Analysis: F1 returns to Austria after 11 year break – who will do well this weekend?
Strategy Briefing
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jun 2014   |  1:04 pm GMT  |  137 comments

Formula 1 returns to Austria this weekend for the first time since 2003 on a revamped circuit in Spielberg.

It is essentially the same layout as the old (A1 Ring) circuit, very simple with just nine corners, four flat out stretches where the cars hit 300km/h and a very short lap time of around 68 seconds.

Most teams have only simulations to go on and some of the details which will be important to deciding race strategy – such as the exact pit lane length and pit stop time – will be measured and worked out during practice on Friday.

It looks similar to Canada in terms of the amount of energy and loading going into the tyres, so Pirelli has brought the same soft and supersoft tyres and it predicts a two stop strategy to be the default for the race.

The key to doing well this weekend will be in getting the front tyres warmed up and balancing the temperature of the fronts and rears. With quite a few low speed corners, good traction will be vital and the rear tyres will certainly be warmed up, but the fronts could struggle, especially with the soft compound. The team that gets that right will prosper.

Track characteristics

Spielberg – 4.326 kilometers. Race distance – 71 laps = 307.146 kilometers. 9 corners in total. A circuit made up of four straights and a few tight corners.

Aerodynamic setup – Medium/High downforce. Top speed 315km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 304km/h without.

Full throttle – 70% of the lap (high). 10 seconds unbroken full throttle on main straight. Fuel consumption – High

Time spent braking: 14% of lap (high). 7 braking zones. Brake wear – High.

Total time needed for pit stop at 80km/h (est): 22 seconds.

Sectors 1 and 3 are quite stop-start, with some tight corners in S1 and 90 degree turns in S3, where traction will be crucial. The middle sector has a long double left-hander Turn 5/6, where we will clearly see the cars that have not got the front tyres working properly.

The track is at an altitude of 700m above sea level. With normally aspirated engines this would lead to a 7% power loss, but with turbo engines this is not an issue. However the turbo is more stressed as it spins at a higher rate at altitude to compensate for the lower atmospheric pressure. This will put the turbos on the limit.

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Form Guide

The Austrian Grand Prix is the eighth round of 19 in the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Mercedes is the dominant force at the moment with six wins and seven pole positions. This track is likely to be another strong circuit for them, with four 300km/h straights and traction out of slow corners another Mercedes strength,

Red Bull has improved its car significantly, as witnessed by the win for Daniel Ricciardo in Montreal, but it was still well behind the Mercedes before they hit reliability issues. Red Bull owns the circuit and is the promoter of the race, so they will certainly have prepared well for the event.

Montreal showed Ferrari continuing to struggle for top end power and traction out of slow corners, so this weekend could be challenging for them. However if they are able to run the new sidepods and engine cover they tested in Montreal, it looks like that will give them a useful gain.

Of the current drivers only Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso have raced on the old circuit (which was known as the A1 Ring).

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Weather Forecast

The forecast for this weekend looks good with temperatures in the high 20s and little chance of rain.
Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Austria: Prime tyre is Soft and Option tyre is Super Soft. This is the same combination as in Monaco and Montreal

This combination of Pirelli tyres in Monaco proved very durable and quite hard to warm up and this is likely to be repeated this weekend. This will be particularly noticeable for the fronts on the soft compound. The working temperature range of the soft is higher and the track temperatures may be a little low to get them working to the optimum.

Pirelli is not sure until they test on Friday of the exact difference in lap time performance between the soft and supersoft tyres. The estimated range is between 0.7s/lap and 1.4s/lap.

The difference will be important to planning race strategy – Pirelli simulations show that the teams are likely to repeat what they did in Canada with an initial stint on the supersofts and then two longer stints on the softs.

There could be a chance for cars to jump another through strategy, by staying out an extra lap, if the warm up on the new softs takes a lap or more.

It looks like degradation, rather than tyre wear, will be the limiting factor in Spielberg.

Red Bull

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Race Strategy: Number and likely timing of pit stops

Despite having four 300km/h straights and two DRS zones, overtaking might not be all that straightforward on this track due to the nature of the corners. Time will tell. So strategy will de decisive as it was in Montreal. Before a wheel has turned it looks as though a likely strategy could be to do an initial stint on the supersoft of around 14 laps and then two equal stints of around 28/29laps on soft. There could be some good racing as the cars, which have just stopped and are getting the front tyres up to temperature, struggle to hold back cars who have stayed out.

Chance of a safety car

As this is a revamped circuit, there is no current data for this.

