We’re at Spielberg, for the Formula 1 Grosser Preis Von Ȍsterreich 2016
Red Bull Ring, 1-3 July
After the novelty of a brand new Formula 1 destination in Azerbaijan, it’s nice to head back to an old classic, the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg. Baku was breathtakingly beautiful, but then so are the Styrian Alps. Fresh country air, rolling hills, hectares of lush green pasture and an abundance of schnitzel – this race is the perfect antidote to what is a pretty gruelling schedule at this stage of the season (love it though we do).
In the absence of a Manor Racing Ring – the ultimate F1 team accessory! – we take our proverbial hats off to all involved with the Red Bull Ring and the return of the Austrian Grand Prix to the calendar in 2014 following an 11 year absence. Part of the original fabric of Formula 1, there have been 28 of them to date. The first event was held at Zeltweg Airfield before relocating to the 6km-long Ȍsterreichring, in the shadows of which we will be racing this weekend. That track was shortened to create the A1 Ring, where F1 cars shattered the silence from 1997 to 2003, and the Red Bull Ring of today is essentially the same layout. If circuits could talk, this one has many a tale to tell. Jack Brabham, Jacky Ickx, Ronnie Peterson, Carlos Reutemann – just a few of the revered names from the annals of F1 history who have won an Austrian Grand Prix since 1963.
Here’s what Rio, Pascal and our Racing Director Dave Ryan have to say about Round 9 of the Formula 1 World Championship.
Rio, as a team in its relative infancy, the race results sometimes belie very positive development strides. Qualifying in Baku threw the spotlight on some of that progress, didn’t it?
“Yes, there were some really positive signs in Baku and in particular I had a very strong qualifying. My lap was just 0.1s away from Q2 contention and 2.0s from Rosberg’s fastest Q1 lap time. So at a track where we are able to exploit the potential of our package, we have managed to halve last year’s delta to the frontrunners and that’s a sure sign that all the hard work is starting to pay off. For me too, it’s all about step by step improvement and I’m happy that this is beginning to shine through.”
But then the race…
“Ha. Yes, that’s racing though. We had a bold strategy to cater for any opportunity that came our way, but I think everyone was surprised that it was such an attrition-free race. So the damage I picked up when Gutierrez hit me in Turn 1 of the opening lap punished us especially hard, because we had rolled the dice a little on strategy. It was a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise very strong weekend, but we can’t let that disappointment overshadow strong practice and qualifying performances. The team are doing a great job and I’m happy with my own progress.”
Onwards and upwards. Pascal, what are you expecting from this weekend in Austria?
“Rain. The weather in this region is always a bit unpredictable but the forecast here is for a wet weekend. This could shake things up a bit in the way that we hoped Baku might. Performance-wise, that race was going to plan for us until I suffered the brake problem. We’re edging closer to the midfield pack, so we just need to keep pushing and make sure we’re in the best possible position when a bit of luck comes our way.”
Geographically, this event must be a little like the next best thing to your home race, with plenty of German fans expected?
“Yes, that’s true, although I can’t wait for the team’s home race and of course Hockenheim just a couple of races later. This is a great track though, one with a lot of history and some interesting technical challenges, so I can’t wait to be back in the car to pick up where we left off.”
Dave, we’re in full-on back-to-back mode, with six Grands Prix in the space of eight weeks and of course a big home race to prepare for. The team will certainly have earned their August break this year!
“It’s a very intensive stage of the season, that’s for sure. Everyone is working very hard, so I hope that our luck will turn a little in these coming races and provide a bit of reward for those efforts. Baku revealed a little more of our progress and potential, so we just need to get on top of the areas which let us down in the race and have faith in our development programme. We have more scheduled upgrades in the pipeline and we just have to keep plugging away at it.”