Reports

Austrian F1 Grand Prix

2016 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX – PREVIEW

Circuit Stats
2015 winner Nico Rosberg 71 laps, 1:30:16.930s
2015 pole position Lewis Hamilton, 1m08.455s
2015 fastest lap Nico Rosberg, 1m11.235s (lap 35)
Name Red Bull Ring
First race 1970 (as the Osterreichring)
Circuit length 4.326km/2.688-mile (18th longest of the season)
Distance to Turn One 185m (longest of season: Barcelona 730m)
Longest straight 868m, on the approach to Turn One
Top speed 310km/h, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of season: Monza, 360km/h)
Pitlane length 242m, estimated time loss 20s (longest pitlane of season: Silverstone 457m)
Full throttle 66 per cent (highest of season: Monza, 75 percent)
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and Three
Key corner Turn Nine, a tricky right-hander to end the lap. It has a fast, downhill approach and it’s easy to make a mistake under braking and run wide at the exit. The driver needs to get the power down cleanly because the start-finish straight – the longest period of uninterrupted full throttle – follows
Fastest corner 220km/h, Turn Eight
Slowest corner 86km/h (53mph), Turn Eight
Major changes for 2016 Extra kerbing on the exit of Turn One to discourage drivers from running wide
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, making it one of the highest of the season
ERS demands High. The short lap provides few opportunities to recover the permitted 2mj of energy
Brake wear Medium. There are only three significant braking events
Gear changes 54 per lap /3,834 per race

Circuit facts
History lesson This is the 30th running of the Austrian Grand Prix. The race has been staged at three different racetracks: Zeltweg Airfield (1964), the Osterreichring (1970-’87) and the Red Bull Ring, nee A1 Ring (1997-’03 and 2014-present). The latter is a re-profiled and shortened version of the majestic Osterreichring.
What makes the track unique It’s the shortest lap of the year in terms of time, with cars circulating in less than 70s.
Grip levels Average. The majority of the asphalt was laid in 1997, when circuit designer Hermann Tilke re-built what used to be the Osterreichring. It’s a smooth and fairly unabrasive track surface, which is relatively undemanding on tyres.
Run-off Plentiful. There is a mix of gravel and asphalt run-off, the asphalt proving quite controversial in recent years because track limits have become a focus of debate.
Watch out for… Turn Two. There is a sharp incline on the approach, which allows the drivers to brake late. It’s an overtaking point and it’s also the scene of many crashes over the years. You may remember the collision between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen just after this point on the track in 2015.

The drivers on: the circuit

#14 Fernando Alonso

“After the unique demands of the Baku City Circuit, we return to a more conventional racetrack in Austria. It’s a much shorter track than Baku, but it’s still very challenging because you cannot afford to make any mistakes. A lap takes less than 70s, which squeezes the grid closer together and there are only a few tenths of a second between rows.

“To be fast you need good traction and efficient aero, which we have. For that reason, I hope we can be more competitive than we were in Baku – and I hope to have a longer race than I did last year, which was over on the opening lap!”

#22 Jenson Button

“In many ways, racing in Austria reminds me of my early F1 career. I finished fourth at the track in 2003, and, even then, it had the feeling of a classic grand prix circuit. After an 11-year gap when the race wasn’t on the calendar, we returned there in 2014 and it’s thrown up some exciting races.

“There are only nine corners, which means that every input from within the cockpit needs to be extremely precise, as even the slightest mistake can cost a lot of time. There are a couple of overtaking points, so the racing is always close. I’m looking forward to it."