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Recent start performance

The start will be crucial as it always is. There was the odd start-line accident on the old A1 Ring and the long straight after Turn 1 tends to sort the cars out on the opening lap.

As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate (taking total places lost away from total places gained), as follows –

Net Gained places
13 Kobayashi
12 Massa
11- Maldonado
10 Gutierrez
9 Bianchi, Bottas
8- Hulkenberg, Ericsson
6 Perez [See notes]
4 – Bianchi, Sutil [See notes],
3- Raikkonen
2 – Chilton,

Net Held position
Rosberg, Vettel
Grosjean, Alonso

Net Lost places
11 – Vergne
5- Button
3- Magnussen Kvyat, Hamilton
2 – Ricciardo

Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.
Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1
Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact
China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after.
Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.
Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1
Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams.

With heavy penalties already handed out for unsafe release from a stop and loose wheels, teams have calmed down their stops to aim for consistency and no mistakes.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Canadian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

1. Red Bull 23.274s
2. Williams 23.448s
3. McLaren 23.479s
4. Mercedes 23.554s
5. Sauber 23.703s
6. Ferrari 23.790s
7. Lotus 23.856s
8. Force India 23.902s
9. Toro Rosso 23.975s

Caterham and Marussia – No stops (retired early)

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The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli

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—– OFF TOPIC ———

Yet another sign of the impending apocalypse ->

“Legendary motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson announced Thursday it will be releasing its first prototype for an electric motorcycle”

kenneth chapman

surely first and second are beyond the reach of anyone other than mercedes given the track layout. the next five places are where i believe all the action will be and there are numerous scenarios that could throw up some surprises. i don’t think red bull are going to find it easy going and they will be harried by at least four other teams.

williams are one team that could be a bit of a surprise, their car is fast and if they can sort out their pit MO they could surprise a lot of people. the ferraris wont be far away either. kimi will be desperate to improve his game however he needs to proceed without any desperate lunges into areas where he is not welcome!

all that aside, trying to see who will share the top fives places is well beyond me. there are just so many individuals under pressure to perform that i find it impossible to make any firm predictions….other than mercedes one/two.


Hi James,

Just an incidental comment, but I really don’t like the new website layout. The old style was much easier to navigate.


This is an awesome track. So glad it’s back. If only Imola came back too, but with the tight chicane before start/finish.


The Austrian pit girls a naturally beautiful.


Four straights will surely favor Merc. If they’ve solved their problems from Canada, dominate they will..

Just a thought, will Lewis’s hard and late breaking cause issues? Hoping for another non Merc runaway.


I’ve got a feeling Hamilton will turn the tide in the Mercedes battle, and I expect two Red Bulls in the top four.

Let’s see how free practice goes.

Hoping, but not expecting a number seven podium.

Grosjean has all sorts of pent up drive; perhaps he will score in the higher points.

I expect both Hulkenberg and Perez to be threatening and causing strategic considerations, again; a one stopping capability could propel them both up the order, but there’s much less likelihood of a safety car rest for the equipment.

I’d love to see McLaren challenging, but foresee it, unless they’ve been sandbagging on the extent of their vaunted upgrades for Spielberg.


For the first time this year, I haven’t put any money on Ferrari springing a surprise.

For that reason alone, I’m half expecting both drivers to end up on the podium!


These Ferrari folk!!

Last time out, a cheerful ferrari mafioso spoke to Ted Kravitz to say that Kimi just had a “simple spin” and lost out.

Now 2 weeks later they announce that Kimi’s spin was caused by an engine glitch that was there in free practice and was not sorted so it recurred in the race.

Geez, who needs enemies when you got mates like these??


James, if possible can you please update us with the status of engines used for each driver. More than ever this year the engine life will be a critical factor towards the end of the season and it would be great to know who has used what as we go along.




Will look at that


Awesome. Thanks.



Also do you think Hamiton will win the Championship or Rosberg



Very hard to say at the moment

Reliability will be crucial and in the end it will probably be decided by the double points for the last race



Thanks for the tips on my blog. Will you be at football next Sat or is it a GP.



It’s a GP


James, if you are commentating this w/end, as I hope, will you be calling turn 6 the Lauda Kurve or the Pirelli Kurve?

looking forward, chris.


Good question! I’ll find out when I get there Thursday


Just call it the Lauda Kurve. Silly of them to change it.



Stephen taylor

James just so you the last corner which was called the A1 curve is now the Red Bull Mobile curve.



kenneth chapman

for mercedes…a walk in the park one would think.


Yeah, I’d agree with that, reliability permitting!

