This weekend, the Spielberg circuit, set in the Styrian hills, hosts the 35th Austrian Grand Prix. The track is one of the shortest of the season, at just 4.3 kilometres in length, with ten corners. The power unit is tested on three long straights, but Spielberg is still a track requiring a medium to high level of aerodynamic downforce, because of the demanding corners in sector 2. There are three DRS zones, one on the main straight, another on the climb from turn 2 to 3, followed by another between turns 3 and 4. They help overtaking, particularly in the braking area for turn 3, which is the only really demanding test for the Brembo discs, while going into turn 4 is another passing opportunity.
This race was first held as a round of the world championship in 1964, on an "L" shaped layout on the Zeltweg Aerodrome, when the winner was Lorenzo Bandini at the wheel of a Ferrari 156 F1-63. The race then returned to the calendar in 1970 on the new Osterreichring track, almost six kilometres in length, which blasted up and down the hills in between the villages of Zeltweg and Spielberg. Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni made it a one-two for the Scuderia at the wheel of the 213 B. The revised Spielberg made its return to the calendar from 1997 to 1993: Eddie Irvine won for Ferrari in 1999, while Michael Schumacher did the same in 2002 and 2003. From 2014, the race then became a regular fixture. Last year, Charles Leclerc won with the F1-75.
The Sprint is back
Spielberg hosts the second Sprint weekend of the season, with more to come in Belgium, Qatar, the United States and Brazil. The race runs over 100 km on Saturday as an event in itself, with its own qualifying earlier in the day.
There's an hour of free practice on Friday at 13.30 CEST, followed at 17.00 by qualifying which sets the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix which gets underway at 15. Qualifying for the Sprint - the Sprint Shootout - then takes place on Saturday at 12 CEST. Compared to a normal qualifying, there is less time available for each of the three phases, reduced to 12, 10 and 8 minutes respectively, while the drivers have only one set of tyres each per session: Medium for SQ1 and SQ2 and Soft for SQ3. Parc ferme rules apply as from the start of Friday's qualifying and end once the race has started on Sunday. The Sprint race gets underway at 16.30 with DRS use permitted as from the second lap, while the top eight finishers score points from 8 to 1.
Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal: After Canada, we now return to complete the European leg of the season taking in some of the classic venues on the calendar, starting with back-to-back races in Austria and England.
In Spielberg, we will tackle the second Sprint weekend of the year, which means that Charles, Carlos and the 18 other drivers all get just one hour of free practice before tackling qualifying. We have therefore spent plenty of time working hard in the factory and simulator to be as well prepared as possible.
Our main focus has been on ensuring that our drivers can get the most out of the SF-23 package, as indeed they were able to do in the race in Montreal. We're looking to have a straightforward weekend all the way through from Friday to Sunday and if we manage it, then I'm sure we can bring home a good result.
Ferrari at the Austrian GP
GP contested 34
Debut 1964 (L. Bandini 1st ; J. Surtees ret.)
Wins 6 (17.65%)
Pole positions 8 (23.53%)
Fastest laps 5 (14.70%)
Total podiums 27 (26.47%)
Three questions to Davide Mazzoni, Head of ICE
For you engine specialists, what at the challenges presented by the Spielberg circuit, especially the long climb up to turn 3?
Davide Mazzoni: The first sector of the track leading up to turn 3, is made up of slow corners that connect long uphill straights. This section highlights not only the power aspect of the engine, but also its driveability, which is vital to ensure effective acceleration out of the corners. Furthermore, the Spielberg track sits at almost 700 metres above sea level, so that air density is reduced. While this does not affect the turbo engine in terms of performance, its operating range requires specific mappings.
There are three long straights where DRS can be deployed. What strains does this place on the power unit?
DM: Having three DRS zones on a relatively short track, with some braking points that are very severe but of only short duration, requires an extreme optimisation of the Power Unit's energy management. The system comprising the ERS, MGU-K, MGU-H and ICE (internal combustion engine), is subjected to the stress of continuous transfer of energy from the recovery phase to its release in the high speed sections, which is essential for setting a good lap time and for overtaking.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What was the path that brought you to Ferrari and what does working for this company mean to you?
DM: Ever since I started studying engineering, I had a dream, which then became a goal, of working for Ferrari. In a career of almost 30 years, I've been able to contribute to the development of high-performance engines, for racing applications as well as road-going two and four wheeled vehicles. The first time I experienced working for Ferrari was in the Michael Schumacher era, as young and very enthusiastic engineer, with a desire to do things and I was lucky enough to work as part of an incredible team. I now enjoy this second experience with the same enthusiasm for my work, aware that Ferrari is unique and that being part of it is something that must be deserved on a daily basis.
Austrian Grand Prix: facts & figures
2. The number of Austrian drivers who have raced for Ferrari in Formula 1: three times world champion Niki Lauda, who brought the title to Maranello in 1975 and 1977, winning 15 Grands Prix for the Scuderia, and Gerhard Berger with five wins in red to his name. Between them, they raced for the Scuderia in 153 GPs, also securing 30 pole positions, 21 fastest race laps and 56 podium finishes.
5. The number of Formula 1 World Championship rounds held at Spielberg in the past three seasons. In 2020 and '21, the Austrian track hosted the Austrian and Styrian Grands Prix, the only circuit to ever do this. In 2020, when Covid-19 had a major impact on the calendar, Silverstone hosted two rounds, as did Sakhir in Bahrain, the latter using two different layouts. The following year, only Spielberg still hosted back-to-back rounds.
9. The villages that make up the municipality of Spielberg, known locally as Katastralgemeinden. Apart from Spielberg itself, they are Einhorn, Laing, Lind, Massweg, Pausendorf, Sachendorf, Schonberg and Weyern.
16. The age of a young apprentice pastry chef, Franz Sacher, in 1832 when he invented the eponymous Sachertorte, one of the most famous cakes in the world. Sacher was particularly fond of chocolate and was employed by the Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich. One day, the head chef was ill and Sacher had to come up with a dessert for an official dinner. The youngster decided to take a gamble and came up with his own recipe, which proved to be a great success and launched his career.
29. The number of laps completed in the only edition of the Austrian GP that did not go the full distance. It happened in 1975 and the race was won by the oldest driver on track, 37 year old Vittorio Brambilla in a March. The Italian started eighth and then demonstrated his wet weather driving skills, carving his way through the field to take the lead on lap 19, after a moment's hesitation from James Hunt when the rain was rapidly intensifying. On lap 29, conditions were so bad that the race was suspended, but that was done by showing the drivers the chequered flag and the race was thus ended. Brambilla actually spun and crashed into the barriers as he crossed the line, damaging the front of his car, but by then he had already won. Vittorio, whose brother Tino was highly regarded as a test driver by Enzo Ferrari, thus secured the only win of his F1 career, the first victory for an Italian driver since Ludovico Scarfiotti stood on the top step of the podium at the 1966 Italian Grand Prix.