The hills won't so much be alive with the sound of music next weekend, more reverberating to the sound of twenty V10 engines! The A1-ring nestles deep in the Austrian Alps, which provide a beautiful backdrop for the hundreds of cameras that follow...
The hills won't so much be alive with the sound of music next weekend, more reverberating to the sound of twenty V10 engines! The A1-ring nestles deep in the Austrian Alps, which provide a beautiful backdrop for the hundreds of cameras that follow the F1 cars around the track and, of course, great acoustics.
Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda put in a strong performance in Barcelona but the team was unable to pick up any World Championship points. Jenson Button finished just outside the top eight and Jacques Villeneuve suffered an early retirement after an engine wiring harness fire.
The 25th, and potentially the last, F1 Grand Prix in Austria is the team's opportunity to set the record straight and the target is a points finish for both cars. The Test Team has been running at Paul Ricard in France in preparation for this race, working through intensive tyre, engine and aerodynamics test programmes.
Last year's race will forever be remembered for the controversy surrounding the result after team orders from Ferrari handed the win to Michael Schumacher. Team orders that interfere with the outcome of the race have been banned for 2003 so there will be no repeat this year.
Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's luck was out at the A1-Ring last year as neither car finished the race. Jacques' race ended on the penultimate lap when an engine problem forced him to stop. His team-mate, Olivier Panis, suffered a similar problem earlier in the race. Previous years' races though have seen B*A*R score points on two occasions: fifth place for Olivier in 2001 and a fourth for Jacques in 2000. Jacques won the Austrian Grand Prix in 1997, his World Championship year.
"I enjoy racing at the A1-Ring. The layout of the track is really good and it has a nice rhythm. It's a good track for overtaking. The Austrian GP is a fun race to watch and a fun race to drive. Last year I really enjoyed the race up until my car broke down just before the end.
"If we continue to have reliability issues like we have been experiencing in past races, then we will have to make a decision on whether we just want to make the most out of qualifying and qualify on low fuel or continue to concentrate on race strategy throughout the weekend and give it our best shot on Sunday. Hopefully we are in a position to not only finish the race, but to get some points! Although it's been difficult to accept all the problems we have been experiencing on the car, I am really looking forward to the race."
"Obviously I'm disappointed about the result in Barcelona as everything was looking so promising. We had good pace and the car felt good but we didn't have much luck.
"The A1-Ring is a fun circuit for racing and I always enjoy my time there. The track is usually pretty 'green' when we arrive but, as the rubber goes down, it gets a lot quicker through the weekend. It's a technical track and you need good traction and smooth power delivery to get out of the slow corners and onto the quick straights. The circuit is medium downforce with a low level of grip."
"It's quite hard on brakes too but not to the extent that Imola and Canada are. The start of the race is always tricky as there is usually a bit of pushing and shoving going into the first corner but, once you're through, you can get into a good rhythm and attack as there are quite a few overtaking spots. I just missed out on points in Austria last year so hopefully I can pick some up this time around."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"When your target is a two-car points finish it's obviously disappointing for us to come away from Barcelona with nothing. Having said that, we were encouraged by the pace we showed there. Everything went our way until the race itself and Jenson was frustratingly close to the points. Jacques' retirement is something we are taking very seriously as we cannot afford to have non-finishes so we are working flat out to get on top of reliability issues.
"Qualifying is usually very close at this circuit but this year will be interesting as the track gets quicker just within the hour of qualifying so, with only a lap each, the Saturday running order is going to be critical.
"Strategy is always a tough call at this race. We have to be aware of the potential for first corner accidents and even more so of the unpredictable Alpine weather."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"We were encouraged by our qualifying and race-pace at Barcelona since the track is always a good indicator of car performance. However the lack of race results was clearly a big disappointment. Jenson and Jacques had qualified well, although on different strategies, and both were on target for points-finishes when Jacques was stopped by an ignition problem and Jenson was involved in the incident with Coulthard."
"Following further analysis by Honda in Japan we now have a better understanding of the sequence of events that stopped Jacques during the race and we have put countermeasures in place."
"At Austria this weekend we need to finally get on top of these race reliability issues in order to finish both cars. The combination of slow corners and fast straights at the A1-Ring requires a compromise downforce level, to optimise set-up for the different challenges the circuit offers. There are three big stops from over 300km/h right down to second or even first gear, placing a real premium on braking stability and traction out of the slow corners."
"It has a low grip, smooth surface that gets significantly faster during the weekend. The track is quite easy on tyres, which will see us moving back towards the softer range of compounds. The Austrian Grand Prix is also one of the toughest for the engine with over 70% percent of full throttle per lap."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"Results so far this year have not yet reflected the potential of our package as a whole. We've had a productive test at Paul Ricard since Barcelona, and we'll be doing our best to ensure we have a more satisfying result at the A1-Ring."