Event Stats
Start time 14:00 local / 12:00 GMT
Race distance 71 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 percent distance/54 laps).
Safety Car likelihood Low, due to the large run-off areas. However, there was a six-lap Safety Car period last year after an opening lap pile-up at the exit of Turn 2.
When to press record The start. There’s a slight incline on the grid, particularly towards the front, and that can create a wide variation in starts. Nico Rosberg beat pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton into Turn 1 last year.
Don’t put the kettle on From lap 25 onwards, when the one-stoppers will make their only scheduled pitstops of the race. One-stop was the favoured strategy last year, but the appearance of the ultra-soft tyre in 2016 could shake up strategies.
Weather conditions now 30 degrees and sunny
Race forecast 26 degrees
Tyre choices Option: Ultrasoft (purple) / Prime: Supersoft (red)/ Back-Up: Soft (yellow). This combination was last seen at the Canadian Grand Prix

Event Facts
First Austrian Grand Prix 1964
Slogan There isn’t one. However, fact-fans, there is a corner named after Jochen Rindt, seen by many as the Godfather of Austrian motorsport.
Austria’s F1 heritage The Osterreichring, which hosted the Austrian Grand Prix between 1970 and ’87, was one of the fastest and most revered racetracks in the world. It was narrow, undulating and fast, and pole position ahead of its final GP was set at an average speed of 159mph. The current track is situated on the same site, but it’s a more modest challenge as a result of modern safety requirements. There have been many successful Austrian racing drivers, none better than the country’s two world champions, Jochen Rindt and Niki Lauda.
Smallest winning margin 0.050s, in 1982. Alain Prost’s retirement from the lead with five laps remaining left Elio de Angelis and Keke Rosberg fighting over victory. De Angelis led Rosberg by 1.6s at the start of the last lap, the Finn then closing to within half a car length by the finish.
Sporting legacy The circuit’s location in the Styrian mountains is a reminder that Austria is a nation of winter sports enthusiasts. It won 17 medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics, including four golds, and the country’s Olympic budget has been increased ahead of Pyeongchang 2018. But motorsport is engrained in the national psyche as well, thanks to the success of drivers like Jochen Rindt, Niki Lauda and Gerhard Berger.
Did you know? The Red Bull Ring has an elevation change of 65 metres.
Don’t forget McLaren is the most successful constructor at the Austrian Grand Prix, having won the race six times – most recently in 2001.
Fan zone: Greg, aged 37, from Montreal. “The Red Bull Ring is located 700m above sea level. How does the thinner air affect car performance?”
McLaren’s answer: “There’s been quite an altitude swing in the last two weeks, from 28m below sea level in Baku to 700m above it in Austria. The thinner air means the car generates a little less downforce, but the biggest effect is on the internal combustion element of the power unit. At 700m it will produce about 7% less power, which means the turbo has to work harder to make up the deficit”

The drivers on: the event

#14 Fernando Alonso

“I enjoy the atmosphere at the Red Bull Ring because the fans are passionate and very knowledgeable. They seem to love anything with an engine and the air displays and motorcycle demonstrations over the weekend are all well received.

“There have been some great Austrian drivers to whet people’s appetites, one of whom – Niki Lauda – won a world championship with McLaren. Another former McLaren driver, Gerhard Berger, is a good friend of mine.

“The track isn’t the most technical on the calendar, but it’s still quite demanding because there are some fast corners and you have to be very careful not to make a single mistake for 71 laps. We come prepared and I hope we can have a good weekend.”

#22 JENSON BUTTON

“After three ‘city’ races in Monaco, Montreal and Baku, the Austrian Grand Prix has a very different backdrop. It’s located in a very rural part of Austria, in the heart of the Styrian mountains, with no big cities close by. That gives it an enjoyable, old-school feel.

“After a decent showing in Baku, I’ll be looking to start where I left off next weekend. Like everyone at McLaren-Honda, I’m hungry to score more points; our package is improving race-by-race and I look forward to getting the maximum from it in Austria.”

HEAR FROM THE MANAGEMENT

Eric Boullier

“After two long-haul races on consecutive weekends, Formula 1 returns to its European heartland. The Austrian Grand Prix is one of the oldest races on the calendar, it’s an event in which McLaren has enjoyed a lot of success, and it’s a great weekend for the fans.

“After returning from the last two races without a top 10 finish, our immediate aim is to get back into the points. In Canada, Fernando finished 11th, and Jenson achieved the same result in Azerbaijan, neither of which track best suited our car’s characteristics, so we’ll be hoping to do a little better in Austria this weekend.