Never know, could rain, or some of that Alpine nature at the side of the track (ie rabbits and squirrels) could interrupt proceeding!

I remember, I think it was Stefan Johannson was driving his McLaren at the old O-ring and couldn’t believe his eyes when a Deer ran out in front of him!

Michael in Sydney

Certainly if it’s wet, I HOPE it will change the dynamic. If Mercedes’ recent troubles are fixed I expect much the same. Their out of the corner and straight line speed advantages will have them lapping cars sooner than we believe. From what is said, if the opp for overtaking is not that avert, it will make for an interesting battle again between Rosberg and Hamilton. Question is whether if Hamilton was to lead, can Nico keep up? Lewis has a bee in his bonnet and he wants to show us all how good he thinks he is.

Strategy will be a big player here – especially with a 68 second lap, 4 straights and marginal overtaking. Given it’s a track new to many, any clear strategy winner will certainly do themselves favours.


A1 always serves action & alot of crashes.

1st turn lottery at the start & it may be a crush as the rear guard try to shuffle forward while the front row are breaking to take the turn.

Turn Two always causes incidents.

Lets hope there is an excellent Sunday of racing & even handed rulings by the stewards. Nothing silly or in favour of anyone driving a drink sponsored racing team…nudge nudge wink wink say no more 😉

Come on LEWIS kick ass. 🙂


James, do you think Mercedes will have the same problems with their brakes if the circuit is similar to Canada?


Four straights so… Four DRS zones? It is probably going to be a Greenpeace trip to save some gas, unless we get a lengthy safety car, or rain.


There will only be two DRS straights, between turns 2 and 3, and then on the pit straight.

That pit entry is going to be tricky, methinks. Cars are coming pretty fast around that corner, then have to get over pretty quickly to make the entrance.


Is anyone receiving email notification if their post is replied too?

Or is it just me?


Thanks for the replies – I would have replied individually, but you wouldn’t know that I had 😉


And what made you think we’d notice that you replied to yourself? 😉


Still no e-mails here.


not me.


Nope, still no go.

James did say he ticked a check-box, but maybe he needs to tighten a widget or something instead.


We need rain there. Enough dry races. Let’s see who is who in the rain, racing full hour in good rain!


Have a talk to Bernie, he might have an idea or two 😉


Hi James!

Firstly, could you perhaps find out whether Red Bull are still planning to upgrade the track by using part of the old circuit again? I read that their initial plan was rejected as locals claimed that the cars would be too loud however, given the quiet nature of these engines vs the V8’s, may we see the track upgraded in near future to incorporate the older segments?

Secondly, do you have many memories of the old track layout used in the 70’s/80’s? From what I’ve seen of it, it was up there with tracks like Spa! Very quick…


I have magnificent memories of the old Osterreichring, but the race that stands out for me was the 1984 race.

Alain Prost had crashed out and Niki Lauda overtook Nelson Piquet, to lead in the closing stages of the race, when he lost fourth gear.

Cleverly, he was able to outfox Piquet into thinking that he was deliberately driving slowly, for tactical reasons. Knowing the way Niki drove, Nelson eased off to cruise home in second place.

Walking to the podium, Nelson casually asked Niki how the race went. When Niki told him his gearbox was shot, Nelson was understandably shattered to have let such an opportunity slip.

Of course, 1984 was the season that Lauda won the championship over Prost by half a point. Of all the races that decided the 1984 championship, Lauda always regarded the Austrian Grand Prix as his most fortuitous


Go on YOUTUBE, and type in 1972 Austrian GP. There’s an excellent documentary about the race weekend during the hot summer weekend at the O-Ring in August 1972. It gives you a real flavour of the old track.

Bear in mind, its the early 70s, so beware of some horrid polyester shirts, big sideburns, flares……………but apart from the dreadful fashion, it’s a great documentary about one of the great circuits.


Before my time I’m afraid!


Hi James,

Of the current drivers – another has raced at the A1 ring, namely – Magnussen – though in a lower formula.

It’ll be interesting to see how quick he’ll be in relation to Button.

But this previous experience really can’t count for much as at the end of the day the circuit is relatively simple.


Both Magnussen and Kvyat in lower formulae, and more recently than anyone else.


“But this previous experience really can’t count for much as at the end of the day the circuit is relatively simple.”

Seems obvious at first, but then again maybe it’s harder to gain an advantage on a simple circuit – it’s not like Suzuka for example where a more experienced driver could find an extra tenth or two in the trickier sections.


