Introduced to F1 in 1997 -- 10 years after the last race on the original, much faster track -- the A1-Ring is a popular venue. It's a track that, like Magny-Cours, mixes high-speed swoops with slow hairpins. Set-ups are quite similar, so form in...
Introduced to F1 in 1997 -- 10 years after the last race on the original, much faster track -- the A1-Ring is a popular venue. It's a track that, like Magny-Cours, mixes high-speed swoops with slow hairpins. Set-ups are quite similar, so form in France is quite relevant to this weekend.
Eddie Irvine is returning to the scene of what was undoubtedly the most impressive of his four GP victories. At last year's race he 'did a Michael', taking advantage of good tactics and putting in quick laps which got him ahead of David Coulthard.
Inevitably this weekend's race will be another Ferrari vs. McLaren battle, and as we head into the second half of the championship, every point gained or lost will be crucial for both teams. Michael Schumacher, who missed this race last year, suffered a rare engine failure in France, and having had a suspension breakage in Monaco the Ferrari star can no longer be guaranteed to make it to the flag. His record on previous Austrian appearances is disappointing, although he was third in 1998.
That will certainly give hope to Coulthard, who has emerged as McLaren's title contender over the past few races. He won't want to be reminded of last year, however, when he punted team-mate Mika Hakkinen into a spin on the first lap! David still finished second in that race, and also put in a storming drive the year before after early problems, so it's clearly a track he likes.
Hakkinen was ordered to take a break from testing, and should come back suitably refreshed, so it will be interesting to see if he can get his act together. If he continues to find himself behind Coulthard, how long before he finds himself on the wrong end of team orders...
Rubens Barrichello may be Ferrari driver 1A, but he's still very much a number two. After looking competitive in Canada, his performance was disappointing in France, and he needs to rediscover the form that saw him qualify fifth for Stewart here last year.
Johnny Herbert was right behind Rubens on the grid in 1999, and he will be hoping to repeat that performance this year, especially after two tough races. Team-mate Eddie Irvine was sixth on the grid in France, but it all went wrong in the race. The Ai-Ring should hold good memories for him, and he is overdue a change of luck after his recent problems in races.
Jaguar Racing faces stiff competition from Williams, Jordan and BAR for the 'best of the rest' position behind McLaren and Ferrari. Williams-BMW got off to a good start this season, but went through a difficult patch when Ralf Schumacher got involved in a series of accidents. He fought back in France, qualifying and finishing a good fifth. Team-mate Jenson Button still doesn't know where his future lies, and once again is coming to a track he hasn't raced on before.
Jordan has been the most consistent of these teams performance wise, but unreliability has been a problem and it is still a long way from last year's points tally. BAR has had some strong races this year, interspersed with some pretty forgettable ones, but the team is on a high after Jacques Villeneuve's fourth place in France. And Jacques won the race for Williams in 1997.
Benetton currently lies third in the Constructors' championship, but the team has a poor record in Austria. Alex Wurz will be keen to put on a good performance in front of his home crowd, and produced his best drive of the season here last year when he finished fifth.
The weather will play a major part in the outcome of this year's race come rain or shine. Situated high up in the mountains, it is not uncommon for the A1-Ring to be hit by rain, and it would be no surprise if the weekend's GP was another wet race.
And if it's dry, then tyres are sure to be a major issue once again. Many teams -- including Ferrari -- suffered severe wear rates in France, and the A1-Ring is another track with a smooth surface, and like Magny-Cours, little grip. However, unlike the French track, there are a couple of good overtaking opportunities.