Nestled amongst the idyllic and spectacular alpine scenery, near the small town of Spielberg in the Styria region of Austria, the Red Bull Ring is arguably the most picturesque venue on the calendar.
Racing returned to Austria in 2014, following a ten-year hiatus. The circuit was re-opened in 2011 on the same location as the original Österreichring, which in turn became the A-1 ring between 1997 and 2003, and finally its current sponsored guise the Red Bull Ring.
Acquired by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz at the height of his Red Bull Racing team’s period of on-track dominance, the decrepit stadium and track was pulled down and re-built in 2011. As with all of Red Bull’s endeavours the new facilities are top notch, especially the 500-person capacity media centre located in the Voestalpine Wing overlooking the main grandstand and the start/finish straight.
Spielberg is a challenging venue to reach, though it does tend to draw 250,000 spectators over the Grand Prix weekend, and the traffic in and out is always going to be an issue. Nigel Geach concedes that it is perhaps a Formula One race for the purists. “It’s a beautiful circuit up in the mountains,” he says. “It’s not too difficult to get to but not terribly easy to reach. I think they struggle to get a lot people there because it is not easy, as Vienna is far way away, Graz [Austria’s second-largest city and the capital of the Styria region] is not too far – airports and accessibility are very important to any sporting event.”
Last year the usually reticent Mateschitz did begin to make noises about removing his two teams from the grid because of engine supplier Renault’s continued inability to rival Mercedes’ dominance. The complaints with Formula One are not believed to include the circuit.
Geach certainly believes that an understanding will occur between Ecclestone and Mateschitz. “I think they will come to an agreement,” he says. A good deal is a good deal for both parties, certainly FOM have made Formula One what it is and whilst there is always a lot of criticism of Formula One Management, they have actually been around for a long time and they have made a success of it. They have made a lot people rich, a lot of teams successful, and a lot of brands benefit from it.”
As one should expect for a track situated at over 600m above sea level in the glorious mountains, the Spielberg circuit is particularly undulating and provides fans with the unique opportunity of seeing cars racing against the hills and Austrian alpine chalets. The Styria region, in which Spielberg is located, is the greenest in Austria where around 60 per cent of the land is covered by forest.
Geach considers the present Red Bull model as the future of track sponsorship, especially if the venue also has a native team. “It’s like having naming rights to a stadium like the Emirates, the O2 or Staples,” he says. “I think Red Bull are fantastic at creating events and owning teams.”