What Does the Austrian Grand Prix Contract Extension Mean for the Sport?
Written by Vyas Ponnuri, Edited by Sameena Khan
Formula One announced a contract extension for the Austrian Grand Prix, held at the Red Bull Ring, until the end of 2027. This means we can witness at least another four editions of the Austrian Grand Prix in the forthcoming future of the sport.
The contract extension also comes just as the current agreement for the Red Bull Ring enters its tenth year in partnership with Formula One, a milestone of note for the track having hosted races under the Austrian Grand Prix for each of the years, and the Styrian Grand Prix during two pandemic-affected seasons as well.
Nestled amid the Styrian hills, the track has played host to various enthralling races throughout the history of Formula One. Remember the Osterreichring? The high-speed, challenging track layout, a precursor to the current Grand Prix track, hosted numerous races during the 1970s and the 1980s.
Elevation changes; fast, sweeping corners taken at third gear on a five-speed gearbox, and at some places, narrow, the track was a challenge for drivers, as well as engines and tyres. The track was highly fast-paced, with Derek Warwick topping out at 344 km/h (214 mph) on his Brabham BT55 in 1986 when turbo engines were prevalent.
Comparatively, fewer braking zones also brought about the difficulty in cooling the tyres and engines. Despite adding a few chicanes to bring down average speeds, the Osterreichring would be remembered for its fearsomeness for the years to come.
The circuit hosted several exciting races between 1970 and 1987 under the Austrian Grand Prix moniker. This included a famous victory in 1975 by Vittorio Brambilla, in his orange March, famously spinning on the run down to turn one as he passed the finish line in soaking rain.
The final race on the layout in 1987 required multiple restarts following collisions on the narrow pit straight. This came five years after Elio De-Angelis and Keke Rosberg went for glory, De Angelis taking his maiden race win in a photo finish across the line.
Although, with rising concerns over high speed and safety, the track was abandoned, before coming into its new guise a decade later, the A1 Ring. The track, named after its sponsor A1, was noticeably shorter, despite retaining the undulations and high-speed sections. The Austrian Grand Prix returned to the track in 1997, with seven Grands-Prix staged at the circuit. Ferrari’s famous team orders fiasco and Juan Pablo Montoya’s quipping “Oh Deer” in response to the wildlife running around the circuit are memories of note under the “A1 Ring” name.
The track was revived a decade after it last hosted a Grand Prix, this time under the ownership of Red Bull. A revival worth €70m overseen by Dietrich Mateschitz later, Red Bull looked to reach an agreement with the FIA for a slot on the 2013 calendar. They were rewarded with a slot on the calendar for the 2014 Formula One season, the dawn of the turbo-hybrid era of Formula One. The track has proven to be likable by the F1 community, receiving praise for its ability to throw great races and its multiple overtaking zones providing for continued side-by-side battling throughout the race. The advent of the new regulations in 2022 further aided racing, with five drivers going into turn three nose-to-tail and providing an enthralling battle. The Red Bull Ring also saw Charles Leclerc take victory for Ferrari, breaking their long winless streak at the track.
Stefano Domenicali revealed a heart-warming gesture behind the renewal of the circuit’s contract as well:
“The Austrian Grand Prix brings together the perfect mix of a challenging track, high-speed racing, and a beautiful venue for our fans, so I am delighted that we will be coming back to the Red Bull Ring until at least 2027 under this new agreement.
"As we celebrate the 10th year since our return to Spielberg, I would like to thank everyone involved in this renewal, especially the promoter and Red Bull and I want to pay tribute to Dietrich Mateschitz for the love, passion, and vision he brought to Formula 1 that has ensured the continued success of the event and the huge enthusiasm for our sport in Austria and around the world.”
The management at the track were delighted with the extension too, with Erich Wolf, General Manager of Projekt Spielberg GmbH & Co KG, adding: “We are proud of the special partnership we have with Formula 1, and we are absolutely delighted to be welcoming the top class of motorsport to the Red Bull Ring for a further four years. In signing this contract extension, Formula 1 has made a strong commitment to Austria, Styria and the Murtal region.
"As we enter the tenth year of our partnership with Formula 1, we want to celebrate this milestone with all the great fans of the sport and to thank them for their loyalty and the tremendous atmosphere they help to generate. Everyone is invited to experience another great race weekend at Spielberg in 2023.”
The fans were also pleased with the FIA announcing the track’s future presence on the calendar. Many expressed their happiness and pleasure to see a part of Formula One’s history remain on the calendar for the years to come and to more great races at the circuit.
The Red Bull Ring remaining on the calendar for another four seasons means a lot for the sport, and it will be exciting to see this track provide for more enthralling racing action in the following races.