Summarising six decades of motorsport in brief was always going to be an impossible task. From the first races at Zeltweg Air Base in 1963 to the legendary and extremely fast Österreichring, followed by the Mickey Mouse track – the A1 Ring – to the modern day Red Bull Ring – the history of our legendary race track is brimming with myths, emotions and big names like Jochen Rindt, Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez.
In November, the diggers came to the Red Bull Ring once more. The conversion of the T2 curve into a chicane should provide for even more drama in MotoGP in the future. The chicane, a fluid right-wing combination, will be officially inaugurated at the Austrian Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in August 2022.
MotoGP fans also got to enjoy two races at the Red Bull Ring. At the second race, the Motorcycle Grand Prix of Austria, Brad Binder took the first home victory for the KTM factory team. Rain made the last laps of the race unbelievably exciting. The fans had experienced a historic moment a week earlier as MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi announced his retirement at the start of the Styrian GP.
On 11 May 2021, the Red Bull Ring celebrated its tenth anniversary. Two Formula 1 races were again on the schedule in the anniversary year, this time with spectators at the track. 147,000 fans were there to see Max Verstappen make history. With his fourth Spielberg victory, the Red Bull Racing driver beat previous record-holder Alain Prost (three victories) after more than 30 years.
By hosting a double Grand Prix in both Formula 1 and MotoGP, the Red Bull Ring acted as a major pioneer. The lessons learned in hosting major events during the pandemic contributed significantly to the comeback of global sporting events.
In October, the ADAC GT Masters held the 200th race in the history of their racing series at the Red Bull Ring – a milestone for the competition for super sports cars.
Just like in Formula 1, two MotoGP races were held at the Red Bull Ring. The inaugural Styrian Grand Prix was the cause of great celebrations at KTM. Miguel Oliveira notched up a home victory for the Austrian manufacturer. That’s not all – it was not only Oliveira’s first victory in MotoGP, but also the very first victory for the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team in the elite class of motorcycle racing.
For the first time in F1 history, the opening race in the season took place in Austria – without fans in attendance, but with two races at the Red Bull Ring. After the Austrian GP, the Styrian Grand Prix was contested for the first time a week later. The 50th anniversary of Formula 1 in Austria and the return of global motorsport after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic was celebrated with Drum the Bull – an incredible drum roll. At the centre of this spectacle was steel bull acting as a unique sound box.
MotoGP and the Red Bull Ring – that’s an unbeatable pair! The co-operation between the premier class of motorcycle racing and the Red Bull Ring was extended for a further five years. The best riders in the world therefore committed to race at the Red Bull Ring until 2025.
Max Verstappen won the Austrian Grand Prix to end Mercedes’ winning run at Spielberg. It was Red Bull Racing’s first home win.
From November 2015 to the end of April 2016, the entire Red Bull Ring was resurfaced and therefore brought into an ideal condition for the return of MotoGP to Spielberg. More than 200,000 spectators celebrated the first motorcycle Grand Prix in Austria for 19 years. Andrea Iannone took victory ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo.
Inspired by the rear wing of a racing car, the Red Bull Wing is the architectural highlight of the Red Bull Ring. On the ground floor, the Wing houses the Welcome Center, the Wing Café and the Fan Shop.
After eleven years, Formula 1 returned to Spielberg. Nico Rosberg won the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton (both Mercedes) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams). A few months later, the Red Bull Air Race made its first appearance at the Red Bull Ring. The spectacular race attracted thousands of fans. The victory went to the Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff, while Nigel Lamb’s second place was enough to secure
In July, the Truck Race Trophy made its first visit to the Red Bull Ring and provided a three-day spectacular on the new track. With the first Spielberg Music Festival in August, there was excitement away from the track too. On 23 July 2013, Formula 1 officially confirmed the return of the Austrian GP to its race calendar.
After one and a half years of construction, the landmark of the Red Bull Ring was completed – a gigantic steel bull in the middle of the race track. The entire sculpture, including the arch, reaches a height of 17.2 meters and a weight of 68 tons. The foundation for the bull was formed by 44 tons of steel poured into 950 tons of concrete.
Three years were spent working on updating and upgrading Spielberg. On 15 May 2011, the time had finally come – Projekt Spielberg officially presented the new Red Bull Ring to the world of motorsport. In June, the DTM became the first major motorsport racing series to thrill tens of thousands of motorsport fans at the Red Bull Ring.
