10 reasons to watch the Austrian Grand Prix

10 reasons to watch the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix

Spielgberg, Austria

The Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg

1) Mercedes’ Hamilton vs. Rosberg VIII.

An epic battle is brewing between the Mercedes drivers.   In the first 7 races of the year, Nico Rosberg has 2 wins and 5 second place

Austrian Grand Prix

Rosberg and Hamilton continue a heated battle for first at the Austrian Grand Prix

finishes.  Four of those second place finishes were behind his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.   So after seven races, that means that Mercedes drivers sit first and second on top of the drivers standings.  The Austrian Grand Prix will be their eighth battle of the year in what is turning into a fierce rivalry and a race for the championship.

1 Nico Rosberg German Mercedes 140
2 Lewis Hamilton British Mercedes 118
3 Daniel Ricciardo Australian Red Bull Racing-Renault 79
4 Fernando Alonso Spanish Ferrari 69
5 Sebastian Vettel German Red Bull Racing-Renault 60

F1 Fastpass: Lewis Hamilton

2) 11 years in waiting.

The last Austrian Grand Prix was run in 2003 and was won by the incomparable Michael Schumacher.   Only three current drivers ran in that race:  Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (finished 2nd behind Schumacher) and Fernando Alonso; and McLaren’s Jenson Button.

It’s been a long wait for the return of this race, and everyone involved is ready for something special to happen.

F1 Fastpass:  Jenson Button

3) Red Bull has broken into the ring with a win in Canada.

Daniel Ricciardo comes to the Austrian Grand Prix after ending Mercedes perfect season two weeks ago in Canada.  It was Red Bulls first win of the year and Ricciardo’s first F1 win.   All of this just in time to come “home” to the Red Bull ring in Spielberg, Austria.

All smiles for Ricciardo in Canada

4)  Niki Lauda, the champion comes home.

The great Niki Lauda, former F1 champion returns to his native Austria.   Lauda’s first F1 race was the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix.  He went on to become a conquering 3 time champion.   Recently immortalized in the movie Rush, the film chronicles Laudas epic 1976 battle with James Hunt and the crash that nearly killed him leaving scars for life.  The Austrian fans look forward to welcoming their returning hero and champion.

Austrian Grand Prix

Two great champions:  Lauda, the Austrian and Schumacher, the last to win the Austrian Grand Prix

Niki Lauda is so beloved in Austria that one of the corners on the circuit was named after Niki… until a few weeks ago.   You see, Niki returns as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team but the new track is owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-founder of Red Bull.  So, as the Austrian Grand Prix approached and Lauda prepared to come home, Niki Lauda Kurve was removed and renamed.  Lauda responded to the news by saying “the only reason I can think of … is that we are beating Red Bull.”

I hope the TV crews give us plenty of Niki.  (did they really remove Lauda’s name from the track?)

5) The Austrians know how to throw a grand (prix) party.

Fans come from around Austria and the world to camp in the surrounding hills for days before the race.  In the past, the Austrian Grand Prix has been known as much for the party atmosphere as the racing.  Tickets have been sold out for months and houses for miles are rented by locals.  While the Monaco Grand Prix is known for it’s celebrity and luxury, the Austrian Grand Prix has the feel of a Grateful Dead concert in the mountains of Austria.   Add it to the bucket list.

6) Red Bull Ring.

Austrian Grand Prix

Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg

After the old track was deemed unsuitable for racing, Mateschitz  resurrected the circuit in grand fashion.  Renaming it “Red Bull Ring”, giving it multiple passing zones, and adding a giant bull to the middle of the track, Mateschitz has made a masterpiece.   More, this masterpiece should provide a great theater for some competitive racing this weekend.

Be sure to see the inaugural race on the new track.

You can listen to the pronunciation of Mateschitz here.  Practice aloud a few times for your own enjoyment.

7) The field is at top form.

After an offseason of massive and fundamental rule changes, many of the teams have experienced a slow start as they adjusted.  This is the eighth race now and all of the teams have had enough time to optimize their machines.   We may see the most competitive driving of the 2014 season this weekend.

8) See if Vettel can get his first win on Red Bull’s “home court”

Sebastian Vettel finished last season with a Formula 1 record nine straight victories en route to his fourth straight title.

He hasn’t won since.

After teammate Daniel Ricciardo won last week, could this be Vettel’s chance?  We now know the engineers have figured it out.  We know his teammate has figured it out.  Can Seb make #8 the one?    Vettel found the podium in Canada and is hungrier than ever to get his first win of the season.

F1 Fastpass:  Sebastian Vettel

9) Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has to break through at some point… right?

Fan favorite and two time champion Fernando Alonso is also seeking his first win.  They came in to the season with high hopes and always high Ferrari expectations.   They’ve had a disappointing beginning to the season across the board.   Alonso, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and the whole Ferrari team seem ready to take some chances in the paddock and on the track.   If and when these guys decide to work together and Ferrari figures out the the new rules, look out.   Watch Ferrari turn the corner at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s explosive dream team

F1 Fastpass:  Fernando Alonso

10)  The field all has something to prove:

– Jules Bianchi scored Marussia’s first points ever earlier this year and Mr. consistency Max Chilton tries to add his own.

– McLaren:   fan favorite Jenson Button returns to Austria;  Kevin Magnussen continues an impressive rookie season (#9 in drivers points after 8 races.)

– Williams’ Felipe Massa tries to bounce back after that horrific last lap wreck in Canada while Valterri Bottas quietly strings together top 10 finishes.

– Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez are 4th in constructors points and neck and neck with rival Ferrari.

– Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat prepares for the maiden Russian Grand Prix after becoming the youngest driver in history to score F1 points;  teammate Jean-Eric Vergne is coming off a top 10 finish in Canada that he would like to build on in Austria.

 

Bonus:  This video will make you want to watch the race… right now.

if you haven’t watched this CGI Video preview of Red Bull Ring and the Austrian Grand Prix by Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo will put you in the drivers seat…

Watching the Austrian Grand Prix in the US…

Friday, June 20 – 8:00 a.m. – Austrian Grand Prix – Practice #2 (NBCSN)
Saturday, June 21 8:00 a.m. – Austrian Grand Prix – Qualifying (NBCSN)
Sunday, June 22 – 7:30 a.m. – Austrian Grand Prix – Race (NBCSN)

F1 Fastpass:  Jenson Button

F1 Fastpass:  Daniil Kvyat

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