The Austrian Grand Prix has become more than a staple on the Formula One calendar in recent years. In 2020 and 2021, we have been treated to not one, but two races from the Red Bull Ring in either season, with one of the races being known as the Styrian Grand Prix. This season marks a return to just the one race around the famed high-speed circuit, and the race is guaranteed to be filled with drama.
In recent years, the circuit has been a happy hunting ground for Max Verstappen and his legion of fans that travel down from the Netherlands. The race is the home Grand Prix of his Red Bull Racing team, and the reigning World Champion has ensured that his bosses have gone home happy in recent years. Last season he dominated both the Austrian and the Styria Grand Prix winning the latter by a whopping 35 seconds. It’s no wonder that highly reputable companies are queuing up to partner with the Austrian outfit and as we approach this season’s trip to the Styrian mountains, the Dutchman holds a 34-point lead atop of the championship standings.
The circuit spent ten years on the shelf however, since its return to the calendar in 2013, we have seen some incredible action.
2019 – Winner – Max Verstappen
2019 was a funny old season. As we approached the ninth round of the championship, each of the previous eight races had been won by Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton winning six of them. There was a sense of apathy towards the sport and perhaps rightly so.
The race prior in France ended up as more of a procession than a race. In the Canadian Grand Prix before that, Hamilton was handed victory, taking advantage of a controversial five-second penalty given to race leader Sebastian Vettel.
But upon arrival in Austria, it seemed like the winds of change were sweeping through. Ferrari’s new up-and-coming star, Charles Leclerc, would seal his second pole position of the season and Verstappen, buoyed by a sea of orange in the grandstands was right behind him in third.
As we got underway, it seemed like the Dutch faithful would be going home distraught, as their hero slipped from third on the grid all the way down to eighth. Leclerc would scamper away in the lead and looked relatively comfortable. But Verstappen would come charging back, and when championship leader Hamilton damaged his front wing over the notorious Spielberg curbs, it appeared as if things were opening up for the Flying Dutchman,
With three laps remaining, it seemed that the Red Bull driver had gotten his man, however, Leclerc would hang on to first place by the skin of his teeth. On the next lap though, the Red Bull man took no prisoners, running the Monegasque driver off the track and securing his first victory of the season.
2016 – Winner – Lewis Hamilton
Six years ago, the war of the Silver Arrows was at its apex, and in Austria, it reached its breaking point. In each of the two previous seasons, Hamilton had held off his best friend turned bitter rival — and teammate — Nico Rosberg, to secure the World Championship in both seasons. In 2016, Rosberg wasn’t about to let it happen again.
He won each of the first four races that season, building a healthy lead at the top of the championship standings. As we arrived at the Red Bull Ring, Hamilton knew he needed victory to keep his season alive.
With both Mercedes driver’s on differing strategies, Rosberg was leading in the final few laps, but his teammate was catching him by a second a lap on fresher tyres. Hamilton would catch up to the leader on the final lap, and as the pair approached turn two they would collide, as the German attempted to run his British teammate off the circuit just as Verstappen would three years later.
It wouldn’t work out on this occasion though, with Rosberg coming off worst, damaging his front wing. To add insult to injury, while Hamilton was celebrating victory, he was given a 10-second penalty for causing a collision, relegating him to fourth place and allowing his teammate to claw back some ground in the title battle.