The McLaren Mercedes team arrive in Austria on the back of their best result since the season-opening round in Australia last time out in Canada. Jenson Button took fourth place in Montreal, with Kevin Magnussen down in ninth, but both drivers showed good pace on the high-speed street circuit.
Button is one of the few drivers on the grid with previous Formula One experience around the Spielberg track. He is interested to see what has changed since he last competed at the circuit back in 2003 when driving for British American Racing.
“First, I think it’s great that we’re going back to Austria,” said Button. “Obviously, the Austrian Grand Prix has such a lot of history, the country has had some great drivers and champions in the past, and it’s also currently got a world-class grand prix team, so it makes a lot of sense for us to be racing there again.
“Second, I think it’s a great venue, a fantastic location for a grand prix. From my previous visits, I remember the clear mountain air, the cool morning temperatures before the sun hit the paddock, and the fast, sweeping corners that still largely exist, and which give this circuit a great feel from the cockpit. I remember the racing line for Turn One would lead us far out over the exit kerbs and onto the Tarmac run-off – it was crazy!
“It’ll be interesting to see what has changed in the intervening 10 years – I hear that the track has been left largely unchanged, but that the pits and paddock have been renovated. I think that’s a good call – the track is simple but great. A mini-classic.”
Team-mate Magnussen has the most recent experience of the circuit than anyone else on the grid having competed last year for DAMS in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at the Red Bull Ring. The Dane admits he enjoys racing around the track and cannot wait to get in an F1 car there.
“It’s strange to be able to say it, but, of all the drivers on the F1 grid, I’ve probably got the most recent experience of racing at the Red Bull Ring, because two rounds of the World Series by Renault were held there last summer,” said Magnussen.
“It’s a very cool place – it’s a circuit where you never really get to rest in the cockpit because the track is always going somewhere; there’s only really one ‘straight’ straight, along the start/finish line, but it’s book-ended by fast corners so the opportunity you get to relax is pretty minimal.
“But that’s what makes it so enjoyable – every lap is a real adrenaline rush because the corners never stop coming. You need to really be on top of the car around here, you want it to be doing exactly what you ask of it, simply because the lap is so physical, the driver is actually doing a lot of work, so he needs his car to take as much of that burden as possible.
“I think this’ll be a great new addition to the calendar – the circuit is a hardcore racetrack, the fans are passionate and the venue is spectacular.”
McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier is hoping the upgrades the team are bringing to Austria will enable them to get closer to the front of the field, with a lack of downforce affecting them up to now.
“We’re still not where we need to be,” said Boullier. “Since the beginning of the season, we’ve stated that we need to bring more downforce to the car. Of course, that’s a constantly moving target – for this weekend, however, we’ll be evaluating a number of short- and long-term performance steps. It’s still too early to feel confident about calling them raceable options – it’s more about evaluating their applicability at the circuit than simply hoping they’ll improve lap-time. Nonetheless, we hope the steps will pave the way for an improvement.
“I’m looking forward to a challenging but successful weekend in Austria. It’s good news to see a new, albeit historic, European venue added to the calendar, and everybody will be hoping that this weekend’s event is a successful one.”