This weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix is the first since 2003, with the event’s return being brokered by track owner Dietrich Mateschitz (a.k.a Mr. Red Bull). The addition of another central European grand prix to the calendar has been welcomed by most in Formula 1, and it certainly looks set to become a mainstay on the calendar once again.
Of the current drivers in Formula 1, just three raced in the last grand prix here: Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button. Felipe Massa is the only other veteran of the track, racing in 2002. He worked as a test driver for Ferrari in 2003.
Therefore, surely their experience will put them at an advantage when racing in Spielberg this weekend?
“I don’t think so,” explained Massa when asked that very question. “It’s better to know the track, but I think now most of the drivers, they learn the track in the simulator as well, so for sure it’s better to learn. It’s also a long time ago.
“I think it will also be learning for us as well. We see tomorrow. I hope everything starts in a good way in free practice one, learning the track and then it shouldn’t be a problem any more.”
Fernando Alonso was equally as dismissive about experience giving him an edge in Austria, saying: “To be honest, I don’t remember anything. We raced in 2001 and 2003 and I have no memories. Too long!”
Instead, it might be the younger generation that actually has the edge. They may not have raced here in Formula 1, but they have in their junior racing series.
Last year, Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat took part in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship round at the Red Bull Ring as a guest driver. He scored pole position for all three races, and came home in second place on each occasion. He’ll have the memories of those races in his mind.
Of course, F3 and F1 are hardly comparable, but it still must count for as much of an advantage as racing a V10 F1 car around here over ten years ago.
A new circuit to contend with is hardly anything new in Formula 1, though. The drivers have had to contend with new, green circuits in recent years such as the Circuit of the Americas, Yas Marina, and Buddh International Circuit, and with the Russian Grand Prix coming up, only getting a first taste of a track in the simulator is not a problem.
The race promises to be a thrilling one, so make sure you tune in on NBCSN across the course of the weekend. Click here to read about our full broadcasting schedule for the Austrian Grand Prix.