The vision behind Project Spielberg and the ‘Spielberg – Nomen est omen’ brand was not only to operate one of the most modern race tracks in the world, but also to make the best possible use of the potential around the track. Dietrich Mateschitz’s vision was not universally well received and construction was not permitted for several years. It was not until 20 October 2008 that Project Spielberg received the green light to turn its vision into reality.
Michael Schumacher proved on 18 May 2003 that he was capable of winning in Austria without any underhand help – with victory at the A1 ring. It was the last Austrian Grand Prix on this track layout. After the end of the season, the diggers moved in to tear down part of the track.
A year earlier, Rubens Barrichello had received the historic team order of “Let Michael pass for the championship!” Michael Schumacher took second place thanks to Ferrari team orders, while Barrichello finished third. In 2002, Ferrari went even further as the A1 Ring became the scene of one of the most controversial moments in F1 history. Although Barrichello was in the lead for the entire race, he had to let his team-mate pass in the final turn on the orders of Ferrari team principal Jean Todt to give Schumacher the victory.
The numerous changes to the track bore fruit – in 1997, the Formula 1 circus returned to Austria. It would be Gerhard Berger’s final home GP. He ended his racing career after the European Grand Prix with a fifth-place finish in the drivers’ standings.
As part of an F1 test for Sauber, Alexander Wurz not only completed the first laps of his own in an F1 car, but also the first laps of an F1 car ever on the A1 Ring’s new track layout. Williams and Jordan followed suit and also used the newly designed track for testing.
After a huge reconstruction, the Österreichring became the A1-Ring. The track was widened and shortened to 4.3 kilometres. In order to ensure for greater safety, additional run-off zones were built. The Motorcycle World Championship was the first major event to take place on the newly opened A1 ring – where a certain Valentino Rossi stood on the podium in the 125 cc class for the first time in his career.
Despite there being no F1, the motorcycle riders, in particular, continued to provide top racing action at the Österreichring. In the Superbike World Championship in 1993, as one of the last private riders, local hero Andreas Meklau won his first and only World Championship round on a Ducati. He also achieved all of his three other podium finishes on home soil.
The Austrian GP had to be started three times this year. After the first start, there was a crash with several cars requiring the race to be stopped and restarted. On the second attempt, a poor start from Nigel Mansell caused a massive crash with twelve cars on the start-finish straight. Eventually, two hours after the originally planned start, the race got underway. It was the last F1 race on the old layout of the Österreichring.
After the death of Jochen Rindt, it was left to Niki Lauda to attract huge crowds of local fans to the race track. His supporters had to wait a long time to see their idol’s first home win, however. It was not until his tenth attempt that Lauda managed to win at the Österreichring. In the same race, a young Austrian called Gerhard Berger made his debut.
In qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, Nelson Piquet drove an average speed of more than 244 km/h, consolidating the status of the Österreichring as one of the fastest tracks on the calendar. The race resulted in one of the tightest finishes in Formula 1 history. Keke Rosberg and Elio de Angelis drove side by side towards the finish line and created an extraordinary photo finish. De Angelis won by a margin of 125 thousandths of a second.
From 1975 to 1977, the Österreichring was the place for F1 underdogs. The brilliant drive of Vittorio Brambilla (March) in the rain at the Austrian Grand Prix was overshadowed by a serious accident in the warm-up. American Mark Donohue’s car rolled over, and he died two days later in hospital. As a consequence, the famous Hella S curve was installed to make the Österreichring safer. A year later, John Watson’s debut victory followed, and in 1977 Alan Jones climbed to the top of the podium for the first time. A humorous side note – as nobody had expected Jones’ debut victory, there was no score of the Australian national anthem to follow at the awards ceremony. Instead, the band played Happy Birthday.
On 15 August 1970, the Österreichring hosted its first ever Grand Prix. More than 100,000 spectators watched Jochen Rindt take pole position. In the race, he retired on lap 21 after an engine failure. It was to be Rindt’s last home GP, as a few weeks later the Austrian motorsport legend died in practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
The opening of the Österreichring spelt the end of the bumpy old Zeltweg airfield track, which the drivers had grown to hate. The race track was opened with a 1000-kilometer race. Victory was taken by Joseph Siffert and Kurt Ahrens in the Porsche 917. A name that was still unknown at the time made it into eighth place in the overall standings – Helmut Marko.