 2000, and David Coulthard winning in 2001. Ferrari is next on the list with five wins, while Lotus and Mercedes have 4 wins each.

[Chips Yap]