F1’s Austrian return falls 50 years after first World Championship Austrian GP

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Here’s one for the anoraks ahead of F1’s return to Austria this weekend – the 2014 running of the Austrian Grand Prix marks 50 years since the first time F1 ran a round of the World Championship in the country.

Most remember the Austrian Grand Prix for the old Österreichring, which hosted the race from 1970 through 1987 with one circuit revision, the addition of a chicane ahead of the 1977 Grand Prix.

But the Austrian Grand Prix actually kicked off with two runnings on the Zeltwig Air Base, which provided a point-and-shoot 1.98-mile course with four corners (the track was shaped like a pistol, with open right-handed Turns 1 and 2, a 90-degree left-handed Turn 3, and a Turn 4 hairpin at the end of a long straight).

A non-championship race was held in 1963, won by the late Sir Jack Brabham.

But the first World Championship Austrian Grand Prix came a year later, on August 23, 1964. The late Lorenzo Bandini won for Ferrari, in what was the Italian driver’s only Grand Prix victory. American Richie Ginther was second driving for BMW, with Englishman Bob Anderson in third in a Brabham-Climax, for his first and only career podium.

Meanwhile a then unheralded Austrian, the late Jochen Rindt, made his debut driving a Brabham-BMW.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.