For Jenson Button, racing in the Austrian Grand Prix is like both a blast from the past and a nod to the new.
The veteran Formula One driver is one of the few present day F1 pilots who raced in at Austria during its previous incarnation, as well as its present day rebirth. He’s also the most experienced driver at Austria in the field; this year will mark his seventh appearance in the race.
This Grand Prix was held first in 1964, again from 1970-1987, 1997-2003 and is now entering its third year in its most recent life at Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.
Button finished fifth, 12th, seventh and fourth from 2000 through 2003 in the race. When Austria returned to the F1 schedule in 2014, Button finished 11th that year, as well as a disappointing 17th in last year’s event after an electrical malfunction knocked him out after just eight of the 71 scheduled laps.
But now the Great Britain native is more than ready to rebound from last year’s career-worst finish at the 4.326-kilometer (2.69 miles) road course.
“In many ways, racing in Austria reminds me of my early F1 career,” Button said in a media release. “I finished fourth at the track in 2003, and, even then, it had the feeling of a classic Grand Prix circuit. “After an 11-year gap when the race wasn’t on the calendar, we returned there in 2014 and it’s thrown up some exciting races.”
Red Bull Ring is more of a speed and power course than many of its peers.
“There are only nine corners, which means that every input from within the cockpit needs to be extremely precise, as even the slightest mistake can cost a lot of time,” the McLaren driver said. “There are a couple of overtaking points, so the racing is always close. I’m looking forward to it.
“After three ‘city’ races in Monaco, Montreal and Baku, the Austrian Grand Prix has a very different backdrop. It’s located in a very rural part of Austria, in the heart of the Styrian mountains, with no big cities close by. That gives it an enjoyable, old-school feel.”
In the first eight F1 races of 2016, Button has an average finish of 13.5. His best finish has been back-to-back ninth-place showings at Catalunya and Monte Carlo, preceded by a 10th place finish at Sochi.
After experiencing engine problems that left him with a last-place finish at Montreal, Button rebounded to finish 11th at Baku in Azerbaijan.
Now, going from the newest track on the F1 schedule to one that’s been part of the series for a long time, Button would love to recapture some of his past success there.
“After a decent showing in Baku, I’ll be looking to start where I left off (at Austria),” Button said. “Like everyone at McLaren-Honda, I’m hungry to score more points; our package is improving race-by-race and I look forward to getting the maximum from it in Austria.”
Both Button and McLaren-Honda teammate Fernando Alonso are looking to get back to finishing in the top-10 in Sunday’s race. Alonso currently sits 13th in the Formula 1 standings, while Button is 16th.
While Button finished 11th at Baku, Alonso suffered gearbox issues at Baku and completed just two laps before retiring.
“It’s a much shorter track than Baku, but it’s still very challenging because you cannot afford to make any mistakes,” Alonso said. “A lap takes less than 70 seconds, which squeezes the grid closer together and there are only a few tenths of a second between rows.
“To be fast you need good traction and efficient aero, which we have. For that reason, I hope we can be more competitive than we were in Baku – and I hope to have a longer race than I did last year, which was over on the opening lap!”
The race not only has considerable history, it’s been especially noteworthy in McLaren annals, Alonso added.
“There have been some great Austrian drivers to whet people’s appetites, one of whom – Niki Lauda – won a world championship with McLaren,” Alonso said. “Another former McLaren driver, Gerhard Berger, is a good friend of mine.”