Formula One

Most Memorable Austrian GPs In F1 History – A trip down memory lane to 1975, 2002 and 2016

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Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

This weekend marks the ninth race of the 2023 Formula 1 season and is held at one of its most picturesque venues, the Red Bull Ring. It will be the 38th championship race on Austrian soil, which places it eleventh on the respective list.

Every Grand Prix has been held at the same location apart from the first one, in 1964, which was held in the Zeltweg Airport. In 1970, the race took place in the Styrian mountains, at the very fast Osterreichring. It stayed in the calendar until 1987 and became one of the most popular circuits in the calendar. Ten years later, the circuit was renovated, shortened and many of the corners became slower. Five years later, the venue was off the calendar again. It returned in 2014, after it was bought by Red Bull and renamed the Red Bull Ring, with no significant changes in terms of the layout.

In this feature, we will take a look at three of the most memorable races in Austria, taking one Grand Prix from each iteration of the circuit.

1975 Austrian Grand Prix

The weekend started badly, as Mark Donohue crashed hard in his Penske during practice at Österreichring, losing his life at the age of 38. He sadly wasn’t the only victim of the crash, as a marshal died as well following the accident.

The race took place in very wet conditions and Niki Lauda and James Hunt, who started at the front, stayed ahead. The men on the move were Vittorio Brambilla and Ronnie Peterson, with the former gaining five places to go up to third and the latter leaping from thirteenth to fourth in the opening laps. The order soon changed again, with Lauda dropping back as he was struggling in the wet and gave the lead to Hunt on lap 14. Four laps later, the first position changed hands once again, with Brambilla passing the ill Hesketh, which had lost one of its cylinders.

Brambilla, whose previous best result was a fifth-place finish in Spain, remained unaffected by the pressure and was the first to cross the line when the race was halted on lap 29, out of the scheduled 54. The 37-year-old’s only error came after the chequered flag fell, when he crashed his March while celebrating. James Hunt finished 27 seconds back and Tom Pryce took his first podium in F1. Jochen Mass was fourth, while Ronnie Peterson had to pit because of problems with his visor.

2002 Austrian Grand Prix

Rubens Barrichello took pole in Austria, beating Ralf Schumacher by three tenths of a second and Michael Schumacher by six for his second pole of the season. Juan Pablo Montoya had a problem with his car and used the spare one, but still qualified fourth. He was in front of Nick Heidfeld, who impressed in his Sauber, as he qualified in front of both McLarens.

At the start, Michael Schumacher got in front of Ralf to slot in second position, behind Barrichello. Heidfeld also gained positions and was third at the end of the first lap. A safety car on lap 23 of 71 shuffled up the order and, on the restart, there was a huge crash. Heidfeld lost control of his car under braking for Turn 2 and slammed into Takuma Sato’s Jordan, narrowly missing Montoya. The accident was big, but thankfully both drivers escaped serious injury.

Ferrari and Williams used different strategies for their drivers and after the stops were over it was Barrichello in first, Michael Schumacher in second, Montoya in third and Ralf Schumacher in fourth. It looked like that would be the order heading to the flag, but Ferrari had different ideas. Barrichello was instructed by Jean Todt to give up the victory to his teammate. He did so at the exit of the final corner.

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Photo by Grand Prix Photo / Icon Sport

To the disappointment of the crowd, Michael Schumacher emerged victorious and was booed after the race. In an effort to somewhat soften the blow, the German let Barrichello climb on the top step of the podium and take the winner’s trophy. The race was deemed a farce and Ferrari had to pay a million dollars for the actions on the podium ceremony. Montoya held on to third by seven tenths of a second to Ralf Schumacher.

2016 Austrian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton mastered the changing conditions during qualifying and took an easy pole position, half a second clear of Nico Rosberg. The German qualified second, but would start seventh, after his rear suspension failed during practice, which led to a crash that damaged his gearbox. Nico Hulkenberg would take over the front row spot, while fourth-placed Sebastian Vettel also had a gearbox change, which promoted the McLaren-Honda of Jenson Button to third.

Hamilton held onto the lead, but Hulkenberg had a bad start and lost out to both Button and Kimi Räikkönen. Rosberg didn’t gain a lot of ground on the first lap, but he was up to third before his first stop, on lap 15. Hamilton stayed out seven laps longer, had a slow stop and emerged behind his teammate. Vettel stayed out much longer, pushing his supersoft tyres to the limit, until he crashed when his rear right gave way on lap 27, leading to a safety car intervention. Rosberg held a healthy margin, but Hamilton stayed close, despite using a harder tyre. On the last lap, with his tyres degrading, Rosberg made a small error at Turn 1, but it was all Hamilton needed to make a move at Turn 2. The German defended on the inside, but they collided!

Hamilton escaped unharmed and took the victory on the last lap! Rosberg’s wing was broken, so he lost positions on his way to the flag. Max Verstappen, who was on an alternative strategy and surrendered the lead with ten laps remaining, held Räikkönen behind him to finish second, while Rosberg took the chequered flag in fourth. He was found guilty for the collision with Hamilton that and was given a ten-second penalty, which dropped him behind Ricciardo. Button second early on, but sixth at the finish was still a good result for him and his team. Romain Grosjean was seventh, ahead of Carlos Sainz and Valtteri Bottas. Sergio Pérez was on course for a few points, but a brake failure on the penultimate lap led to an accident, which gifted tenth place to Pascal Wehrlein and the Manor team.

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