“We also need to address the reliability issues that accounted for one of our cars in each of the last two races. We’ve been worked hard since we got back to Woking to pin-point the problem and try to ensure that there isn’t a recurrence. On a positive note, all four pitstops conducted by our pit crew in Baku were completed in under 3s, which is an incredible effort.

“Away from the track, we’ve been equally busy. Last week we were delighted to announce a new partnership with Michael Kors, one of several new lifestyle brands associated with McLaren, and we had a significant presence at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where we ran some classic Formula 1 machinery up the famous hill.

“Now, though, it’s time to focus on the racing again and everyone at McLaren-Honda relishes that challenge.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

"The Red Bull Ring is a beautiful technical track, where once you get up the initial uphill section, most of the circuit is a fast downhill with tight corners. It is also one of the shortest races of the year, so once the lights go out, it becomes an intense battle for the drivers and engineers to strategise and adapt quickly throughout the race.

“The track is somewhat power hungry but we have confirmed that our new turbo's efficiency helped the team in both Canada and Baku. We hope to manage our ERS to suit the undulating nature of the track, so we can again fight for points in Sunday's race."

2016 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX – PRACTICE

“We need to be ready for any opportunity if it rains on Sunday”

With rain forecast for the afternoon, the morning’s session in Austria was heavily front-loaded as the team conducted a number of aerodynamic tests, including the running of a distinctive-looking new rear wing configuration on Fernando’s car. 

As predicted, a mighty mid-afternoon deluge wiped out much of this afternoon’s running in FP2 – but, almost as quickly as it arrived, the rains abated and the track dried. In the closing minutes, the teams were able to perform runs on the Option tyre, but Friday’s usual long running was lost to the weather. 

With rain and stormy conditions predicted for both Saturday and Sunday, it looks set to be an eventful weekend in Austria.

#14 Fernando Alonso , MP4-31-02
FP1 1m09.567s (+1.992s) 31 laps 14th
FP2 1m09.075s (+1.108s) 26 laps 11th

“I quite like the new track surface – it’s very smooth and there are no bumps. We were also able to exploit the grip, which was quite good. This afternoon, we had the opportunity to run on the track after the rain – it only took 30 minutes for the circuit to dry out enough for us to fit dry-weather tyres. 

“I think we need to be ready and focused for any opportunity if it rains on Sunday like it did this afternoon – we should try and take advantage of that."

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP1 1m09.365s (+1.992s) 31 laps 13th
FP2 1m08.994s (+1.027s) 30 laps 10th

“Even with the new asphalt, the camber changes in the corners make it tricky to drive around here. Plus, there are a lot of big, wide kerbs that you can use, but they wear the floor, which makes it difficult for everyone. 

“We use all three different types of dry-weather compound today – and I still think it’s a bit up-in-the-air about which tyres will be best in the race. Then, on the Inters, we were one of the quickest cars, which was a positive. 

“There are a lot of fast cars out there, so it’ll be tough for us to get into Q3 tomorrow, but there’s rain forecast for the rest of the weekend, which should give us some useful opportunities.”

Eric Boullier

“A tricky day for the team as we juggled our programme to adapt to the changing weather conditions. This afternoon’s mid-session shower was quite incredible in its suddenness and sheer intensity, but, happily, it quickly dried out and we were able to get some running under our belts before the end of FP2. 

“Nonetheless, the wet conditions robbed us of the opportunity to gather as much useful long-run data as we’d normally like, so there’s still a bit more work to do tomorrow – weather permitting – to best prepare us for qualifying. 

“The morning’s session was spent undertaking a number of aero tests as we work to introduce new components. Both drivers were satisfied with the car’s balance, despite the lack of running, but we still need to make some improvements if we’re to challenge for Q3 tomorrow and points in Sunday’s race.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

"Today as a whole became a busy Friday for the team due to the sudden rain in FP2. From a power unit point of view, we have carried over almost all components from the European GP, so we focused on our set-up for the weekend as well as support the team's run plans. 

