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Vilardo: 2023 Formula 1 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

This year’s event features a Sprint Race on Saturday with qualifying for the Grand Prix Friday

Posted on June 30, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SWS | Dane Miller, Series Editor

This Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix will be the 36th running of the race, dating back to 1963.

The event was previously run at a different variation of the circuit, and zero races were held in the country between 1988 and 1996 along with another gap between 2004 and 2013.

But in 2014, the track was purchased by Red Bull, renamed the Red Bull Ring, and put back on the Formula 1 schedule.

This year’s event features a Sprint Race on Saturday with qualifying for the Grand Prix on Friday. As a result, more points are up for grabs.

I preview the Austrian Grand Prix here and the picks of our Formula 1 writers and broadcasters appear at the bottom.

Television Schedule

Free Practice 1: Friday, 4:30 am PT, ESPN2
Grand Prix Qualifying: Friday, 8:00 am PT, ESPN2
Sprint Qualifying: Saturday, 3:00 am PT, ESPN2
Sprint Race: Saturday, 7:30 am PT, ESPN
Grand Prix Race: Sunday, 6:00 am PT, ESPN

Austrian Grand Prix Quick Facts

Location: Spielberg, Austria
Track: Red Bull Ring
Track Type: Permanent Circuit
Turns: 10
Lap Length: 2.68 miles
Race Length: 71 laps
Fastest Lap: Carlos Sainz 1:05.619 in a Ferrari, 2020
Qualifying Record: Charles Leclerc 1:03.003 in a Ferrari, 2019
Most Wins by Constructor: 6 – McLaren
Most Wins by a Driver: 4 – Max Verstappen

The Red Bull Ring is picturesque. Its mountains offer an appealing backdrop to the circuit and arguably make it one of the most aesthetically pleasing tracks on the calendar.

The track itself is a short and sharp roller coaster, with just 10 corners and constant elevation changes.  The circuit consists of four straits, each ending in a slow corner with a fast-twisting section and dramatic elevation changes.

The configuration places emphasis on strong traction and straight-line speed. There are a number of uphill braking points going into the corners, which offers a unique challenge to the tires.

Traction and, more importantly, braking are key here. There is a particular risk of lockups in some of the tricky downhill braking areas.

Maintaining the performance of the rear tires throughout the lap is vital to ensure adequate traction.

As a result, the tires will get no rest in Spielberg.

Tire marks at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix |

Overheating can be an issue and will need to be monitored. The asphalt is fairly rough and carries an abrasion rating of four out of five on the Pirelli scale.

The surface grip is three out of five and is slightly better at the start of the lap than in the latter section.

In other words, tire wear could play a substantial factor during the later stages of the race.

Adding to the challenges, weather and the potential of a Safety Car could throw strategies out of whack.

At 2.688 miles, it is the fourth shortest track on the calendar. Only Brazil, Mexico, and Monaco are shorter. The circuit is consistently high speed, too, with average speeds of around 149.1 miles per hour.

Drivers spend around 65% of the lap at full throttle. As a result, the Red Bull Ring produces the shortest lap time of the season.

Elevation changes are common at Red Bull Ring | SkySports

The elevation changes in Austria put it second only to Spa-Francorchamps in terms of variation.

There’s a change of more than 197 feet between the lowest point on the track—just before Turn 1—and the highest point, after Turn 2.

Historically, the circuit has produced favorable results for America’s lone Formula 1 team.

With expectations high for Haas, a double-points finish for Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg is arguably a reasonable expectation for the weekend.

At the same time, Ferrari could thrive in Spielberg due to their straight-line speed advantages.

But, nobody has been able to dethrone Red Bull and it seems unlikely that Max Verstappen will fail to deliver at his team’s home track.

Speed Points

• Of the 15 prior races on the Spielberg circuit since it was shortened, the pole sitter has won seven times.

• The lowest spot on the grid to produce a winner was David Coulthard in 2001 starting from 7th.

• 16 of the 35 Austrian Grand Prix have been decided by less than five seconds; 22 have been under 10 seconds.

• 13 of the last 15 races in Austria have been won from the first three spots on the grid.

• Red Bull has won the first eight races of 2023, tied with Mercedes in 2019 for the second-best record to open a season.

• McLaren holds the all-time record with 11 straight wins to start the 1988 season.

• Max Verstappen has led every lap in three consecutive races, the first driver to do so since Sebastian Vettel in 2012.

• This season Red Bull has led 471 of a possible 487 laps.

Recent Winners of Austrian Grand Prix

2022Charles LeclercFerrari
2021Max VerstappenRed Bull
2020Valtteri BottasMercedes
2019Max VerstappenRed Bull
2018Max VerstappenRed Bull
2017Valtteri BottasMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedes
2015Nico RosbergMercedes
2014Nico RosbergMercedes

Our Writers’ Race Picks

—More from Stephen Vilardo—