To say we’re looking forward to Austria’s return to the F1 calendar would be a bit of understatement, not only does it mean that for the first time in 11 years we’ll be racing around the gorgeous Styrian mountains at what used to be one of the quickest little circuits on the schedule, but we’ll be doing it in the team’s home country, at Red Bull’s very own state-of-the-art grand prix circuit.
And with just over three weeks to go before the race, Sebastian Vettel went to the circuit this week for a pre-event press conference with Helmut Marko and Gerhard Berger. He also completed a few laps of the circuit in an RB8, as part of the filming of the ‘Comeback of Formula One’ documentary.
Afterwards the defending champion said that the event will be a season highlight for Infiniti Red Bull Racing: “It will be a very special grand prix for the whole team. The facilities here are cutting edge, there is plenty of work going on to ensure that. The stands will all be sold out. It gives you another extra kick as a driver to race in front of such a backdrop.”
It will be Sebastian’s first race at the circuit, which last hosted F1 in 2003. He’ll be in good company, however. Just three current drivers – Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa – have experience of the old circuit.
Sebastian was joined on track on for the filming by one of Austria’s grand prix greats, Gerhard Berger, who jumped into the 1988 Ferrari F1/87-88C he took to victory at Monza.
The ten time grand prix winner and the first athlete ever sponsored by Red Bull raced five grands prix in Austria, though only one was at the circuit whose configuration gave rise to the Red Bull Ring.
Berger said: “I gladly think back to the first time I drove at the Österreichring. It was a wonderful time. I told Sebastian that in those days you could get cows crossing the track. He didn’t quite believe me though, I fear,” he said.
The former Toro Rosso team boss was thrilled, too, to be reunited with the 1988 Ferrari that earned him third place in that year’s F1 Drivers’ Championship. “Today after 25 years I once again sat in a Ferrari of the time. It was a wonderful feeling.”
The two grand prix stars then swapped cars, with Seb admitting that he wanted more laps in the historic car.
“It is fantastic to drive such an historic car,” he said. “In those days lots of manual work was needed. It feels so direct in a nice way. It’s a great feeling, which finds expression in the performance. Ideally I would have liked to drive further with it.”
F1’s return to Austria is set to be a feast for fans of all forms of motorsport. Not only will the weekend feature the usual bill of F1, GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup action but on Friday there also will be a Freestyle-Moto-X Show.
On Saturday the Red Bull Sky Dive Team will demonstrate their daring manoeuvres and on Sunday, an air display with the Flying Bulls’ fleet and the Austrian Armed Forces is scheduled for just before the grand prix starts. Red Bull Air Race pilot Hannes Arch will also show off his incredible ability as a stunt pilot.
Berger will be back at the track too, in the company of every living Austrian grand prix driver. On race day, he, Niki Lauda, Helmut Marko, Dieter Quester, Hans Binder, Karl Wendlinger, Alexander Wurz, Patrick Friesacher and Christian Klien will take part in a legends parade with cars they made famous.
Above all though, the weekend is about celebrating the return of racing’s top level to Austria. (Red Bull)