Here’s hoping for a good race – If we could have something of a repeat of Canada that would be fantastic 🙂


It certainly would however I doubt Mercedes are going to let that happen again. Mercedes will have spent the last two weeks ensuring that they have 100% reliability for the remainder of the season. I’d be shocked if they haven’t solved the power issue. Maybe Hamilton will be too eager to regain ground on Rosberg and they both push too hard… Ricciardo will be there again to collect the inheritance. 🙂


The hills are alive with the sound of GET OUT OF MY WAY ROSBERG!


Let’s hope so – it seems to me that we have more entertaining races when Hamilton is stuck behind Rosberg 😉


Very true.


I thought Bahrain was quite entertaining 🙂

Stephen taylor

Old circuit ? The layout is exactly the same


The new Red Bull Ring is basically exactly the same as the A1 ring. Just a revamped surface and surroundings. The pre 1996 Osterreichring is quite different.


Stephen Taylor,

Maybe take a look at the layout of the old track…a few OMG corners. It’s much different from the new track.

Stephen taylor

I meant the ‘old’ A1 ring.


“The layout is exactly the same”

It’s not the same as the old circuit, it’s the same as the new circuit.


Some Austria stats:

Been racing at the Österreichring since 1970 however, the modern track (which lost it’s long sweeping corners thanks to Tilke) opened in 1997.

a) Prost 3 wins, Schumi + Mika + Peterson + Alan Jones = 2 wins

b) Mclaren 6 wins, Lotus + Ferrari = 4 wins, Williams 3 wins

c) Most podiums Coulthard 5, Ferrari 20.

d) The back to back winners are Prost & Schumi however, Schumi was gifted the 2002 win by Rubens.

e) The drivers to have won with two teams are Prost, Jones & Peterson.

f) Mclaren is the only team with 3 back to back wins.

g) The track has seen 14 one time winners in 25 years.

h) Most poles are Arnoux, Lauda & Piquet >>> 3 a piece >>> whilst Arnoux & Piquet never won the race, Lauda’s only win was from P4.

i) 7 out of 25 have been victorious from pole

j) No driver has won more than 1 race from pole.

k) 1971/72 are the only seasons with back to back pole to flag winners

L) The last pole to flag winner was Schumi in 2003.

m) With the exception of Mika in 2000, number 1 drivers that have won the race from pole have also gone on to win the title e.g. Prost, Fittipaldi, Schumi, Jacques.


S’more stats for y’all …

Current points streaks (2+):

ROS 16

ALO 10

HUL  9

RIC  5

BUT  2

MAG  2

ROS’s consecutive points streak is now the longest for any non-DWC, and the 8th longest such streak all-time.

Current podium streaks (2+):



Of the current grid, only Lewis (9 straight from his debut), Vettel (11 straight, on two occasions), and Alonso (15) have racked up more consecutive podiums than Rosberg’s current streak. Hamilton’s 5 straight between MAL and MON this year is his best since that debut streak.

Max Chilton’s consecutive finishes streak, stopped at 25 in Montreal, is the 4th highest of all-time, after Heidfeld (33), Raikkonen (30), and N.Rosberg (27). Alonso has a current streak of 24 race finishes (from China 2013- ).

Thru 7 rounds in 2014, there have been 37 retirements (I’m not including classified non-finishes here). Thru 7 rounds in 2013, there were 23. So a 61% increase year-over-year. Considering how reliable the previous era’s machines had become, I don’t think that’s all too shabby. Of course, I didn’t delve into the cause of each retirement, to remove any spins or collisions.



Impressive stats.

So it appears Rosberg has begun playing in big league with the big boys.

Of course with stats like this, this can only mean what happened to Chilton is about to happen to Rosberg and Alonso.


Also, a few extra stats Goferet, if I may:

The O-ring has seen a few occasions when a grand prix driver broke his duck: Brambilla (March) in 1975 , John Watson (Penske) in 1976, Jonsey (Shadow) in 1977 and Elio De Angelis (Lotus) in 1982 all claimed their maiden win at the magnificent Styrian track.

Every grand prix held at the 0-ring from 1975 to 1978 was rain affected. Four consecutive years, four consecutive wet-ish races! I think that must be a record, even Interlagos or Spa can’t match that.!