"Last year, we were hampered by lack of deployment on the final straight and the steep inclines of Turns One and Two, but I am happy to say that our new turbo's upgrades have been working well this weekend.  

"The weather forecast still shows instability and rain for the weekend, so we hope to be prepared for whatever nature throws at us."

2016 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

“We start from P3 tomorrow, which is mega!”

Jenson Button will start tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix from third position after he and the team brilliantly judged drying conditions to nail a competitive time in the dying seconds of Q3. 

As the rains fell during qualifying, Jenson was the last driver to switch from Intermediates to Options and, subsequently, the last to cross the line as the track dried. He set the fifth-fastest time, but was elevated to third by virtue of the five-place penalties given to Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. It was a perfectly managed session from the driver, engineers, strategists and mechanics. 

Fernando Alonso was extremely unlucky in Q2. He set his first timed lap on used Options, then, after fitting fresh rubber for the second run, encountered yellow flags at Turn Three after Jenson locked up, went wide and ran into the gravel. Without an opportunity to better his earlier time, he will line up 14th.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-02
FP3 10th, 1m08.327s (+1.229s) 17 laps
Q1 16th, 1m07.671s (on Options)
Q2 14th, 1m08.154s (on Options)

“Certainly, this wasn’t a smooth qualifying session for us. In Q2, with the threat of rain hanging over us, we tried to leave the garage as early in the session as possible. Unfortunately, for some reason, my car was fitted with used Option tyres from Q1, rather than fresh rubber. 

“Then, when we fitted new tyres for the second run, I came across a yellow flag and had to abort the lap. That’s disappointing because we really needed to capitalise on the mistakes of others today. 

“For tomorrow’s race tomorrow, we’ll need mixed conditions if we want to recover from 14th on the grid. The forecast tomorrow is for rain, so let’s wait and see…”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP3 9th, 1m08.304s (+1.206 s), 19 laps
Q1 12th, 1m07.653s (on Options)
Q2 10th, 1m07.572s (on Options)
Q3 5th* 1m09.900s (on Options), * will start third due to ROS & VET penalties

“We start from P3 tomorrow, which is mega! 

“It was an enjoyable session – I thought it was all over in Q2 after I locked up into Turn Three. It was spitting with rain at Turns One and Two, so I didn’t think it would affect me into Turn Three, but I ran wide and just stayed on. 

“It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow: nobody really understands how the tyres are going to deliver, but starting from third means we’ll be in a good position. 

“I always love those conditions and I was just trying to save it for the last lap. Luckily there was no yellow flags – I took a lot of risks but it all worked out today. 

“For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment…”

Eric Boullier

“First, Jenson and the team did an absolutely fantastic job throughout an extremely tough and tricky qualifying session. In Q3, on both the Intermediate and the Option tyre, Jenson looked utterly assured. He set the second-fastest lap-time on the wet-weather rubber, then locked down fifth overall as the field collectively switched to Options as the track rapidly dried. 

“While Jenson drove superbly, I also want to pay tribute to our engineers and mechanics, who all worked together in extremely testing circumstances to ensure the car was in the right place at the right time to take full advantage of the changeable conditions. 

“Second, while there was a small oversight with tyre-sets for Fernando on his first lap in Q2, it was the waved yellow flags he encountered on his second run, at the exit of Turn Three after Jenson ran wide into the gravel, that effectively ended his chances of getting into Q3. With the weather worsening, he would not get another roll of the dice. 

“We’ve experienced both sides of the coin this afternoon; our aim for tomorrow must be to minimise the occurrence of any mistakes, and to ensure that we’re always in a position to make the most of any opportunity in what could be an extremely unpredictable and eventful race.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“It was a happy ending to come away with the best qualifying result so far for the McLaren-Honda team, especially after a chaotic qualifying session with the rain coming in between Q2 and Q3. 

“As the track changed from wet to dry in Q3, the team made a good decision at the right time to go to dry tyres, and Jenson drove brilliantly to put his last lap up into P5. On the other hand, Fernando was unlucky to be caught up in the yellow flags and could not put in a clean lap in Q2. 

