The rise to prominence of Jochen Rindt was the catalyst for the building of the original Osterreichring, close to the town of Spielberg. Races had previously been run on a notoriously bumpy airfield circuit in nearby Zeltweg, most famously the 1964 Austrian GP.
Rindt was a newcomer when he took part in that race, but by the time the purpose-built Osterreichring was opened in 1969, he was an established F1 star. He took pole for the first GP at the new venue in August 1970, only to retire. A few weeks later he lost his life at Monza, subsequently becoming the first posthumous World Champion. His widow Nina accepted the trophy.
The track meanwhile became established as a hugely popular F1 venue, thanks to its picturesque hillside location and challenging, fast corners. The introduction of a chicane in the uphill first righthander slowed it slightly, but it remained one of the fastest venues on the calendar, although summer rain often slowed the action.
It was also famous for oddball results. Vittorio Brambilla scored the first Grand Prix victory for the March team in 1975, and then John Watson did the same for Penske in 1976 and Alan Jones repeated the feat with Shadow in 1977. In 1982 Elio de Angelis scored one of the closest wins in F1 history for Lotus, pipping Keke Rosberg by a few metres.
The 1987 event saw two red-flagged attempts to start the race before action finally got underway safely – it was to be the final Grand Prix at the original track, which was regarded as dangerous for the turbo cars of the era.
The original track was subsequently rebuilt and shortened as the renamed A1 Ring, returning to the F1 calendar in 1997. Jacques Villeneuve won the first Grand Prix at the slower but still spectacular venue, which often provided exciting races. In 2002 there was a huge controversy as Rubens Barrichello was told to move over for Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher.
After the 2003 event Austria dropped off the F1 schedule. The A1 Ring subsequently fell out of use. It was eventually purchased by Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz, and given a significant makeover and a new identity.
The Austrian GP returned to the F1 calendar in 2014. Mercedes has won most of the subsequent races at the track, but the RBR team has also shone on home ground, with Max Verstappen triumphing in both 2018 and 2019. In 2020 the venue was the home of the delayed start of the World Championship, with the Austrian GP followed by a second race, under the Styrian GP name. It will also host two events in 2021 following the cancellation of the Turkish GP.
The history of women at the Red Bull Ring
Lella Lombardi remains the only woman to have competed in an Austrian GP, and the former Osterreichring track is one of three 2021 W Series venues that the Italian raced at during her F1 career, along with Silverstone and Zandvoort.
Lombardi made her name competing in the 1974 European F5000 Championship. In 1975 she signed up with March for the full F1 season, earning a sixth place in the red-flagged Spanish GP.
In Austria she qualified a respectable 22nd of the 30 entries, ahead of veteran Chris Amon. She survived the atrocious wet conditions and was classified 17th after the race was red-flagged, with her team mate Vittorio Brambilla declared the winner.
She lost her March drive to Ronnie Peterson after just one race in 1976, but returned in the middle of the year for a few races with a private Brabham BT44B run by the RAM team. On her second visit to Austria she started 24th and finished 12th in what was to be her final F1 outing.
In its original guise the Osterreichring hosted only a few non-F1 meetings each season, and thus women drivers were represented relatively rarely over the years.
In 1974 Belgium’s Christine Beckers drove a Chevron in the 1000kms World Sportscar race, while the following year Lombardi shared an Alpine-Renault with Marie-Claude Beaumont, alongside works entries crewed by F1 stars Patrick Depailler, Jody Scheckter and Jean-Pierre Jarier. Unfortunately the all-female crew logged an early retirement with an engine failure.
France’s Cathy Muller was a European F3 regular and raced at the original track in 1983 and 1984, finishing seventh in the latter season, while Ellen Lohr competed in German F3 events in the late eighties. Austria’s Mercedes Stermitz regularly appeared at her home track in various categories, sharing a seventh place with Annette Meuvissen in the 1987 European Touring Car Championship round.
Among those to compete on the shorter version of the track was Susie Wolff and Rahel Frey, who took part in the 2011 and 2012 DTM events with Mercedes and Audi respectively. Tatiana Calderon competed at the Red Bull Ring in European F3 in 2013-’15, earning a ninth place finish in one race. The Venezuelan returned in GP3 in 2016-’18, and again in F2 in 2019. In 2014 Michael Cerruti scored a third place in an Auto GP race at the track, while Sophia Floersch has been a Red Bull Ring regular, competing there in F3 in 2018 and 2020. She also contested the Formula Regional European event in 2019, earning a fifth place.
Several 2021 W series contenders have experience of the venue. Vicky Piria competed in a Formula Abarth Euro event back in 2011, while the following year Beitske Visser took part in the ADAC Formula Masters rounds, earning two sixth places.
Visser also raced at the Red Bull Ring in Renault 3.5 in both 2015 and 2016, logging a best result of eighth. In 2019 she contested the International GT Open event at the track, earning a sixth place in one of the races in a BMW M6 GT3.
Inaugural W Series champion Jamie Chadwick raced at the venue as recently as September 2020 in Formula Regional Europe, qualifying sixth and earning a fifth place in one race.