The old O-ring was quite similar to the old Silverstone in some ways: both circuits had a silly chicane located near the start-finish straight, but otherwise it was all long straights linked by very fast corners. Although both tracks were ultra fast, the premium was on aerodynamic efficiency and high speed cornering stability rather than brute power. A case in point is that the powerful Ferrari Flat 12, which was in service from 1970 to the end of 1980, only one once won at the old O-ring, the first Austrian GP at the O-ring in 1970. Otherwise, it was pretty thin (Austrian?) milk for the Scuderia, just a few second places in 1977 and 1979 but otherwise the O-ring was a barren place for Ferrari. And yet the supposedly underpowered Cosworth DFV was rampant in Austria, winning in every race in a British built chassis from 1972 to 1979, and also in 1982. Not bad for a 15 year old motor!

The old O-ring also had virtually zero run off at most corners, the drivers staring down the barrel of a lovely Armco barrier. The only section where there was sufficient run off was the dog leg return corners at the back of the pits where there was lots of green fields for the drivers to run off, but actually in those green fields was, amazingly, barbed wire fencing! At the 1980 GP Derek Daly had a brake failure that sent him spinning off into that aforementioned barbed wire fencing, very, very fortunately he went into backwards in his Tyrrell otherwise grand prix racing could have witnessed a gruesome and unspeakably horrible decapitation – I bet Derek still has nightmares about the fact that in Austria he was oh so nearly beheaded.

Think about folks: barbed wire fencing on the run off area on a track…………………


@ Gaz Boy

Mamma mia, barbed wire at a Grand Prix, that’s straight out of a horror movie thankfully, Derek’s guardian angels weren’t asleep on the job.

Thanks for the stats but regardless Spa, according to Wikipedia, it states Spa went through a 20 consecutive year spell of rain affected races.


RE Wade Parimo: Spot on, it was Chris Bristow, in the 1960 Belgian GP.

When you watch a slow motion replay of the last lap accident in Canada, you’ll see just how close Seb came to having Massa errant wheel/tyre nearly cut Vettel’s head off. A split second………….like Nando at Belgium 2012. Bloody scary………

Personally, I think the FIA needs it push on for more head/helmet protection for the drivers, but there you go…………


Speaking of Spa and barbed wire. There was a terrible incident in the 60’s where a driver was decapitated by barb wire at the old Malmedy section of Spa-Francorchamps.


Many of your stats are only relevant to the old track (Osterreichring) which was a significantly different layout to the current track.


True, but like Interlagos, Silverstone, Spa and Monza there is some cross-over from the original and modified circuits.

And the amazing Alpine scenery hasn’t changed a bit!


@ Wade Parmino

Yes that’s true.


True, but what else does he have to work with?


This circuit looks to have a few higher speed corners than canada, im wondering if the super soft will last very long atall , this maybe an agressive choice no?


That’s a very good point.

I think some teams may take a punt on a 3 stopper. The time lost in the pit-lane will be gained by a potential massive lap time advantage towards the end of the race on fresher rubber. We’ll see.


“This will put the turbos on the limit.”

Lewis to DNF from the lead again?


Rosberg is over due for a DNF. I don’t want the championship to be determined because of DNF’s.


The conspiracy theorists are starting!


turbo speeds are limited by exhaust gasses.


“turbo speeds are limited by exhaust gasses”

Incorrect – the MGUK can ‘spin up’ the turbo, hence Merc’s advantage of the shorter route for power by splitting the turbo components.

kenneth chapman



@aveli – see my comment above about the cars using electrickery to make the turbos spin faster.


… and by regulations … 125k rpm is the max limit.


Why? Mercedes haven’t had any significant Turbo issues this year…

The Canada issue was a MGU-K failure and their MGU-H design means they still get the majority of their 160bhp by simply driving the car – anything that comes from braking is just more energy!


They didn’t have any MGU-K/brake failures before two weeks ago.


You’re right, but look at this way:

They’ve previously had tyre issues – sorted.

They’ve had a spark plug failure – sorted.

They’ve had syncronised brake failures – presumably sorted.

So reckon it’s time they had a turbo / MGU-H failure. After all, if we’re going to keep this championship alive then Mercedes really needs to find new and interesting ways to trip up and fall on their proverbial 🙂


The spark plug ‘issue’ was actually a split casing – the car was retired to prevent engine damage. It was subsequently fixed and I believe Lewis won all his races on the same engine (although it may have been changed after Bahrain).

They didn’t have synchronised brake failures either, they had MGU-K failures, thus all the onus was on the smaller brake discs doing more work with little extra cooling.

Had Lewis not tried to pass Nico at the chicane, he’d have probably still been able to keep running, hanging back from his team mate so that the brakes got cooled by the cleaner air – if the pit wall had called off any sort of race the second the K failed, they could probably have pulled a 1-2 (or a 2-3) out of the bag with some safe driver.

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