“Tomorrow the weather again is forecast to be unstable, so our hope is to make the most of our qualifying position to bring home some points for the team.”

2016 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX – RACE

“Hugely encouraged by our improvement”

Jenson Button claimed sixth position in today’s Austrian Grand Prix with perhaps the most convincing display yet of the burgeoning pace of the McLaren-Honda partnership. 

Starting from third, Jenson vaulted into second place and ran strongly during the opening stint, before stopping on lap nine to switch from Option to Back-Up tyres. During his middle stint, he picked off cars in front of him, taking sudden advantage of a Safety Car period (to remove Sebastian Vettel’s puncture-damaged Ferrari) to pit again and fit a Back-Up to take him to the finish. 

In the closing laps, Jenson ran as high as fifth before settling for sixth after being overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, who had fitted a fresh set of Prime tyres. 

Starting from 14th, Fernando Alonso also raced competitively through the first two stints, running inside the top 10 as the strategy ebbed and flowed. He pitted for his second stop immediately behind Jenson to take advantage of the Safety Car. Unfortunately, however, he suffered an ES battery pack system failure in the closing laps, and was forced to retire.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-02
Started 14th
Finished DNF – ES battery pack system failure
Fastest lap 1m11.020s on lap 20 (+2.609s, 20th)
Pit-stops Two: lap 8 (2.80s) and 26 (3.86s) [Prime/Back-Up/Back-Up]

“We had bad luck this weekend. 

“It was a tough race for me today – the engine wasn’t running well from about lap three or four, I was losing power due to an issue with the battery, so we were on the verge of retiring the car for the whole race. 

“But, since we were running on the fringe of the top 10, we knew there was a point on the table, and kept going in a bid to finish. In the end, it just wasn’t possible. 

“We need to learn from the problems we had this weekend, but we also go away with some positives: our car was competitive in variable conditions yesterday, and Jenson scoring some good points for the team today.”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
Started 3rd
Finished 6th
Fastest lap 1m10.001s on lap 70 (+1.590s, 9th)
Pit-stops Two: lap 9 (3.67s) and 26 (3.79s) [Option/Back-Up/Back-Up]

“I knew the race was going to be difficult – starting near the front definitely helps because you can race in clear air and do your own thing a little bit more, but, with two DRS zones around this place, we couldn’t keep the other cars behind. While our pace was okay, once a car came past, they could overtake in places we never knew were possible.   

“Nonetheless, we beat the Williams cars on sheer pace, and I think we did a great job today with our race strategy. We really got the maximum from everything. Through every session, we’ve been improving; every run we’ve done, we made the car better and better. 

“We did a great job all weekend, but we know that we head to Silverstone not expecting to be in this position next week.”

Eric Boullier

“Jenson drove brilliantly this afternoon to finish sixth – and at a circuit where we wouldn’t have expected such a strong result. In fact, the whole weekend has shown just what we can achieve when we’re able to take full advantage of the strengths, resources and determination of this organisation. This result is a landmark for the team, because it clearly shows in which direction we are headed: towards the front of the grid.

“Fernando gave his all this afternoon but sadly came home unrewarded. He was able to push hard at the start of the race, but became increasingly hampered by a systems issue with the battery pack, which meant he couldn’t make any progress. The issue worsened, and we were forced to retire his car before the end of the race. 

“We head to our home race under no illusions that the fast sweeps and long straights of Silverstone will play to the strengths of our car, but, equally, we go there feeling hugely encouraged by the ongoing improvements we continue to show.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“Jenson capitalised on his starting grid position and showed enough pace to score more points for the team with a well-deserved sixth position. 

“On the other hand, Fernando unfortunately suffered an ES pack system failure, therefore we elected to retire the car for safety reasons, which was disappointing as he was also within reach of the points today. 

“On a positive note, I think we were able to show our strength in both the car and the team this weekend, which is very encouraging for the next race at Silverstone, McLaren-Honda’s home race.”