Less than a week ago at Silverstone, Scuderia Ferrari claimed its third win of the season, a maiden victory for Carlos Sainz and now it's time for Austria to host the eleventh round, concluding the first half of the season, in the Styrian mountains at Spielberg. A full house is expected, most of the fans cheering for our main rivals this season, this being a home race for them. This weekend will also be the second event of the year run to the Sprint format.
The circuit is popular with most drivers, even if a lap only takes less than 70 seconds to complete. Its 4.318 kilometres only has eleven corners and it is one of the shortest of the season, but it still packs in a bit of everything: long straights that require power, as well as demanding changes of direction which make it a medium downforce track. Traction requirements and lateral forces mean a medium-high level of stress for the tyres.
This weekend features the Sprint format, last seen earlier this season at Imola. The teams therefore have to deal with a much tighter timetable when it comes to setting up the cars. On Friday, drivers and engineers only get one 60 minute session, starting at 13.30 CEST, to find the right set-up prior to qualifying, which replaces the usual second free practice session at 17.00. This decides the grid for the Sprint, which gets underway at 16.30 on Saturday, run over a distance of 24 laps, approximately 100 kilometres.
The first eight finishers get points, the winner taking 8, then all the way down to a single point for eighth place. Prior to that, there's a final hour of free practice at 12.30. The Austrian Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday at 15.00, with the grid order taken from the result of the Sprint.
Three questions to Inaki Rueda, Head of Strategy and Sporting
Describe the characteristics of the Spielberg track.
IR: "Spielberg has several straights, each of them featuring a DRS zone, making it the easiest venue of the year for overtaking. The middle section puts a lot of stress on the tyres as the corners come thick and fast, which leads to high degradation. Another characteristic of this track is the kerbs, which are very high, especially between turns 7 and 9, which poses a threat to wings and floors. This year, with the cars so near to the ground, the drivers will have to pay particular attention when riding them, to avoid damaging the car beyond repair".
This will be the second Sprint weekend of the season. How does that affect the team's approach to this race?
IR: "The most significant aspect of the Sprint format is how little time there is to prepare, because there is only one free practice session prior to qualifying and the car configuration cannot be changed from the moment it takes to the track in Q1. The Saturday race is usually a not very spectacular procession, but the track characteristics and the greater number of points on offer this season, could lead to more overtaking than usual. So the Grand Prix starting grid could look quite different to Saturday's".
What are the challenges in terms of strategy at the Spielberg track?
IR: "From a strategy point of view, Spielberg lends itself to a race with more than one stop, particularly as Pirelli is bringing its three softest compounds – C3, C4, C5. The inherently high degradation of these tyres, along with the ease of overtaking, could produce a photo-finish, of the sort we see in motorcycle racing at this track. I expect a lot of changes of position, including for the lead, all the way to the chequered flag".
Ferrari at the Austrian GP
GP entered 33
Debut 1964 (L. Bandini 1st; J. Surtees ret.)
Wins 5 (15.15%)
Pole positions 8 (24.24%)
Fastest race laps 5 (15.15%)
Total podiums 26 (26.26%)
Austrian GP - Facts & Figures
2. The number of colours in the flag of the Spielberg commune, which just like those of Modena, are yellow and blue. It boasts 5,300 inhabitants and is located in the district of Murtal in Styria. In 2015 it incorporated the municipality of Flatschach.
5. The highest number of drivers that have taken turns in the lead of a single Austrian Grand Prix. In 2014, they were, eventual winner Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas. Two years later it was the turn of winner Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, Max Verstappen and the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen. Four times, in 1982, 1985, 2020 and 2021, there has been just one race leader.
6. The number of Formula 1 races held at Spielberg over the past three years, come Sunday night. In 2020, the series resumed after the Covid-19 pandemic, with two races on consecutive weekends on 5 and 12 July. The same happened last year, while this season, apart from the Grand Prix itself, there's the 100 kilometre Sprint.
14. The number of Austrian drivers who have taken part in at least one Formula 1 Grand Prix. The first was the great Jochen Rindt, who in 1970 became the sport's only posthumous World Champion, having died following an accident in qualifying at Monza. He made his debut in the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix at the wheel of a Brabham. The most recent was Christian Klien, almost 12 years ago, when he took part in the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix at the wheel of an HRT (Hispania Racing Team). The most well known and successful is undoubtedly Niki Lauda, winner of three world titles, two of them, in 1975 and 1976, with Scuderia Ferrari. Also worthy of note, Gerhard Berger with ten wins, five with Ferrari.
1,855,000. The number of cows in Austria, a predominantly mountainous country. On average there is one cow per five inhabitants, the highest ratio in the world. Over half a million of them are dairy cows, putting the small Austrian nation tenth in Europe in this ranking.
Ferrari 75 years ago
In early July, the Circuit of Forli is staged at a city track. The Coppa Luigi Arcangeli is up for grabs and Ferrari has made a driver change. For this race on 6 July, the Scuderia decides to give the drive to the great champion Tazio Nuvolari, rather than the usual Franco Cortese. A star of the Thirties, Nuvolari's health is deteriorating badly and he races with a mask over his mouth. But he is not the sort to give up easily and takes a brilliant win in the Ferrari 125 SC, the fifth in less than three months, adding to the attention surrounding the Ferrari name. Behind him in Forli is Enrico Adanti in a Lancia Aprilia.