Unexpected F1 Shocker
How shocking is the news that Formula One tentatively agreed to add yet another race to an already jam-packed 2014 race calendar? Perhaps the most shocking news is that it’s not in some remote Asian-Pacific region in which the local population haven’t the foggiest idea of what Formula One is.
While it is still quite evident that money talks in F1 circles, it’s nice to see Austria find its way back like Europe’s prodigal son.
The Austrian GP has been around for some time and actually hosted a race which wasn’t even part of the Formula One championship back in 1963 at the Zeltweg Airfield (1963-1964). After a brief pause, Austria returned to the F1 calendar between 1970 and 1987 which was held at Österreichring. Most of you will remember the race when it returned to Formula One after a decade of absence when it was held at the A1-Ring between 1997 and 2003.
The last time the Austrian GP was featured in the schedule, a German was dominating the sport and the race, which he led from pole to flag. Michael Schumacher started the race on Pole with a time of 1.09.150 and ultimately captured victory with a time of 1:24.04.888 in his F2003GA Ferrari. Due to financial stresses and the inhospitable European economic climate over the last decade, the Austrian Grand Prix was again left off the schedule.
After an 11 year absence, it has been announced that Austria again will make its return to the Formula Once circus on 6 July 2014 (tentatively) after an apparent agreement between Dietrich Mateschitz and Bernie Ecclestone has been reached . The circuit is known as the Red Bull Ring.
While all looks good on the surface, the agreement is still pending official ratification by the FIA. The name alone should give us some indication of how easy it is to keep F1 in Europe where it arguably belongs for most of the year, providing the funds are there. Further going to prove my theory that emerging Asian markets have little to do with reason the sport has moved East. It’s just a matter of playing a game called follow the money.
Let’s take a quick look at what to expect in Austria if all goes to plan.
Laps: 70-71 (expected)
Circuit length: 4.326 km (2.688 mi)
Race length: 307.146 km (190.848 mi)
The winningest driver in Austria is Alain Prost. He won the even three times (1983, 1985 and 1986). There have four drivers which have won the even twice; Ronnie Peterson in 1973 and 1978, Alan Jones in 1977 and 1979, the original Flying Finn Mika Häkkinen in 1998 and 2000 and finally Michael Schumacher with back to back wins in 2002 and 2003.
McLaren leads the way in victories in Austria for the Constructors category with 6 wins (1984, 1985, 1986, 1998, 2000, 2001). Ferrari are close behind with 5 (1964, 1970, 1999, 2002, 2003), followed closely by Lotus with 4 wins (1972, 1973, 1978, 1982). Williams has won the Austrian GP 3 times (1979, 1987, 1997). Brabham and Renault are tied with two wins each with Brabham claiming victory in 163 and 1974, and Renault victorious in 1980 and 1983.
I for one am very happy to see another race in Europe. The suggested 22 race schedule however, makes me skeptical that another circuit will be sacrificed in order to keep the number of races closer to 20. Could New Jersey be left off again? Monza and Nurburgring both are facing financial hardships and Canada has yet to renew its contract. Montreal currently only has an interim mayor who may not have the authority to sign a long term deal.
Now lets hope the good people Europe have the funds to support and enjoy the race and show the world that Europe is still home to Formula One.