Situated between the small towns of Zeltweg and Spielberg is an Austrian airforce base. Sixty years ago, a simple 1.9-mile circuit was laid out on the runways of the airfield. It played host to the first-ever, world championship Formula 1 race in Austria.



Races on the makeshift course had been run as early as 1958, but this first point-scoring event was not ideal for Grand Prix racing. Half the field failed to finish — many retiring with broken suspension thanks to the rough concrete surface. The 1964 race was noteworthy however. It was the only GP won by the Italian racer Lorenzo Bandini.



Work began on a new circuit, just a stone’s throw away and closer to Spielberg. When it held the Austrian Grand Prix for the first time in 1970, it quickly gained popularity for its high-speed challenge and natural beauty. The 3.6-mile course appealed to drivers and spectators as it undulated through the foothills of Styria.



In 1975 the race was held in torrential rain and Vittorio Brambilla won his one and only Grand Prix. He memorably took his hands off the steering wheel to celebrate victory and lost control of his car, damaging the front wing in the process.



The Osterreichring hosted its last Formula 1 race in 1987 and over the following decade the circuit was significantly revised. As the track rises from the start/finish line, a new curve was cut in at 90 degrees — providing a new link to the back straight — which it now rejoins at the Turn 3 hairpin.



In addition the long Bosch and Jochen Rindt curves were both reduced in length and radius with the latter becoming a new double-apex right-hander to finish the lap.



Despite the newly-configured layout, in 2003 the 2.6-mile A1-Ring disappeared from the calendar once more — only to return in 2014. Today the race track continues to feature some of the characteristics of the old course — and the occasional deer — and is popular with fans from across the continent who descend on the campsites for the weekend.



In 2024 Spielberg will be a Sprint weekend for the third time, but Austria has even held two world championship races in a year (2020 and ’21). It was the first venue to put on Formula 1 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and ran back-to-back races a week apart — known as the Austrian and Styrian or Steiermark Grand Prix.



The short nature of the track means qualifying times are exceptionally close and the margin for error is small — particularly as it’s easy to run wide and fall foul of track limits. Last year Race Control were tasked with reviewing over 1,200 instances of where a car had run wide. During the 71-lap encounter Esteban managed to pick up four time penalties for track limits, totalling 30 seconds. In the final classification, nearly half of the field were awarded penalties…