As a Team, this year we have a legitimate claim to having six home races, so in this new series we’re taking a look at the history of each race, as well as when it became our home race and why.
The Singing Sixties
Zeltweg Airfield Circuit was home to the first Austrian Grand Prix. With the course determined by straw bales and in the shape of an upside-down L, it wasn’t exactly a difficult track for the drivers, but after 105 laps, Ferrari’s Lorenzo Bandini took the chequered flag – his only one in Formula One.
For the next five years, the race was held but as a non-championship event, so we’re not counting it. When the World Championship returned to Austria in 1970 it had a new home, the Österreichring. The Österreichring was cut into the Styrian mountains and is where the Red Bull Ring now sits. The original track was 5.911km with 16 turns. Niki Lauda holds the track record for the original circuit in his Ferrari – the only Austrian to win the Austrian GP.
As cars became faster, the narrow and quick Österreichring was deemed unfit for purpose and its original form held its last F1 race in 1987. It returned 10 years later and was now named the A1-Ring.
The reworked circuit had lost the flow of the original layout and became a stop-start circuit. It held the Austrian GP for seven years, but its contract wasn’t renewed for 2004, so once again the Austrian Grand Prix disappeared from the calendar.
With the circuit in disrepair, Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz purchased the circuit in 2004 with huge plans to modernise the track, update all the buildings and bring Formula One back to the Styrian mountains. Demolition work began on the circuit and buildings straight away, but Mateschitz had a huge task on his hands. The project saw a complete overhaul of everything at the circuit and when finished the DTM series almost instantly said they would return to the circuit along with Formula 2. And in 2011 the Red Bull Ring – as it was now called – held its first race.
Conversations between Red Bull and the FIA began regarding the track being ready to host a round of the Formula One World Championship. And on 22 June 2014, the Austrian Grand Prix was held once again.
Bulls Return Home
As a Team, Red Bull Racing Honda competes under the Austrian flag, but is based in the UK. So technically, the Team had been competing in the championship without a home race for its first nine seasons. So when the race was held there was great excitement for Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, however it wasn’t the return the Team had hoped for. Daniel finished P8 and Sebastian had to retire after 34 laps with an electronics issue.
The first silverware the Team brought back from the Red Bull Ring was thanks to Max Verstappen in 2016. After his early-season move from Toro Rosso, his fifth race for the Team was at the Red Bull Ring and after qualifying in P9 he was able to battle his way to P2. It was also his second podium for the Team. A year later, Daniel collected his own Austrian trophy, finishing P3 behind former teammate Seb and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas who took the win.
Strength To Strength
The next two seasons at the track gave the whole of the Red Bull Family a reason to celebrate. Max claimed victory in 2018 and again in 2019, what made the latter even more special was that it was also the first win for a Honda-powered car since 2006.
For a long time in 2020 it looked like there might not be a Formula One season at all due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But after hard work from all involved a 17-race calendar was put together, with Austria hosting the season opener and back-to-back races. This made the Red Bull Ring the 13th location to host the first race of the season. And it was unlucky for the Team, as we suffered our first double DNF for two years.
The second of the two races, called the Styrian Grand Prix, was a different story though. Max collected his fourth Austrian trophy finishing P3 and teammate Alex Albon was right behind him in P4.
We return to the Red Bull Ring for another back-to-back race in 2021, with the Styrian GP taking place last weekend. This saw a dominant display by Max, who claimed pole position and cruised to victory by more than 30 seconds ahead of P2. Teammate Checo missed out on a home race double podium by just 0.5 seconds.